US warned against unilateral Internet plan

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Series Details Vol.4, No.11, 19.3.98, p6
Publication Date 19/03/1998
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Date: 19/03/1998

By Peter Chapman

EU MEMBER states will this week warn Washington against trying to dictate to the rest of the world how the Internet should be run.

Union diplomats have finalised a strongly worded response to US Vice-President Al Gore and Commerce Secretary Bill Daley's unilateral plan for the future of the network, insisting that the international community must have its say before any decisions are taken on this highly sensitive issue.

The letter, signed by both UK Telecoms Minister Barbara Roche on behalf of the EU presidency and Telecoms Commissioner Martin Bangemann, says the American proposals outlined in a Green Paper on Internet names and addresses "appear not to mention the need to implement an international approach".

It claims this is totally contrary to a 1997 joint EU-US statement on electronic commerce which called for a "global market-based" approach to the Internet.

The Union also attacks the one-month deadline set by the US administration for comments from industry and governments on the paper, and demands a series of bilateral meetings on the issue. "The EU requests the opportunity to enter into full consultations with the US before certain features of the proposals are implemented," states the letter.

At the heart of the American Green Paper published last month was a new proposal on the registration and administration of Internet addresses ending in the 'top-level domains' .com, .org and .net currently handled by Network Solutions Inc under contract from the US government.

The US has proposed responding to the huge demand for new Internet addresses by licensing five more registrars to distribute and oversee the databases of five new top-level domains.

But this angered the EU because the new framework would be US dominated, and it ignores an alternative international system for overseeing new domain names drawn up last year by more than 200 firms and institutions, including the Commission.

"Eighty-eight member registrars have joined this system, including 35 in the EU. Many thousands of new domain names have been applied for within this system," says the letter, adding: "The draft US proposals make no reference to this system."

The Union argues that leaving such decisions in the hands of a limited number of US-sanctioned registrars would "risk consolidating permanent US jurisdiction over the Internet as a whole, including dispute resolution and trademarks used on the Internet".

It points out that the US proposals fail to mention a dispute settlement procedure through the World Intellectual Property Organisation agreed only last year after "intense international efforts". It also complains that proposals on trademark protection would not result in "significant improvements" to the current system.

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