The United States refuses to relinquish its role as the Internet's principal traffic policeman, rejecting calls in a United Nations meeting for a U.N. body to take over, a top U.S. official said Thursday.
"We will not agree to the U.N. taking over the management of the Internet," said Ambassador David Gross, the U.S. coordinator for international communications and information policy at the State Department. "Some countries want that. We think that's unacceptable."
Speaking on the sidelines of the last preparatory meeting before November's World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia, Gross said that progress was being made on a number of issues, but not on the question of Internet governance.
The stalemate over who should serve as the principal traffic cops for Internet routing and addressing could derail the summit — which aims to ensure a fair sharing of the Internet for the benefit of the whole world.
Internet governance has historically been the role of the United States, because it created the original system and funded much of the its early development.
While this arrangement satisfies some, developing countries have been frustrated that Western countries that got on the Internet first gobbled up most of the available addresses required for computers to connect, leaving developing nations to share a limited supply.
One proposal that countries have been discussing would wrest control of domain names from the U.S.-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, and place it with an intergovernmental group, possibly under the United Nations.
"We think that that's inappropriate," Gross told reporters at U.N. offices in Geneva. "The genius of the Internet is that it has been flexible (and) private sector led."