In an historically unusual decision, the company running all .uk internet domains, Nominet, has voted for an Argentinian solution to the current crisis over internet ownership.
In an official statement, Nominet's legal and policy director Emily Taylor said the company preferred Argentina's proposal over the other seven on the table - including one by the EU and put forward by the UK government.
That proposal would see things continue pretty much as they are but with the creation of a worldwide forum in which governments, private sector, civil society and international organisations would all play a part.
"From Nominet's perspective, nothing radical needs to change in internet governance," Taylor said. "Intervention by governments worldwide, each with their own political agenda and cultural beliefs to uphold, threatens to consign the internet to a future of over-regulation."
The issue of internet governance - who should run the internet and how - exploded last month at a UN conference in Geneva. The United States, which currently has unilateral overall control of the internet, wants the status quo to stay the same, whereas most countries, particularly Brazil, China and Iran, want control to be shared among many governments.
Late in the conference, the EU arrived with a radical proposal that spliced the two sides together in an effort to reach compromise.
Of that effort, Nominet says: "We do not see the EU and US positions as fundamentally incompatible: the EU position does, after all talk about 'not replacing existing structures' and emphasises 'complementarity' between different actors."
Despite there being eight proposals (from Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, EU, Iran, Japan and Russia), there are essentially three models being proposed.
- The status quo: The system continues as is with ICANN in charge and a new forum is created that comes up with solutions to public policy issues i.e. dealing with spam or cybercrime or new top-level domains. (Africa, Argentina, Canada)
- The hybrid: A new forum is created as well as a new body that is given overall control of ICANN. Essentially the hands-off US government role is replaced with a more hands-on international government consortium. (EU, Japan)
- The government approach: A new body run by governments which takes over from ICANN. (Brazil, Iran, Russia)
It is hardly surprising that Nominet would go for the more free market approach being a company that has benefitted from a gentle hand on the controls. Plus, of course, being the UK, Nominet has little to fear from, or to be ideologically opposed to, the current US-led and run internet.
Nominet's Taylor summed up the company's position: "Amidst calls for international intervention to avoid dominance of the Internet by a single state, Nominet believes that we should be looking to take more a pragmatic, incremental approach to internet governance and not seek to completely overhaul a model that allows for flexibility, innovation and is founded on private sector investment. We hear the political debate with regard to the root zone - our perspective is operational: it should be secure and authoritative. Requests for changes must be authenticated and acted on quickly."
Nominet's - and many others' - fear is that the EU proposal would see governments fight out world political issues at the top level of the internet, as opposed to letting the internet get on with its own thing - a situation that undeniably led to its enormous success.
The EU is extremely keen to spell out however that it sees the governmental body it proposes as being very hands-off. The issue is simply: why should the US government remain in control of a vital global resource? ®