Comment No less a figure than Vint Cerf has been addressing the US Congress on why the UN can't be allowed to control the internet, whipping up sentiment against a supposed takeover bid and at the same time advocating something at least as controversial.
Testifying to the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee, on Google-headed paper (PDF), the "father of the internet" called for Americans to rise up against the threat of the UN (in the guise of its telecommunications standards agency, the ITU) seizing control of the internet in the name of communism (well, of China and Russia anyway). His testimony also contains an interesting plea for the "internet stakeholders" to have more control over international telecommunications.
"The greatest strength of the current system of internet governance is its meritocratic democracy," says Cerf, forgetting for a moment that a meritocracy and a democracy are very different things. Between calls for the American government to protect the internet are exhortations for "the internet" to have more say in the business of the ITU:
Google's Chief Internet Evangelist adds that "most member states of the ITU have not even opened public dialogues with internet stakeholders to guide the development of their national positions or to seek input on their proposals," and is obviously upset that governmental proposals put to the ITU aren't made public.
"Concerns about transparency stem not from theoretical concerns but from actual experience," continues Cerf: so we can take it that Google has asked and been told it can't have access. We can also take it that the term "internet stakeholders" - the group that should have more say in the running of the ITU - includes Google.
Google isn't a member of the ITU, unlike Apple and Cisco. The ITU is happy to have companies signed up as members, and invites them along to events like the forthcoming Dubai shindig, but the submitted documents aren't yet public and that's obviously annoyed the Chocolate Factory.
The ITU won't say what's in those documents, but will state categorically that there's no proposal to grab the internet, at least not yet. But still the story refuses to die, despite regular and unequivocal denials from its general secretary, Hamadoun Touré, who points out that he has neither the mandate nor the budget for such a digital landgrab.
Last time the accusation was made by an FCC commissioner, who claimed a 27 February meeting would see the ITU making a power play. This time it's the December gathering in Dubai which will apparently see China and Russia snatching the internet from the freedom-loving USA.
The current internet governance suits the US well, both financially (thanks to the peering agreements which make the biggest hub most profitable) and politically (projecting American ideas of what's acceptable around the world), so the USA will naturally fight any attempt to change that structure.
Particularly insane Americans patrol Alaska against the forthcoming invasion by UN forces, convinced that the blue helmets are puppets of the New World Order ready to seize control at a moment's notice. Few Americans are taken in by that kind of nonsense, but suggestions that a World Order cyber coup is in the offing seem to be swallowed more easily. ®