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France: Internet summit likely to get nowhere

In run-up to U.N. conference, government official says U.S. is unlikely to accept multinational approach to Internet oversight.

The United States will not heed requests by the European Union and other countries to accept a multinational approach to running the Internet, a French government official said Thursday.

An international summit next week on how the Internet should be run was likely to end in stalemate, the official said.

CNET's chief political correspondent, Declan McCullagh, will be reporting direct from the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia beginning next week.

A U.N. report has put forward the multinational approach to running the Internet, which serves a billion users worldwide, saying this would be more democratic and transparent, a view the 25 nations of the EU share.

But the United States believes an international body running the Internet would slow the pace of innovation.

A final round of talks on the report starts Sunday to seek a global agreement on Internet governance before the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis, Tunisia, on Nov. 16-18.

"It is possible that we only reach a consensus on the fact that discussions need to be pursued," Jean-Michel Hubert, the French government's representative to the WSIS summit, told reporters in Paris in a presummit briefing.

Day-to-day handling of domain names is done by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, a California-based nonprofit organization created by the U.S. Commerce Department.

"We are looking to build a new model of private-public cooperation on this existing structure," Hubert said.

"An agreement (in Tunis) on the principles (behind this model) would already be a breakthrough. But we should not jeopardize the efficiency of the system," Hubert said about talks in Tunis.

Hubert said participating countries needed to agree that a new supervisory structure should not intervene in the day-to-day running of ICANN.

Governance of the Internet has its roots in the way it was started 30 years ago as a research project funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.

But since then the Internet has become a fundamental part of the world's communications infrastructure, triggering a desire among many governments to have a say in its running.

German industry said on Thursday that the Internet's current governance should be left alone.

"We believe that a radical overhaul of the present Internet governance architecture is not only unnecessary but also threatens the stability and security of the Internet itself," Ludolf Wartenberg, director general of the Federation of German Industries said in a statement.

Bernhard Rohleder, director general of German technology federation BITKOM said global accessibility of the Internet must not be threatened.

"It is essential to preserve private sector and technical community leadership in the technical management of the Internet," Rohleder said.

A solution has to be found before the summer of 2006, when ICANN's contract with the U.S. Dept of Commerce expires.

Story Copyright © 2005 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.