A non-profit United States-based body will remain in charge of technical management of the Internet, according to an agreement reached late last night on one of the most contentious issues in the lead-up to the Tunis phase of the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), which opened today.
The agreement, which will make up part of the Summit's outcome document, contains a number of breakthroughs, according to a spokesperson for the Summit, which runs through Friday and aims to open access to information technology to the world's poorest communities.
According to the agreement, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) will retain ultimate oversight for the system, but individual countries will manage their own country-code Top-Level Domains.
In addition, it recognizes that all governments have equal roles and responsibilities when it comes to Internet governance. In that light, it asks Secretary-General Kofi Annan to convene a new, democratic Internet governance forum, which would have no oversight function and would not replace existing arrangements, but would allow for dialogue among stakeholders.
The purpose of this exchange would include working toward making the Internet more multilingual, supporting local content development and addressing "many cross-cutting international public policy issues that require attention and are not adequately addressed by the current mechanisms," according to the draft outcome document.
The issue had become highly controversial in recent weeks, with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan repeatedly dispelling rumours that the UN wanted to take over Internet governance.
"What we are all striving for is to protect and strengthen the Internet, and to ensure that its benefits are available to all," Mr. Annan said this morning, affirming that the United States deserves thanks for having developed the Internet, making it available to the world and exercising its oversight responsibilities fairly.