Who regulates the Net?



This week the World Intellectual Property Organisation ruled that the address "directlinesucks.com" was a case of cybersquatting. Since the WIPO...



This week the World Intellectual Property Organisation ruled that the address "directlinesucks.com" was a case of cybersquatting. Since the WIPO arbitration mechanism was set up last year, it has found in favour of corporate users or famous individuals in three-quarters of the 400 complaints dealt with.

But business Internet users seem blissfully ignorant of the battles being fought over future regulation of cyberspace.

The forthcoming election for the board of the Internet Commission for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) will pit heavyweight representatives from telcos and IT supply giants against a variety of individual "netizens" and hackers claiming to speak for the user. Business users are virtually absent from the contest.

But ICANN is no sideshow. The decision to elect half the board that manages the global domain name system will make ICANN the primary forum for the debate on who regulates the Internet. End-user representatives will break the consensus that allows ICANN and WIPO to run the Web as if only large corporates, telcos and ISPs matter.

Whether you agree with that is not the point. The point is that, as with the RIP Act, corporate IT users are getting squeezed out of the debate on Internet regulation as it is polarised between large supply companies and individual Web activists.

The ICANN elections are one of the few real experiments with democratic regulation of the Internet. Let's hope they're not cancelled due to apathy.

Read more on IT legislation and regulation

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