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European Commission: "We want to take control of the Internet back from the US"

American control of the Internet could be a thing of the past, if the European Commission (EC) has its way.

The EC yesterday published its recommendations aimed at weakening the American stranglehold on the infrastructure of the Internet, including internationalising the governance of the Internet and taking major regulatory bodies out of direct US control.

According to the EC, revelations about "large-scale surveillance" by the US National Security Agency (NSA) have "called into question the stewardship of the US when it comes to internet governance".

The report argued that “An open and free Internet in which all rights and freedoms that people have offline also apply online facilitates social and democratic progress worldwide,” and that “Sustainable governance of the Internet involving all stakeholders is essential to preserve these benefits.”

The EC envisages the Internet becoming “a single, un-fragmented network, subject to the same laws and norms that apply in other areas of our day-to-day lives.”

It argues that “greater international balance within the existing structures can increase the legitimacy of current governance arrangements.”

Specifically, the EC proposes the establishment of “a timeline for the globalisation of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers" (ICANN), the US-headquartered body that manages the top level domains, such as .com and .net, and the coordination of internet address spaces, IPv4 and IPv6.

While ICANN is nominally independent, it is headquartered in California and under contract with the US Department of Commerce to manage the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), whose responsibilities include overseeing allocation of IP addresses worldwide.

However, Neelie Kroes, digital chief for the EC, said she didn’t want to see the International Telecommunications Union, a UN agency, take charge of internet governance.

"Some are calling for the International Telecommunications Union to take control of key internet functions,” she said. “I agree that governments have a crucial role to play, but top-down approaches are not the right answer. We must strengthen the multi-stakeholder model to preserve the internet as a fast engine for innovation."

The EC plans to use these proposals as the basis for negotiations in the upcoming major international meetings on Internet governance: the Netmundial meeting in Sao Paulo, Brazil in April, for instance; the Internet Governance Forum in August and the High Level ICANN meeting.

An Estonian security expert recently called for Europe to abandon American forms of encryption, and develop its own.