Experts: Don't shoot messenger to protect Internet

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Governments must not let debates over Internet content affect the underlying interoperability of the global network’s infrastructure, a panel of Internet policy experts said yesterday.

The Internet’s base infrastructure must be kept interoperable and open for users worldwide, said Paul Twomey, president and chief executive officer of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. ICANN is the California-based nonprofit organization charged with managing the Internet's Domain Name System.

If the base infrastructure does not remain interoperable, the world’s only truly global technology could be at risk, Twomey said at RSA Conference 2006.

Technology drives economics, which in turn drives government policy, he said. The Internet’s hallmarks of participation, open access and a meritocracy of ideas are now changing economies and challenging traditional top-down, command-and-control government structures, he said.

Some countries want to control the Internet for their own purposes, while others want to integrate it into their existing political models, Twomey said.

Although ICANN is based in the United States, the U.S. government does not regulate it, said Jonathan Frankel, director of law enforcement and information sharing policy in the Homeland Security Department’s Office of Policy, Planning and International Affairs.

The government provides only administrative oversight to ensure that the organization adequately screens new members and performs its assigned duties, Frankel said.

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