Irate over spying, EU barks up wrong regulatory tree

Posted in: Governance at 14/02/2014 22:23

Neelie Kroes' call for more globalization of the way the internet is run isn't the first attempt to use allegations about NSA spying to bolster Europe's position and give new impetus to existing reform efforts.

Over the summer, European leaders expressed outrage that they were spied on. This week's fresh call to reform Icann, the U.S.-controlled agency that doles out domain names, and the plumbing of the internet came again bundled with the EU bristling at the alleged NSA eavesdropping.

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Modest reforms to globalise the net
Neelie Kroes has built up a formidable reputation over four decades in politics - from privatising Dutch state telecom and postal services in the 1980s, to slapping a record $1.4bn fine on Microsoft as the EU's anti-trust chief in 2008, to liberalising Europe's fragmented telecoms market.

So when she announced her ambition to "reform and globalise how the internet is run" on Wednesday, some feared a power grab of audacious proportions.

EU bids to end US dominance in internet control
The EU paper on "Europe's role in shaping the future of Internet governance" calls for an international group to replace the California-based ICANN, which manages the assignation of domains such as .com, and .org to new websites.

At present, the United States is the centre of power behind the structure of the internet. ICANN currently has an exclusive contract with the US government, with whom a number of jurisdictions complain it has a too-cosy relationship.

Globalising Internet governance: Will the United States loosen its grip on the world wide web?
The European Commission says it is time to curb the United States' influence over the net. The EU move builds on steady pressure in recent years to speed up the internationalisation of governing the Internet.

Currently the US-based ICANN is responsible for much of the web's infrastructure. But the recent spying activities of the National Security Agency, have concerned Europe.

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