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Organisation and management of the internet
This Communication reports on developments in the field of the organisation and management of the Internet over the period 1998-2000. In particular, it analyses the transfer to the private sector of a number of functions relating to the organisation and management of the Internet, and presents the major issues in this field both within the European Union and internationally.
Communication from the Commission of 11 April 2000 to the Council and the European Parliament "The organisation and management of the internet. International and European policy issues 1998-2000" [COM(2000) 202 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
The Internet is a communications network that should be universally accessible. The IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority), a body under contract with the United States Government, was set up in order to administer the central coordinating functions of the global Internet for the pubic good. The US Government has furthermore recognised that the global Internet user community should have a voice in the coordination of the Internet.
The new structure of the management body
In October 1998, ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Numbers and Names) was set up on the basis of a US Government White Paper. ICANN is incorporated as a non-profit public-benefit corporation in the county of Los Angeles, California. It will be responsible for coordinating the management of the Domain Name System (DNS), the allocation of Internet protocol address spaces, the coordination of new Internet coordination parameters and the management of the Internet's root name server system. All these functions are due to be transferred to ICANN by October 2000.
ICANN began its work in autumn 1998. Its Board currently consists of nine temporary members appointed by the IANA, and nine members elected by the technical (naming, addressing, standardisation) organisations. The intention is that by 2002, nine members will be elected by on-line voting to replace the temporary members.
ICANN's budget comes from contributions from:
- domain name registries;
- domain name registrars and;
- IP address registries.
ICANN is assisted in its work by a Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) which is open to all governments and a number of international organisations with a direct interest in ICANN policy, including ITU, WIPO, OECD etc.
The Commission urges the Member States and the European Parliament to facilitate the participation of all Internet user categories within this management body.
Internet protocols allow the different entities on the Internet to work together to transport data between machines and present it in the applications that the users actually see. The development of new protocols is fundamental to the development of new services on the Internet.
Recognising the importance of the protocols, the Commission will take them into account in its approach to IT standardisation, including EU research projects.
The Internet addresses which are used to route data from one host computer to another are numerical. This numerical system is currently based on numbers that are 32 bits long (IPv4). All Internet applications, both current and future, rely on these addresses, and the Ipv4 address space has been coming under increasing pressure because of the growth of the use of the Internet.
The Commission therefore considers that it should closely monitor developments in ICANN and its policies with regard to the allocation of IP addresses. It is important that IP addresses are autonomously and neutrally managed. The rapid development of the Internet necessitates the transition to a new generation of Ipv6 addresses based on 128 bit numbers, which will multiply the number of addresses available to users. Internet search and directory services will also need to be developed.
Domain names are names by which Internet hosts may be easily identified, as opposed to the numerical IP addressing system used for network communication. Two types of registry are in current use:
- a number of generic top-level domains (gTLDs), such as ".COM", ".NET", are used worldwide;
- about 240 national or territorial registries maintain similar systems of names under a country code (ccTLD registries), such as ".GR", ".BE".
ICANN (taking over from the IANA) will be responsible for the attribution of registries. One of its main functions is to introduce competition into the registration market for gTLD domain names and increase the number of TLDs available.
ICANN has already accredited a number of registrars in order to encourage competition.
The ".EU" top-level domain
Given the rapid expansion of the Internet, the Commission considers it vital to create an " .EU " European top-level TLD registry, in order to give the Internet domain space in Europe an additional dimension for identification and growth.
Intellectual property rights (IPR)
The main IPR questions arising from domain names are currently trademark-related. Domain names have been an easy target for abuses of intellectual property rights, given that the principal open generic domains have been allocated on a "first come, first (only) served" basis.
The Commission will continue discussions with WIPO (he World Intellectual Property Organisation) and the US authorities on dispute resolution and the implementation of international dispute resolution mechanisms. It also intends to submit a proposal for a code of conduct to restrict current abuses of intellectual property rights. This will include identification of the categories of names to be protected and the treatment of trademarks and other recognised marks.
Under the Registrars Accreditation Agreement, anyone applying to register a domain name must provide information to the registry and the WHOIS database. Personal data is covered by Directive 95/46/EC (protection of personal data). Neither the Registrars, nor the registries, nor ICANN can claim any rights over this type of information.
Transparency and access to WHOIS data are fundamental for Internet users. Transparency can help to reduce disputes concerning trademarks and even prevent fraud. However, there is also a need for data security and confidentiality.
The Commission will continue discussions with ICANN and the US authorities regarding data protection and may also recommend that ICANN and the GAC adopt policies limiting the collection, processing and use of personal registration data.
The Commission will closely monitor developments regarding the organisation and management of the Internet, and will ascertain whether agreements and business registration practices fall under EU competition rules.
In the case of generic top-level domain (gTLD) registries, registrars have to submit their registration requests to NSI (Network Solutions Incorporated). ICANN regards this as being a factor for uncertainty, and wishes to upgrade the US-based monopolistic infrastructure towards a more balanced international environment.
If Europe is to be able to rise to the international challenges where the Internet is concerned, it is necessary that the current disparities in terms of access, use, content and cost can be rapidly reduced through: less expensive access, availability of European websites, more extensive use of all European languages, availability of efficient backbone infrastructure, and security of commercial transactions.
The Commission has set out its objectives with regard to the development of the information society in its " eEurope " communication. It also invites the Member States to act as expeditiously as possible to implement its recommendations on leased-line pricing and unbundling of the local loop in order to accelerate affordable Internet access.