SAO PAULO – The Google executive considered to be one of the fathers of the Internet on Thursday debunked what he called the “myth” that it is controlled by the United States.
While America played an outsized role in how the Internet was run when it was founded decades ago, that has long since ceased to be the case, Vint Cerf told AFP on the sidelines of NetMundial, a conference in Brazil on Internet governance.
“The USA doesn’t control the Internet — that’s a myth,” Cerf said in Sao Paulo.
“It may have when I was running the program 40 years ago, yes. But not anymore,” the pioneering computer scientist said during a break in the two-day international gathering.
Cerf said the United States does still play a dominant role in the domain name system but that is one “they have said they are prepared to eliminate,” he said.
NetMundial was convened to discuss ways to craft a new system of Internet governance.
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff called the meeting, following the furor sparked by allegations of US spying revealed in documents leaked by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.
Rousseff’s own communications were targeted by the National Security Agency, prompting the Brazilian leader to call on the United Nations last year to oversee a new global legal system to govern the Internet.
The meeting also aims to discuss how to limit Internet abuses and make online communication more transparent.
‘Inclusive, transparent and accountable’
A draft roadmap expected to be approved at the event said the Internet should be “inclusive, transparent and accountable” serving global development and human rights while guarding against “mass and arbitrary surveillance (which) undermines trust in the Internet.”
White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel said Washington was throwing its support behind the proposals for a revamped system.
“Nobody should doubt our commitment to a multi-stakeholder vision of governance of the Internet and our support for NetMundial,” said Daniel.
Rousseff has said she feels encouraged by Washington’s readiness to replace its institutional links to California-based ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the Internet’s governing authority.
In its place would come a global institution using a “multi-stakeholder” model. But some countries, including China and Russia, prefer oversight of the Internet’s technical functions via a group of governments or an intergovernmental organization.
Online pioneer Tim Berners Lee, one of the inventors of the World Wide Web, told participants mutual understanding and peace “depends on an open Internet.”
Participants also want to establish how to close a digital divide with almost two-thirds of the world’s population still not online.
Globally, the United Nations estimates 2.7 billion people are connected to the Internet. While that is up on 2.3 billion in 2012 and only 1.15 billion in 2007, it still means some five billion people are not connected.
“This meeting is an important contribution, but it’s not the end of the story,” Cerf said.