* Commission calls for wider involvement in net addresses
* EU's Kroes wants strong role for Europe in shaping
By John O'Donnell
BRUSSELS, Feb 12 The European Commission called
on Wednesday for a dilution of U.S. influence over the
organisation of the Internet, a sign of tension following
snooping exposed by former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward
The European Union's executive arm stopped short of
demanding greater government control as some countries like
China and Russia have pushed for.
Instead it demanded transparency and less influence of the
United States over the institutions controlling the mechanics of
the Internet, such as assigning web page addresses that allow
computers to locate one another on the network.
Currently, ICANN, a California-based organisation operating
under a contract with the U.S. government, oversees the
introduction of new internet addresses.
In the coming years, hundreds of new so-called top-level
domain addresses such as .london or .sex will be added, offering
newcomers more choice of location online as web usage grows.
"Europe must contribute to a credible way forward for global
internet governance," said Neelie Kroes, the commissioner in
charge of telecoms policy. "Europe must play a strong role in
defining what the net of the future looks like."
She backed the 'multi-stakeholder' approach to governance,
supported by the United States and industry, under which
non-governmental organisations, countries, academics and the
private sector collaborate on the network's functioning.
The success of Kroes in pushing for a greater say will
depend on the degree to which the alliance of 28 countries in
the European Union supports such a push.
TEST OF RESOLVE
Europe's resolve will be tested at a series of major
conferences this year, including one in April in Brazil, which
has emerged as a major critic of international surveillance
carried out by the U.S. National Security Agency.
Late last year, the European Union backed down from threats
to suspend agreements granting the United States access to
European data, rejecting calls for a tougher stance over alleged
"Governments already have a significant role within ICANN
and it will be enhanced in the future," said Nigel Hickson,
ICANN vice president for Europe. "This internationalisation was
in train before Snowden."
The move by the Commission came as lawmakers in the European
Parliament prepared their response to the U.S. spying scandal.
It will vote on Wednesday to demand that more of the data
gathered on the Internet is stored on computer servers in Europe
to improve oversight, a largely symbolic move as the parliament
cannot introduce such legislation alone.
The spying allegations have complicated EU-U.S. ties at a
delicate moment in transatlantic relations, as Brussels and
Washington are negotiating a free-trade pact that would
encompass almost half the world's economy.