Most countries at a conference on telecommunications oversight agreed Wednesday that a United Nations agency should play an "active" but not dominant role in Internet governance as they struggled to reach a worldwide compromise.
As a marathon session at the UN's World Conference on International Telecommunications concluded at about 1:30 a.m. local time in Dubai (2130 GMT), the chairman asked for a "feel of the room" and then noted that the nonbinding resolution had majority support, while denying it was a vote.
The United States has fought during the 12-day conference ending Friday to keep the International Telecommunication Union's mandate from extending to the Internet. Western diplomats and technologists say that a greater ITU role could lead to increased censorship and a dramatic reduction in anonymity.
But ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré pleaded that the document was part of a balance that gave Western countries most of what they wanted in the more critical binding ITU treaty.
"If we were to eliminate this, that was a compromise that will come (back) on the table," Touré warned the gathering ahead of the show of support. ITU officials are striving to forge consensus and avoid formal votes, and delegates were unsure after the proceeding whether the resolution had been adopted.
Several in attendance said they expected the conference to take up both the resolution and the treaty itself again on Thursday after factions failed to agree on treaty revisions. Most of the language about Internet control was excised from the proposed revisions in the compromise promoted by Touré.
The biggest remaining sticking point is whether countries should have the right to control "addressing," which some said would include Internet addressing, which is currently managed by the U.S.-based nonprofit organization ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.
The Americans and Europeans said on Wednesday that was unacceptable, while the opposing camp said that clause was the only remaining element of what they had pushed for.
U.S. Ambassador Terry Kramer tweeted that work would continue around the clock, but added: "The U.S. remains committed to keeping the Internet out of the ITRs (treaty)."
That drew expressions of exasperation from some other countries. "The compromise seems to be falling apart right in front of our eyes," a Russian delegate told the conference.
Russia, along with China, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and some other countries, on Tuesday resubmitted a joint proposal calling for a massive extension of state supervision of the Net, but that