U.S. officials tackle global communications issues

A top U.S. official said Tuesday that he supports recent comments on the future of Internet governance made by the new head of the International Telecommunication Union.

David Gross, U.S. coordinator for international communications and information policy at the State Department, also called cyber security a key issue for the future during a Federal Communications Bar Association lunch.

On Friday, Mali-born Hamadoun Toure, the newly appointed head of the ITU, said he does not intend to try to take over Internet governance, and he plans to focus on narrowing the "digital divide" of technology access between rich and poor countries.

Toure said he supports the role of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers in overseeing the Internet. Some global officials have criticized ICANN's role. Gross said Toure's comments were very much in "harmony" with what the United States has said.

Gross said the United States looks toward the ITU "with regards to next-generation networks" and how standards will be developed. "We all have an interest in making sure these networks" are secure, practical and the right policies emerge to go along with them, Gross said.

However, Gross said he personally does not care for the term "digital divide," although the development sector of the ITU exists to help all countries deploy technology in a sustainable way to as many people as possible, such as through private leadership and a solid rule of law.

"In much of the developing role, the ITU has a reputation for being a source of information without parallel," he said. "We want that to continue."

John Kneuer, head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, said the digital divide and security are areas of mutual concern that do not easily lend themselves to domestic solutions.

Toure also reportedly said Friday that his priorities include developing standards for high-speed Internet access and for access to so-called third-generation mobile telephones.

Gross said the United States supports technology neutrality that lets consumers decide what they prefer to use. The United States wants to facilitate the use of technology, but "we don't want to be a conduit for those who seek to restrict" its use, said Gross, who also noted that a goal is to make sure the country gets the spectrum it needs to foster new technologies.

Meanwhile, Gross hailed the international effort over the past five years to discuss issues of major importance to information and communication technologies.

He also noted that during ITU's recent conference, the organization experienced a number of staffing changes and also discussed the terminology of technology terms and grammar. For example, the ITU decided that the word "Internet" will continue to be capitalized, Gross said.

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