Weaving a Free and Global Web

A global meeting opening Wednesday in Geneva is expected to call for richer nations to help poorer ones connect to the Web. Bridging the "digital divide" is a worthy goal. Fortunately, meeting organizers resisted official calls for an international regulator to control the Internet.

Since the Internet was designed in the United States, it has had minimal maintenance by a mainly private, nonprofit organization. Negotiations before this week's international meeting of some 200 countries recognized that cyberspace management should remain that way - at least for now. The international group plans to postpone a decision over who should ultimately administer the Internet.

Many developing nations would like a United Nations entity to manage the Net; developed countries mostly reject government control - and the potential for control of its content. (Negotiators even kept the head of the US-created Internet governing agency out of a preparatory meeting last week.)

Getting more people hooked up to the Internet is a key to helping lift developing nations out of ignorance and poverty. But one beauty of the Internet has been its lack of strict content control and management.

Coordinating the technological aspects of the Internet, to deal with junk e-mail, for instance, is one thing; deciding what material should and should not be available in cyberspace is quite another. Governments should avoid creating a new management agency. The Internet is the latest technology to bring a certain freedom for billions of people.

It should stay that way.

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