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WASHINGTON, D.C. ( — After years of arguing over who should control the Internet, the White House and major international organizations have endorsed a plan giving control of the massive computer network to the winner of an essay contest.

Youngsters from around the world aged 13 through 17 will be asked to write on the topic: "Why I want to control the Internet" in 50 words or less. The winner will be given supervision of the Internet, including standards for programming and transmission protocols, major network upgrade decisions, and the issuance of new top-level domains, such as .com and .org. The essays, to be judged on originality, sincerity, and spelling, will be reviewed by Ira Magaziner, former head of U.S. Internet policy, Jean-François Abramatic, Chairman of the World Wide Web Consortium, and William Wonka, founder of the Wonka candy empire and an expert in large-scale contests.

U.S. influence over the Internet -- which began in 1972 as ARPAnet, a U.S. Department of Defense project -- increasingly came under fire in 1998 and 1999. Under pressure, the Clinton Administration agreed to cede government control to ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, but ICANN's dominance has met resistance on several fronts. The essay compromise, while not pleasing everyone, "will at least put the Internet in the hands of someone who loves it," said Magaziner. The contest was restricted to teenagers, he said, because elementary school students cannot stay up late enough to handle overseas responsibilities.

"There was so much bickering about this between the U.S. and the international community. 'Who's in charge? Where are the headquarters?'" said Vice President Al Gore. "We knew we couldn't win, and we knew that if we let the market decide, the Internet would go to the highest bidder. With this essay solution, my Internet will be in the capable hands on the world's youth, who are the future, anyway."

The deadline for the "I Want the Internet" contest is April 2, 2000. Entry forms will be handed out at schools across the world, and are available on numerous Internet sites.


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