U.S. Government to Give Up Key Internet Powers

The United States will turn over control to the “global Internet community.”

A screen shows a rolling feed of new 'Generic Top-Level Domain Names (gTLDs) which have been applied for during a press conference hosted by ICANN in central London, on June 13, 2012. The US-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) was to reveal details of 1,930 requests for new web address endings at a press conference in London. The California-based body says the huge expansion of the Internet, with two billion users around the world, half of them in Asia, means the new names are essential.
National Journal
Brendan Sasso
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Brendan Sasso
March 14, 2014, 1:48 p.m.

Fa­cing in­ter­na­tion­al pres­sure, the U.S. gov­ern­ment said Fri­day it will give up con­trol over im­port­ant tech­nic­al as­pects of the In­ter­net.

The Com­merce De­part­ment will no longer over­see the In­ter­net Cor­por­a­tion of As­signed Names and Num­bers, a non­profit group that man­ages the In­ter­net’s ad­dress sys­tem.

Larry Strick­ling, the as­sist­ant sec­ret­ary of Com­merce for com­mu­nic­a­tions and in­form­a­tion, said the “glob­al In­ter­net com­munity” will have the fi­nal say over the data­base of names and ad­dresses that al­lows com­puters around the world to com­mu­nic­ate with each oth­er.

The In­ter­net was in­ven­ted in the United States, and the coun­try has long main­tained a cent­ral role. But as the In­ter­net has grown, oth­er coun­tries have de­man­ded a great­er voice in its gov­ernance.

Ed­ward Snowden’s leaks about the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency’s mass-sur­veil­lance pro­grams have ex­acer­bated re­sent­ment over the cent­ral role of the United States in man­aging the In­ter­net.

But of­fi­cials ar­gued the trans­ition is not a re­sponse to the in­ter­na­tion­al con­tro­versy over NSA spy­ing. Strick­ling said the U.S. over­sight of the In­ter­net’s do­main sys­tem was al­ways meant to be tem­por­ary.

“The tim­ing is right to start the trans­ition pro­cess,” he said. “We look for­ward to IC­ANN con­ven­ing stake­hold­ers across the glob­al In­ter­net com­munity to craft an ap­pro­pri­ate trans­ition plan.”

Fadi Chehadé, the pres­id­ent and CEO of IC­ANN, said he will work with gov­ern­ments, busi­nesses, and non­profits to es­tab­lish a new sys­tem for man­aging the In­ter­net’s do­main sys­tem.

“All stake­hold­ers de­serve a voice in the man­age­ment and gov­ernance of this glob­al re­source as equal part­ners,” he said.

The U.S. gov­ern­ment will con­tin­ue its role un­til its cur­rent con­tract with IC­ANN ex­pires in Septem­ber 2015.

Strick­ling said IC­ANN’s pro­pos­al must meet cer­tain cri­ter­ia, in­clud­ing that it “main­tain the open­ness of the In­ter­net” and pre­serve se­cur­ity and sta­bil­ity. He in­sisted that for­eign gov­ern­ments and in­ter­gov­ern­ment­al groups will not gain new powers over the In­ter­net.

But some busi­ness groups are nervous about what the trans­ition will mean.

Daniel Castro, an ana­lyst for the In­form­a­tion Tech­no­logy and In­nov­a­tion Found­a­tion, a pro-busi­ness think tank, warned that giv­ing up the tra­di­tion­al U.S. over­sight role could res­ult in “a splintered In­ter­net that would stifle in­nov­a­tion, com­merce, and the free flow and di­versity of ideas that are bed­rock ten­ets of world’s biggest eco­nom­ic en­gine.”

Bob Li­odice, the CEO of the As­so­ci­ation of Na­tion­al Ad­vert­isers, said he is “very dis­ap­poin­ted” with the an­nounce­ment. His group has battled with IC­ANN for sev­er­al years over its plan to al­low for thou­sands of new Web ad­dress end­ings bey­ond the tra­di­tion­al “.com” and “.org.”

“We saw the U.S. re­lax ac­count­ab­il­ity with the re­cent do­main name ex­pan­sion,” he said. “In a world without U.S. over­sight, we worry that such is­sues will be fur­ther ag­grav­ated po­ten­tially caus­ing sig­ni­fic­ant eco­nom­ic con­cerns, con­sumer con­fu­sion and impair­ment to brand own­er­ship.”

Sen. Jay Rock­e­feller, the Demo­crat­ic chair­man of the Sen­ate Com­merce Com­mit­tee, has been a fre­quent crit­ic of IC­ANN’s de­cisions. But he said Fri­day that the an­nounce­ment is con­sist­ent with U.S. ef­forts to en­sure the In­ter­net is free from gov­ern­ment con­trol.

“Since 1998, the U.S. has been com­mit­ted to trans­ition­ing man­age­ment of the In­ter­net’s do­main name sys­tem to an in­de­pend­ent en­tity that re­flects the broad di­versity of the glob­al In­ter­net com­munity,” he said.

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