Congressional Republicans are calling for greater oversight of the transition of the once U.S. controlled Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), to a multi-stakeholder group consisting of corporations, non-profits, and government personnel.
Created in 1998, ICANN basically manages the entire world-wide web through the oversight of the Domain Name System (DNS) and IP addresses.
In March of 2014, the Commerce Department announced it would not be renewing it’s contract with ICANN, set to expire in September.
Last year’s announcement concerned many nationalistic politicians in Washington, who fear foreign control of the internet and thus a further weakening of U.S. influence over internet practices. To that end, the House of Representatives have added an amendment to their Commerce appropriations bill which outlaws funding of the transition plan.
As of now, the transition plan is not expected to be ready in time when the U.S. government’s contract expires with ICANN after this summer. If so, the contract with the Commerce Department will be temporarily extended.
Either way, pro-transition advocates argue that total U.S. control over the global internet isn’t sustainable in the long-term, and that at least now we can oversee the process to ensure that those who take the reigns at ICANN share the values of a Western democracy.
The alternative, some argue, is United Nations oversight of the internet which could threaten it’s openness and potentially weaken the protection of online copyright laws. The U.N. includes member-countries which both restrict internet access and are negligent of safeguarding the theft of intellectual property.
In a House judiciary subcommittee hearing last week, members from both parties said they wanted to see more stipulations to protect copyright laws included in the ICANN transition plan.
Recently, complaints have been issued to Congress about the infringement of online property and the shake-down of internet domains, because ICANN has been remiss in enforcing some of it’s rules.
Let’s hope the U.S. legislative and executive branches work together to get this one right and make ICANN stick to the same principles it has had for almost 20 years, or we can kiss the internet as-we-know-it goodbye.