US government finalizes handoff of Internet control to non-profit corporation

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced Tuesday, Aug. 16, that as of Oct. 1 the U.S. government will officially transfer total control of the Internet’s domain name system (DNS) to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), finally completing a transition process that began in 1998.

ICANN is a private, non-profit organization based in Los Angeles which coordinates and stores Internet Protocol (IP) addresses from around the world, “develops” Internet policy and manages the system of unique identifiers — numeric or alphanumeric codes that are assigned to online entities so they can be retrieved remotely.

ICANN also accredits and contracts with domain “registrars”, such as Go Daddy or Network Solutions, who in turn sell the address names to individuals or businesses.

In March 2014, NTIA, a subsidiary of the Department of Commerce, asked ICANN to propose a plan to finalize the transition that met certain requirements, primarily devising a multi-stakeholder model to support the governance of DNS — including businesses, governments, non-governmental organizations, field experts and research institutions.

Finally, on June 9, NTIA announced ICANN had satisfied those requirements and on Friday, Aug. 9, ICANN further told NTIA that implementation of their criteria would be completed by Oct. 1.

“This [transition] is important because there has always been a bit of nervousness from the rest of the global community of one entity having considerable power,” said Center for Democracy & Technology chief technologist Joseph Lorenzo Hall. “The United States has always been very fair with that power and responsibility with the exception of the U.S. blocking .xxx at ICANN based on (Christian) values and political maneuvering.”

While moving control of Internet policy away from Washington has been the goal all along, conservative Republicans on Capitol Hill have opposed transition finalization over the past two years, threatening to defund the process to ensure American governance policies like openness and copyright protections are maintained.

President Obama, however, has advocated for the hand-off, arguing that a more diplomatic approach is inevitable and that the alternative to ICANN oversight is a UN takeover which could endanger the Internet practices Republicans want to protect.

“I do think everyone will get benefits from the ICANN transition to a global stakeholder community”, concluded Hall. “(It’s) a solid sign that the U.S. is serious about globalization of the Internet and not trying to maintain what we might call digital colonialism.”


[Tech Republic] [NBC News] [Photo courtesy]