April 21, 2014. Cyberspace. There’s a lot of buzz over the Obama administration’s confirmation that it will move forward with the decades-old plan to release control of the internet’s domain naming system and management to an international body. The global organization to be used or created hasn’t been determined yet. The only thing for sure is that by September 2015, the US will no longer control internet domain and IP addresses.
The US will turn over control of internet domains and IP addresses in Sept 2015. Image courtesy of TheNationalPatriot.com.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a non-profit corporation created in 1998 to administer and manage the entire domain and IP system the world wide web uses to function. For the most part, the people of the world have had few complaints. Sure, ICANN underestimated the popularity of the internet and organized it by industry rather than by country or by language. But domain names are relatively cheap and the average Joe has just as much chance to get a domain as a millionaire.
ICANN also didn't seem to fold to the intimidation of multi-national corporations when they realized they missed the boat on grabbing prime internet real estate, like the domain names of their companies and brands. So, the corporations were forced to sue average domain holders into the poor house to get them to relinquish the priceless domain addresses. But ICANN didn’t betray internet freedom, America’s Judicial branch did. And that’s the exact kind of corruption that many fear will increase when foreign entities like China, Saudi Arabia and Russia are all given partial control.
Supporters of multi-national control
As Turkey proved a few weeks ago, no one country controls the internet, but countries can try to control access to it or shut down the sites hosted on their soil. As planned since ICANN was created in 1998, oversight of the domain and IP management will be transferred to a world body of some kind instead of being forever controlled solely by the US. Since its inception, ICANN has been regulated by the US Department of Commerce. And since its first days, the US Chamber of Commerce has been the number one force behind the demand to transfer control to an international body.
According to a report from The Hill, ‘The US agency will continue overseeing IANA until the contract expires in 2015. At that point, the agency hopes to be able to transfer stewardshIP.’ The IANA is the department within the Commerce Department that oversees ICANN. The report continues, ‘Some lawmakers and members of the tech industry have expressed concern that relinquishing control of IANA will open up the Internet to threats from other governments that seek to censor it.’
Senate Commerce Chairman Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) applauded the administration’s announcement saying, “The US 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." Obviously seeing the internet as a global invention rather than a US invention, ICANN’s own CEO Fadi Chehade celebrated the announcement stating, “All stakeholders deserve a voice in the management and government of this global resource as equal partners.”
Opposed to transferring control
The above statement from ICANN chief executive Fadi Chehade illustrates the conflict between those who want a world body to run the internet and those who want the US government to continue regulating it. Since the time the US government and US universities invented the internet and the federal government hired ICANN to manage it for the American people, ICANN has arbitrarily decided that the US government and the American people don’t own the internet anymore, the world does.
Fox News was one of the first to jump on the bandwagon and criticize the Obama administration’s decision to move forward with the transfer to a world body. ‘The decision was announced nonchalantly, in trademark Washington fashion on a Friday afternoon,’ their news report began, ‘The US government will cede its last bit of control over the Internet.’
The account quoted Robert Atkinson, President of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation warning, “While on the surface this may seem like a simple administrative decision that gives more control over this key Internet function to more stakeholders, it could actually have far reaching negative implications for the freedom and security of the Internet."
Another surprise opponent of transferring control of the domain and IP system is former President Bill Clinton. The American Prosperity News Network quoted the former President while giving a speech at Arizona State University. “I understand in theory why we should have a multi-stakeholder process,” Clinton explained, “I favor that. I just know that a lot of these stakeholders are really governments that want to gag people and restrict access to the Internet.”
Since the global body that will take control over the internet’s domain and IP system in September 2015 hasn’t been named, it may not even exist yet. But critics imagine other world bodies like the United Nations, where the worst of injustices are allowed to carry on year after year because certain powerful nations have asserted overwhelming control. What would the internet look like if it were run by a similar body? In September 2015, we’ll all find out.
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