US Hands Over Control Of The Internet To ICANN As Global Non-Profit Organization For Oversight

The United States government has crossed off one item on its endless to-do list. On Saturday the government ceded its oversight responsibilities of the internet to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a global non-profit organization. ICANN will now have control over the internet’s “root zone” where new online domains and addresses are born.

The United States government contract with ICANN expired after nearly twenty years. The expiration is part of the government’s plan to “privatize” the internet. Stephen Crocker, ICANN's board chairman, remarked, “This transition was envisioned 18 years ago, yet it was the tireless work of the global internet community, which drafted the final proposal, that made this a reality.”

The United States’ “control” of the internet was largely symbolic. The internet is not technically owned by a single entity and was originally designed to function without a central authority. The government mostly approved technical updates to the domain-name system, but not much else.

icann headqaurters
ICANN headquarters in Los Angeles, California

Many critics have insisted that the United States is simply “giving away” the internet. They fear that authoritarian regimes may try to take over the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority or IANA. Texas senator Ted Cruz insisted, “President Obama intends to give increased control of the internet to authoritarian regimes like China, Russia, and Iran. Like Jimmy Carter gave away the Panama Canal, Obama is giving away the internet.”

Arizona, Texas, Nevada, and Oklahoma actually sued the government. They demanded a restraining order to stop internet power handover to ICANN. A Texas judge refused to issue an injunction and the lawsuit failed.

ICANN is a self-regulated organization. The IANA will now be controlled by stakeholders such as engineers, academics, businesses, and various government and non-government groups. Crocker stated, “This community validated the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance. It has shown that a governance model defined by the inclusion of all voices, including business, academics, technical experts, civil society, governments and many others is the best way to assure that the Internet of tomorrow remains as free, open and accessible as the Internet of today.”