US To Turn Over Control Of The Internet With ICANN

Ownership of the Internet is about to undergo a massive change, as the U.S. is planning to cede sole control of Internet governance to the global private sector. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced that it will fulfill the mandate outlined back in the late 1990s that the agency would eventually phase out its administrative role over the DNS (Domain Name Server) and its interest in ICANN and place it in the hands of “global stakeholders”.

“The timing is right to start the transition process,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Lawrence E. Strickling in a press release. “We look forward to ICANN convening stakeholders across the global Internet community to craft an appropriate transition plan.”

U.S. Chamber of Commerce
U.S. Chamber of Commerce

ICANN has the keys to the domain name system and, according to the NTIA, is “uniquely positioned” to get the transition moving. The NTIA stated that the transition proposal will include the following:

-Support and enhance the multistakeholder model;
-Maintain the security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet DNS;
-Meet the needs and expectation of the global customers and partners of the IANA [Internet Assigned Numbers Authority] services; and,
-Maintain the openness of the Internet.

The current contractual situation between the NTIA and ICANN will expire in September 2015, and it’s clear that the contract won’t be renewed. The NTIA’s role was always supposed to be temporary, so it’s appropriate that after 15 or 16 years, the time is right to enact the change.

It’s ironic that we often don’t like the feeling that a powerful entity (i.e. Facebook and Google) holds onto control, but when control over something important to us is ceded, it can be kind of an uncomfortable feeling. There is often a certain comfort in knowing that someone is in charge.

On the other hand, there’s an argument to be made that the fumbling, bumbling government who alternately can’t figure out how to make a website and lets its NSA spy on the whole world via the Internet shouldn’t be the primary steward of one of the most important resources on earth.

Sound off in the comments; do you see this development as good news, bad news, or no news?
Tags:  Internet, NTIA, ICANN, DNS, Misc, IANA