ICANN

Who Will Control the Internet?

The news, detailed in excellent fashion yesterday by Jason Pye in this space, that around 5 pm Friday — after many on the Hill had left their offices — the Obama administration formally relinquished involvement/control over the internet to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, was met with what has become a trademark in analysis of this current executive office: confusion.

Why would this administration quietly make a move like this now when — despite the loud and dire warnings of net neutrality enthusiasts — the internet is working pretty well by most standards of measurement (i.e. is free and open, relatively cheap, easily accessible, and rarely plagued by massive outages)?

Admittedly, ICANN has been a huge player in managing Internet architecture since it was created in 1998 as something like a quasi-governmental non-profit that would take control of the technical maintenance of root servers as well as managing all the unique identifiers associated with surfing the web — IP addresses, domain names, registries and the like. So it’s not like government is handing control over as much as they’re just stepping back and letting ICANN assume all responsibility when the contract expires with the group in 2015. Isn’t less government involvement in the business of the internet desirable?

ICANN, Meet Your New Master, the FCC

ICANN

 

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), an executive branch agency within the Department of Commerce, sparked controversy last year when it announced its intent to transition its oversight of Internet domain names to “the global multistakeholder community.” The controversy is now over. The NTIA no longer has authority to relinquish U.S. control over the Internet domain name system. Though few seem to have realized it, the FCC assumed plenary jurisdiction over Internet numbering in its 2015 net neutrality order reclassifying the broadband Internet as telecommunications (Reclassification Order).

Internet Domain System

The NTIA’s oversight of the Internet domain system includes the assignment of IP numbers and the system for registering domain names. Each device connected to the Internet has a uniquely identifiable IP address. Domain names allow users to identify these numbers using easy-to-understand names (e.g., www.cbit.org) rather than a string of numbers and/or letters. “In this way, it functions similar to an ‘address book’ for the Internet.”

Today in Liberty: Trey Gowdy destroys Lois Lerner, Republicans push Internet sales tax again

“How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.” — Adam Smith

— KathLOLn SebLOLus: In case you haven’t heard, our dear Health and Human Services secretary has called it quits. Sebelius recently submitted to her resignation to President Obama, apparently in early March. He’s expected to, at some point today, appoint OMB Director Sylvia Burwell to succeed Sebelius.

Bill Clinton questions Obama administration move ceding Internet oversight

Bill Clinton wonders whether the Obama administration’s move to cede the United States’ last remaining oversight of the Internet could hurt online freedom should countries with a history of censorship claim a stake in its future.

The former president, speaking last week on a panel at event hosted by the Clinton Global Initiative, said the Internet has “flourished in freedom” under U.S. control, though he favors the theory of a “multi-stakeholder process” that would have oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

“Whatever you believe about what the NSA has done, what the proposals the president’s made to change it, whatever, the Internet has flourished in freedom, and people have had access to it,” said Clinton. “And whether it was trying to keep access open in Iran after their disputed election with the Green Revolution, whether it’s trying to make sure you could use it and people could follow your struggles in driving. We’ve been there on that. Whatever you think is wrong.”

“And all I’m saying is, I understand in theory why we would like to have a multi-stakeholder process, I favor that, I just know that a lot of these so-called multi-stakeholders are really governments that want to gag people and restrict access to the Internet,” he added.

Poll: 61% oppose administration’s move to give up control of the Internet

The Obama administration’s move to relinquish oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), part of a news dump at the end of last week, has been met with opposition from Americans, according to a new survey from Rasmussen Reports:

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 61% of Likely U.S. Voters oppose the United States giving up its last remaining control over the Internet. Just 18% favor that move, while 21% are not sure about it.

Fifty-two percent (52%) think international control will make the Internet worse, but that’s less suspicious than voters were two years ago when we first asked this question. Sixty-four percent thought international control would make the Internet worse at that time. Only nine percent (9%) now think it will make the Internet better. Seventeen percent (17%) expect international control to have no impact, but 22% are undecided.

Critics of the decision to give up U.S. control of the Internet say countries like Russia, China or Iran will try to take it over to censor its content, and 66% of voters think that is at least somewhat likely. Just 25% consider it unlikely. This includes 32% who say it is Very Likely that one of these countries will try to censor the Internet and only seven percent (7%) who view it as Not At All Likely.

Obama administration cedes control of the Internet

Internet

Buried in a Friday news dump the Commerce Department announced that it would no longer oversee ICANN, meaning that the administration is giving up the last remaining control that the United States government has over the Internet, a move that leaves uncertainty about its future:

U.S. officials announced plans Friday to relinquish federal government control over the administration of the Internet, a move that pleased international critics but alarmed some business leaders and others who rely on the smooth functioning of the Web.

Pressure to let go of the final vestiges of U.S. authority over the system of Web addresses and domain names that organize the Internet has been building for more than a decade and was supercharged by the backlash last year to revelations about National Security Agency surveillance.

The change would end the long-running contract between the Commerce Department and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a California-based nonprofit group. That contract is set to expire next year but could be extended if the transition plan is not complete.
[…]
The practical consequences of the decision were harder to immediately discern, especially with the details of the transition not yet clear. Politically, the move could alleviate rising global concerns that the United States essentially controls the Web and takes advantage of its oversight position to help spy on the rest of the world.


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