U.S. giving up control of Internet address, domain name assignment

Windsor Genova – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

Washington, DC, United States (4E) – The U.S. is ceding control of Internet address and domain name assignment to a global non-government overseer, according to the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).

In a press release on Friday, NTIA, the telecommunications and information policy-making body, asked the non-profit contractor administering its Web address and domain name database or the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to convene global stakeholders that will plan the transition and privatization of the so-called domain name system (DNS).

“The timing is now right to start this transition both because ICANN as an organization has matured, and international support continues to grow for the multistakeholder model of Internet governance,” Lawrence E. Strickling, assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information, said in a statement.

NTIA hopes to transition out of its DNS role by September 2015, when its contract with ICANN expires. The commerce department also set the transition in 1997.

The 16-year-old ICANN, through its Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) department, oversees global Internet Protocol (IP) address allocation, autonomous system number allocation, root zone management in the DNS, media types, and other IP-related symbols and numbers.

NTIA also said it asked ICANN to work collaboratively with the directly affected parties, such as the Internet Engineering Task Force, the Internet Architecture Board, the Internet Society, the Regional Internet Registries, top level domain name operators, VeriSign, and other interested global stakeholders in making the transition plan. The agency also set the transition conditions, including that the DNS management be private sector-led and the openness of the Internet should be maintained.

Meanwhile, concerns were aired over the privatization of the DNS with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation warning in a blog post that foreign governments may interfere with ICANN’s operations. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) tweeted that the NTIA move “risks foreign dictatorships defining the internet.”

“It’s inconceivable that ICANN can be accountable to the whole world. That’s the equivalent of being accountable to no one,” said Steve DelBianco, executive director of the NetChoice Internet commerce businesses group, according to The Washington Post.

However, Fadi Chehade, president of ICANN, assured the security and stability of the Internet.

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