A tiny branch of the U.S. Commerce Department is preparing to hand over control of the Internet’s “address book”—the highest level of the Domain Naming System, or DNS—to the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers, also know as ICANN, effective Oct. 1.
- The Los Angeles-based international nonprofit operates the database for domain names such as .com and .net and their corresponding numeric addresses that allow computers to connect.
- The U.S. Commerce Department currently oversees the Internet’s management largely because it was invented in the United States.
- The contract with ICANN will lapse on October 1.
- Tech companies, technical experts, academics, have said the transition is overdue and necessary to keep the Internet open and globally oriented, and that the proposal includes safeguards against any potential abuse by any one country.
- Delaying the transition to the multistakeholder global community may also weaken U.S. credibility in future international negotiations at the United Nations and elsewhere about Internet standards and security, thus empowering countries like Russia and China, experts have said.
GOP LAWMAKERS ATTEMPTED TO STALL HANDOFF
DNS control is causing deep disagreement in the technology world, as experts in the industry and academia have vastly different opinions on the issue. Some say security and free use of the Internet is better under the umbrella of an organization that resides in America, while others assert this power should be given to a global organization.
The handover of oversight of the Internet’s technical management from the U.S. to a global community of stakeholders would be a “gift to Russia” and other authoritarian regimes, a senior Obama administration official said
The comments before a congressional panel came as several Republican lawmakers are attempting to thwart the changeover, arguing it would stifle online freedom and has not been appropriately vetted.
“I urge you: Do not give a gift to Russia and other authoritarian nations by blocking this transition,” Lawrence Strickling, administrator of the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, told a Senate subcommittee.
The plan, announced in March 2014, to transfer oversight of the nonprofit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, is expected to go forward unless Congress votes to block the handover.
Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who convened and chaired Wednesday’s hearing on the Internet, and other Republicans who have argued in recent weeks that the transition would be a “giveaway” of Internet control to Russia, China, and other governments that censor Internet content.
“When ICANN escapes from government authority, ICANN escapes from … having to worry about protecting your rights or my rights,” Cruz said.
ICANN does not have the ability to censor the Internet, the corporation’s CEO Goran Marby said during the hearing.
U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump opposes a long-planned transition of oversight of the internet’s technical management from the U.S. government to a global community of stakeholders.
Additional content contribution by Reuters and The Daily Caller