US to hand over its power on the internet to ICANN

By : |August 18, 2016 0

The US will be ceding its powers of the internet’s naming system to a multi-stakeholder body as of October 1, ending the nearly 20-year transfer to a private party, despite Republican ire.

The Domain Naming System, DNS, pairs the easy-to-remember web addresses with their relevant servers and till date, the US somehow had ultimate say over how the DNS is controlled – but not for much longer.

Washington will give up its powerfully to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a non-profit organization located in Los Angeles.

“We informed ICANN today that based on that review and barring any significant impediment, NTIA [National Telecommunications & Information Administration] intends to allow the [Internet Assigned Numbers Authority] IANA functions contract to expire as of October 1,” Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Created in 1998, ICANN has been tasked with assigning global IP addresses and overseeing the internet domain name system (DNS). Along with the US Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the California-based non-profit has been managing IANA functions. This is the part that is going to change in less than two months.

“ICANN is uniquely positioned, as both the current IANA functions contractor and the global coordinator for the DNS, as the appropriate party to convene the multistakeholder process to develop the transition plan,” the NTIA said in a March statement, announcing its intent to cede its powers over DNS.

The move, however, has been fiercely criticized by some US politicians who believe this would open the door to the likes of China and Russia to meddle with a system that has always been “protected” by the US.

“The proposal will significantly increase the power of foreign governments over the Internet,” warned a letter signed by several Republican senators, including former Presidential hopeful, Ted Cruz.

“Considering the current state of Internet freedom, it would be unconscionable to transfer supreme oversight authority of the Internet to an organization that is increasing the influence of foreign governments.”

Cruz then followed with the Protecting Internet Freedom Act, a bill he introduced along with Republican Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy. The lawmakers insisted that their act would stop President Obama from handing over the Web to ICANN, allowing “over 160 foreign governments to have increased influence over the management and operation of the Internet.”

However, the NTIA does not share the fears of Republicans. Speaking in front of the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Internet in April, Strickling said that the transfer would be “the best measure to prevent authoritarian regimes from expanding their restrictive policies beyond their borders.”

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