On October 1st, the control of the assignment of domain name addresses moved from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, (ICANN), which held the oversight since 1998 to an international group.
The non-profit running the database will become autonomous and be accountable to international stakeholders in the Internet community. These include a governmental advisory committee, a technical committee, industry committee, internet users and telecommunications experts.
Why the change? ICANN was working on contract that expired in September 30th, 2016. The 18-year-old contract for ICANN has been held by the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration but is not scheduled to be renewed on Sept. 30 when it came to an end and ICANN will become an autonomous non-profit.
The history is interesting when one notes that it started as a simple list of what names were assigned to what numbers, known as Internet Protocol addresses and was originally kept on a clipboard by Jon Postel, a famed computer scientist at the University of Southern California.
Some in the United States argue that the Internet has always belonged to the United States and that the handover is illegal and dangerous. There is much debate and concerns over the transition by political leaders like Senator Ted Cruz and others. Since this was begun by an American, many feel it is American property. Efforts to make it truly neutral and global came back into the fore in 2013, after National Security Agency whistle blower Edward Snowden’s revelations about the depth of U.S. Internet surveillance. That pushed ICANN to being working on a new transition proposal that yielded the new arrangement of an autonomous board that went into effect on October 1 since all efforts to block the change has failed.
U.S. Government Accountability Office report of Sept 12, 2016 found the internet address book is not government property. Milton Mueller, a professor in the school of public policy at the Georgia Institute of Technology and a long-time participant in ICANN’s volunteer advisory groups, claims that no one country holds control. ICANN is advised and they are not compelled to follow any one country but work for the majority.
Professor Mueller states that the opponents claim that ‘We are the bulwark of freedom in the world and if we let go of this, the Internet will go to hell.’ How much of them really believe that and how many are just exploiting this to make the Obama administration look bad isn’t clear to me,” said Mueller.
There will be no visible change in the functioning of the internet. As to how this will play out in the future is left to be seen. It is to be hoped that truth, honesty and openness continues to be the foundation and we have nothing to regret in the future.