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This time it’s real: U.S. ready to give up control over key internet functions

Government ready to relinquish control over IANA contract.

In 2009 the U.S Government agreed to the “Affirmation of Commitments” with ICANN to set if free from U.S. control.

The press ate it up, assuming that it meant the U.S. had given up control of the internet.

It hadn’t.

The key contract that the U.S. government controls for the internet’s naming system is actually the Internet Assigned Number Authority (IANA) contract, which includes managing the root zone. That contract is awarded by the U.S.’ National Telecommunications and Information Administration to ICANN.

Signing the Affirmation of Commitments gave the U.S. government a way to say it was relinquishing control of the internet without actually doing it. It bought it time.

Now it appears the government is serious. It announced today that it’s ready to wash its hands of this key contract for managing the root zone.

ICANN’s new CEO Fadi Chehade has been pushing for more separation from the U.S. government after the Edward Snowden revelations. He has gotten his wish, but a high stakes game of poker is about to ensue. Chehade will have to tread carefully and skillfully in the coming 18 months, the unofficial deadline for coming up with an alternative to the existing contract.

The U.S. government said it won’t accept a model in which another government-led group controls these important functions. This is key, and it has been my primary concern about the power vacuum that would take place if the U.S. government bowed out.

It seems that the U.S. will have a role in deciding how the IANA functions are carried out going forward even if it’s not handing out the contract itself. It will effectively control how the hand-off occurs, even if it’s behind the scenes. The idea is the ICANN will continue to handle the IANA functions, it just won’t be the result of a government contract.

I wonder if 18 months will be enough time to figure out what is a key ingredient to the internet as we know it.

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  1. Joseph Peterson says

    I’m curious how much sincerity there is behind such an “affirmation of commitment”. After all, those in power can reject any proposal as being unworkable or unfair to some set of stake holders they’re sworn to protect. I don’t see any significant public pressure on the U.S. government to give away its own influence; so why would they?

    This is not a topic I’m well informed on, but that’s my suspicion. Have cake, eat too.

    Are there teeth here? Is any change mandated? Someone more knowledgeable on this issue can tell me.

    • Andrew Allemann says

      If the US gov isn’t happy with the replacement proposal they could just extend the IANA contract until they are happy with it. Clearly they’re dictating some of the terms of what a transition will look like.

  2. ChuckWagen says

    “Strickling said the “timing is right” for the Commerce Department to start to phase out of ICANN.” (AP) Yes, questions.

  3. Ken Glen says

    The internet has become more than just the US Government. Is it the correct time for reduce their influence. Who really knows, Getting the right setup for who takes over is the important thing. Done right it could be a googd thing.

  4. Henry says

    I, for one, do not like the news one bit. There are a whole lot that can go wrong. It has always been their baby, they should nuture it. What Russia is doing today should be a lesson.

    There are quite a bit to be said about this but this is not the place.

  5. accent says

    They don’t want the Internet controlled by governments, they want it controlled by big business.

  6. bing says

    wow pretty bad move
    the UN or whomever will not ensure freedom of speech etc
    obama votes again to curtail free speech and Americanism
    what a tool

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