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The U.S. government, often accused of having a disproportionate say in the working of the Internet, is about to loosen its grip considerably by ceding control of key domain name functions to the international community. To this end, U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has asked the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a non-profit responsible for the global coordination of the Internet’s system of unique identifiers (names, IP addresses and protocol parameters), “to convene global stakeholders to develop a proposal to transition the current role played by NTIA.”
The NTIA and ICANN have a longstanding contractual understanding under which the latter, through its Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) department, manages the DNS root zone of the Internet under the former’s oversight. But now, in a welcome move it considers to be the final step toward Internet DNS privatization, the NTIA has decided to relinquish that oversight of IANA functions in favor of “the global multistakeholder community.” With the current IANA contract set to expire on September 30, 2015, ICANN has plenty of time in which to complete the transition.
“The timing is right to start the transition process,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Lawrence E. Strickling in a press release. “We look forward to ICANN convening stakeholders across the global Internet community to craft an appropriate transition plan.”
Some, however, suspect this sudden alacrity to relinquish oversight of the the DNS system may have something to do with recent revelations about the National Security Agency’s overreach.
“I hope it’s not just a frightened reaction to the Snowden revelations, which have nothing to do with the Internet Domain Name System,” Steve DelBianco, executive director of trade group NetChoice, told PCWorld. “Maybe the administration wants to rack up political points for upcoming [Internet governance] meetings. I’m afraid those points won’t be worth what this move may cost.”
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