US Internet Dominance Comes to an End as Washington Gives Up Control of ICANN

© Flickr / Michael CoghlanControl of the Internet was meant to be transferred to an international body.
Control of the Internet was meant to be transferred to an international body. - Sputnik International
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Washington has given up its remaining control over the Internet. On Saturday, the contract between the US government and Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, expired. Radio Sputnik discussed the issue with Milton Mueller, Professor of School of Public Policy at Georgia Institute of Technology.

“This is an attempt to get rid of the US’s head control over the domain name system through ICANN for many years since the beginning of ICANN,” Mueller said.

ICANN is an internet corporation for assigned names and numbers. It was created back in 1998 when the internet was growing from an academic infrastructure into a “diversified global governance system.”

“The big issue at the time was the root of the domain name system, should we have new top-level domains? Suddenly we were selling hundreds of thousands of domain names every month and some people were making a lot of money so there were all sorts of policy issues about how this should be governed and who should make the policy,” Mueller said.

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The analyst explained that back then that the US took a very liberal step and “said that it shouldn’t be done just by the US government alone, but rather be kept it in the hands of the internet community itself and create a new private corporation under which people could make policy decisions by participating in the activities of this corporation.”

This was how ICANN came to be, although for the first fifteen years the US government retained contractual control over ICANN and this is what came to an end with the expiration of the contract.

“Hence, the corporation no longer holds its status as a contractor of the US government instead it is a free-standing entity that is charged with control over the root of the domain name system,” Mueller told Sputnik.

The analyst further spoke about the activities of ICANN and how it will now be governed so to speak by stakeholders from private business centres after the contract with the US expires.

“I think it is definitely a net positive because the problem before was that one government had a special power, which was the US government and other governments were jealous of this power. The US government said that it shouldn’t be involved but at the same time the US was in there,” Mueller said.

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However, according to the analyst now “ICANN will be more private sector based and have an open internet community-based governance regime.”

From now on, the company that is in charge of domain management and IP address allocation will be acting in line with the decisions taken by a broad array of experts. The people at its helm will range from academics to representatives of governments and business.

The new management scheme is supposedly designed to make sure that the power is shared between various interests.

Notably, ICANN has frequently been criticized for the alleged lack of accountability and opaque decision making.

The handover was approved despite attempts of a group of Republicans trying to block the transfer. On Friday, a judge in Texas refused to grant an injunction requested by four Republican state attorneys-general to jeopardize the move.

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