United States will fulfill a years-old promise to privatize the governance of the World Wide Web in October.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) was established in 1988 to coordinate domain names across the globe. A nonprofit organization, ICANN is overseen by the US Department of Commerce.
However, a number of countries and privacy advocates have expressed concern that a global entity as vital as the internet is under the control of the US, and the Obama Administration promised to cede control over ICANN.
Until recently, Washington had failed to make good on this promise. But on Tuesday, Assistant Secretary Lawrence Strickling confirmed that the process will be finalized in roughly two months.
“On Friday, ICANN informed NTIA [National Telecommunications & Information Administration] that is has completed or will complete all the necessary tasks called for in the transition proposal by the end of the contract term,” he wrote in a post on the department’s website.
“NTIA has thoroughly reviewed the report. We informed ICANN today that based on that review and barring any significant impediment, NTIA intends to allow the [Internet Assigned Numbers Authority] functions contract to expire as of October 1.”
The transition was originally slated to occur September 2015, but was delayed.
“It has become increasingly apparent over the last few months that the community needs time to complete its work, have the plan reviewed by the US government, and then implement it if it is approved,” Strickling wrote at the time.
A number of countries have expressed support for the transition, as well as ICANN head Fadi Chehade.
“I feel the proposal will lead us to a global, independent, neutral, well-governed organization,” he said last year. “I’m never comfortable, but I am optimistic and I believe that all interests are now aligned…Everybody sees that this makes sense.”
Russia and China maintain a unified front to challenge the West’s conception of the Internet. From the perspective of Internet users, the abstract world of online activity is not necessarily tied to geographic and political boundaries, but it does rest on physical infrastructure inseparable from geography.
Geopolitics is naturally interwoven into the evolution of these policies, according to a report the US think tank Stratfor released on Friday.
Even though no single body dictates or enforces how the Internet expands, the Internet architecture and the manner in which it is governed are still rooted in its country of origin, the United States.
Western technologies and industries, particularly from the United States, dominate the Internet’s current construct.
Moreover, the US government designed the governing model and retains influence over small yet critical functions, such as managing network addresses.
Small wonder, then, that China and Russia are promoting network security and Internet governance issues, the report said.
In January China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, the six members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), proposed an updated draft of International Code of Conduct for Information Security to the United Nations.
Besides, a Russian law regarding data localization of Internet communications, which goes into effect on September 1, 2015, effectively requires companies obtaining information online from Russian citizens to store that data on servers physically located in the country.
Initially, companies like Google, Facebook or Twitter would be required to move or build data centers in Russia if they wish to conduct business online there, otherwise Russian Internet users presumably would be blocked from accessing the company’s content, the Stratfor report noted.
The company analysts juxtapose two models of Internet governance: a multilateral model (with each country’s government dictating the rules) favored by Russia and China, and the current multi-stakeholder model (with all participants having an equal say in governing the current model).
The Russian and Chinese argument is being bolstered by growing international concerns about Internet security in the wake of the recent exposés made by Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency subcontractor who made headlines in 2013 when he leaked top secret information about NSA surveillance activities.