US to globalise internet, but there is a catch

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The Obama administration announced last Friday that it would relinquish its control over the internet. However, it insisted that this task should be run by different nations along with the private sector and other relevant parties.

The US Commerce Department oversees the master database for top-level domain names like .net, .com and .org, as well as their assigned numeric addresses. However, this task was contracted to ICANN, or the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

According to Assistant Secretary of Commerce Lawrence Strickling, the US government has instructed ICANN to start a formal transition to globalise the Web. However, the new managing body should “maintain the openness of the Internet” as well as “support and enhance the multi-stakeholder model.”

This process is expected to be completed before September 2015, added ICANN boss Fadi Chehadé.

This move follows the European Union’s proposal that the US cede its technical control over the internet. It also aims to counter China and Russia’s proposal that the Web’s infrastructure should be managed by the UN’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which is only made up of governments.

In December 2012, the US and its allies foiled China and Russia’s plan to give ITU a clearer role in overseeing the internet’s architecture, especially in allocating addresses. Furthermore, the latest announcement assures that ICANN will have a future role in managing the internet.

While many nations support the multi-stakeholder model, which includes the private sector and other relevant parties, many are wary of ICANN. One key concern is that the private, non-profit firm is largely influenced by companies that sell domain names.