According to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. government is preparing to relinquish oversight for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
According to WSJ.com the move is viewed as a response to increasing international concern about U.S. control over the Internet’s structure, particularly in light of the recent disclosures about surveillance by the NSA and other U.S. intelligence agencies.
“Other governments have complained that the department’s contract with ICANN gives the U.S. unique influence over the Web, which it could use for a wide variety of purposes. In response to those concerns, the Obama administration is planning a process to transition oversight of the contract when it runs out in September 2015.”
“The administration’s main concern is that the new governance model for ICANN be free from any government interference, whether a single nation or coalitions of governments like the United Nation’s International Telecommunications Union. Any new governance model must fulfill several conditions, with independence from government influence being the primary factor. The new governance plan must also preserve the security and stability of the Internet while keeping it open and free from censorship.”
“The impact of the change remains unclear, because the Commerce Department’s day-to-day role in overseeing the contract with ICANN is largely clerical.
However, other nations have suggested the U.S. can still use its current authority to block certain websites for reasons like copyright infringement or having links to known terrorists. One goal of transitioning ICANN to nongovernmental oversight would be to provide more transparency to all nations into how the Internet’s root structure operates.”
The Washington Post is also reporting that “U.S. officials set strict conditions and an indeterminate timeline for the transition from federal government authority, saying that a new oversight body must be created and win the trust of crucial stakeholders around the world, said Lawrence Strickling”
The announcement essentially ruled out the possibility that the United Nations would take over the U.S. role, something many nations have advocated and U.S. officials have long opposed.
“The looming change — if successfully executed — would end or at least dramatically alter the long-running contract between the U.S. Commerce Department and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a California-based non-profit group that goes by the acronym ICANN. That contract is due to expire next year, though in the past it has been repeatedly extended.”
“I welcome the beginning of this transition process that you have outlined. The global community will be included in full,” said Fadi Chehade, president of ICANN