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U.S. Government is Out, ICANN Needs a New Overseer

By - Source: Toms IT Pro

The U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administrationt declared that it will hand off oversight of Internet names and addresses to another authority, and not one that would still by under the government's management. For the U.S. government to turn over control of any portion of the Internet seems unusual. In some ways, it would be the same as the local county giving up the right to name streets, number houses and control where people live.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced last Friday that it is starting the process of looking for a new manager for the role of controlling the Internet's unique identifier system, which the U.S. Government has had some level of control over since before the Internet became the Internet.

ICANN is a nonprofit organization set up by the government in 1998 to be the administrator of the Internet's unique identifier system and domains. According to a statement by ICANN, its role of administering the unique identifiers is not likely to change, but it may become a bit more crowded in meetings as additional global stakeholders are brought in to help manage the process and possibly take over the management of ICANN itself.

"Even though ICANN will continue to perform these vital technical functions, the U.S. has long envisioned the day when stewardship over them would be transitioned to the global community. In other words, we have all long known the destination. Now it is up to our global stakeholder community to determine the best route to get us there," said Dr. Stephen D. Crocker, ICANN's Board Chair.

Between now and September 2015, which is when the contract between ICANN and the U.S. government ends, the global community of "multistakeholders" will be working on a process to make sure that all of the groups that should have a say in how the process should be managed are included in creating the transition plan.

"The global multistakeholder process is defined by inclusion, and it will take some time to make sure that we obtain all of the necessary inputs. By the time the current contract with the U.S. government expires in September 2015, we will have a defined and clear process for global multistakeholder stewardship of ICANN's performance of these technical functions," said Fadi Chehadé, ICANN's President and CEO.

In a press announcement released by ICANN on Friday, the group indicated the leaders of the Internet technical organizations that represent the most significant parts of the Internet infrastructure (IETF, IAB, RIRs, ccTLD ROs, ICANN, ISOC, and W3C) are looking forward to the U.S. Government's plan to transfer control.

The timing of the U.S. government's announcement is convenient since ICANN is holding its 49th Public Meeting in Singapore, March 23 - 27, and now plans to have a community wide dialogue to discuss the transfer process. 

Since this is an important job, it is not one that should be turned over to any single entity with a political agenda or veto power. Imagine the problems if forward momentum of IPv6 stopped for an extended period because a government or group decided they could use control over it for political advantage.

In just that one area, the impact to the Internet of Things (IoT) and all of the sales revenue that it will generate could be negatively impacted. IoT is dependent on having enough addresses to go around, so any slowdown for any significant period could have a negative economic impact in many areas of the globe. It is not likely that will happen, but the choice of who takes over management must be carefully considered.

For more information on this read the National Telecommunications & Information Administration's statement at ntia.do.gov and ICANN's announcement at icann.org.

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