President Obama is at it once again, engaging in his favorite pastime, ensuring that the United States is advancing towards non-exceptionalism at warp speed, or in this case at the speed of light, by way of fiber optic cable and the Internet
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the U.S. Department of Commerce made an announcement Friday afternoon that it was relinquishing control of the administration of the Internet. It will be turning over control of the Internet’s domain naming system (DNS) that oversees Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and domain names. NTIA’s obligation includes the procedural role of administering changes to the authoritative root zone file, which is the database containing the list of names and addresses of all top-level domains.
Developed in the 1960s, the Internet grew from a Defense Department program, ARPANET, and U.S. has maintained control over certain elements since its inception. Under a privatization process that began with Bill Clinton in 1997, ICANN was created in 1998 and it was intended to eventually migrate it to international control. That day will soon be upon us as the migration has begun.
Presently, the NTIA’s responsibility for the technical system named the Internet Assignment Numbers Authority (IANA) has been contracted out to the Internet Corporation of Internet Names and Numbers (ICCAN) under a biennial contract that expires in 2015. ICANN is charged with maintaining the IP address numbering system which computers use and turning those numbers into names that humans can understand, like .com, .org., or .net. Recently, those familiar names got some company with the addition of hundreds of new name like .ninja, .farm, .shoes, .photography, .bike, .pink, and even .wtf.
In its statement NTIA has asked ICANN to “transition key Internet domain name functions to the global multistakeholder community,” and “to convene global stakeholders to develop a proposal to transition the current role played by NTIA in the coordination of the Internet’s domain name system (DNS).”
NTIA also stated that it “will not accept a proposal that replaces the NTIA role with a government-led or an inter-governmental organization solution.” It wants to be consistent with the “clear policy expressed in bipartisan resolutions of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives (S.Con.Res.50 and H.Con.Res.127), which affirmed the United States support for the multistakeholder model of Internet governance.”
ICANN is expected to work with organizations directly affected, including the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), the Internet Society (ISOC), the Regional Internet Registries (RIRs), top level domain name operators, VeriSign, and other interested global stakeholders.
“The timing is right to start the transition process,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Lawrence E. Strickling. “We look forward to ICANN convening stakeholders across the global Internet community to craft an appropriate transition plan.”
That remains to be seen. Skeptics imagine a wide range of issues plaguing the transfer to a new authority, that span from the imposition of taxes and restraints to free speech, to the loss of intellectual property, and economic, national, and international security.
Those skeptics may have cause for concern. As reported the NYTimes:
“We are inviting governments, the private sector, civil society and other Internet organizations from the whole world to join us in developing this transition process,” said Fadi Chehadé, the president and chief executive of Icann.
Said former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) by way of the Twitterverse,
“What is the global internet community that Obama wants to turn the internet over to? This risks foreign dictatorships defining the internet.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was in the Washington office of Google last week where he said that he would introduce legislation to codify U.S. support of an open Internet.
The Hill, reporting on Rubio writes:
“Since the Web is worldwide — and since it has proven such an effective catalyst for pro-democratic revolution — it has become a battleground that many fight to control,” he said.
Rubio pointed to 42 countries that limit the Internet within their borders and “now wish to take this further by exerting control over the way the Internet is governed and regulated internationally.”
“Many governments are lobbying for regulatory control by the United Nations or a governmental regime,” he said, and “opposing this takeover and preserving Internet freedom must be a top national priority.”
Two years ago the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), a United Nations agency that is responsible for global communication technologies, held its World Conference on International Communications in Dubai, United Arab Emirates where new treaties were being negotiated.
At the WCIT-12, attended by 193 nations, world governments failed to reach a consensus that would have left the governance of the Internet in the hands of the United Nations. The UN treaty could only garner support from 89 of the 193 countries in attendance.
Terry Kramer, the U.S. ambassador to the summit said, “It’s with a heavy and the heart and a sense of missed opportunities that the U.S. must communicate that it’s not able to sign the agreement.”
It was at that same time that the U.S. Congress had a different take on what was happening in Dubai and by an astonishing vote of 397-0, the U.S. House of Representatives voted for a the resolution that opposed the UN’s bid for control of the Internet. What a crushing defeat that must have been to the Obama Administration. I can just see him fuming mad now, polishing off a box of bonbons watching “Game of Thrones” while wearing his favorite pair of mom jeans.
But don’t expect the ITU to give up their plans so easily. They will try, try, and try again. The ITU holds a lot of meeting to advance the UN’s international Internet governance plans so that they can resolve issues pertaining to the use of Internet resources for purposes that are inconsistent with international peace, stability and security. Bless their hearts.
Feeling that the current definition of Internet governance is insufficient because it does not include governments as mulistakeholders, expect the ITU to a pursue a course of action that will rectify this unconscionable oversight and snub. The ITU is determined. Get ready for The 2014 ITU Plenipotentiary Conference (“PP-14”), ITU’s Fall 2014 plenipotentiary meeting in Busan, South Korea.
There is no guarantee that after the transition to the multistakeholder model of Internet governance that the parties involved won’t be tempted to abuse the power that they have been granted. Or that the UN’s ITU won’t be able to persuade them that governments or an inter-governmental organization solution should be part of the multistakeholder process. Oddly enough, that process may already be in the works despite claims by NTIA that it could never happen.
According to The Daily Caller, former Bush administration State Department senior advisor Christian Whiton told them:
ICANN’s Lebanese-born CEO Fadi Chehadé had already recently discussed setting up an office in Geneva — the location of the largest U.N. presence outside New York. If folded into the U.N.’s International Telecommunication Union, the organization would have access to a significant revenue stream outside of member contributions for the first time.
Is that a mere coincidence, or good strategic planning to be closer to your Swiss bank account’s ATMs? Any way you slice it, changes are coming to the Internet. And change isn’t always good. Obama wanted to fundamentally transform the United States of America. Little did we know then that the Internet was on his fundamentally transformation list too.