Internet giveaway day? US gov’t relinquishes control of web’s ‘address book’

© Reuters
The US government’s contract to control the internet’s ‘address book’ has expired after 47 years, transferring management of the Internet’s unique identifiers to the private-sector.

The US Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) had a contract with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to perform the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions.

This essentially meant the US government had authority over the internet’s domain name system. The contract formally ended Saturday and ICANN – a multi-stakeholder nonprofit group based in California – is now the sole overseer.

The global multistakeholder community is made up of private-sector representatives, technical experts, academics, civil society, governments and individual Internet end users.

ICANN  says this diverse group is aimed at enhancing accountability and “empowering the global internet community to have direct recourse if they disagree with decisions made by ICANN the organization or the Board.”

The transition has been underway since 1998 and is part of a  move to ‘privatize’ the internet.

The US government’s role was said to be largely symbolic and internet users will see no change in their experiences online as a result of the handover, according to ICANN.

However not everyone sees the move as insignificant with four US states seeking an injunction in a last ditch effort to stop the transition after Congress failed to block it.

On Wednesday, four attorneys general from Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma and Nevada filed a lawsuit  seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent the contract expiration.

They argued that the transfer does not protect the .gov and .mil top-level domains. They also contended that the transition needed congressional approval and violated the first amendment.

The federal court in Galveston, Texas, denied their application for an injunction on Friday.

Thus, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information at the NTIA Lawrence Strickling announced in a statement Saturday that the contract had expired.

President Obama has come under fire from some who have accused him of “giving away the internet” and now fear that other political powers will gain control.

“There is absolutely no way that this is going to imperil freedoms. There is absolutely no way that this is going to allow Russia or Iran or anybody to take control of the internet. This has nothing to do with that,” Matthew Shears, director of Global Internet Policy for the Center for Democracy and Technology assured The Washington Post.

The transition was supported by US tech giants such as Microsoft, Google and Facebook as well as former top US national security officials.