U.S. Still Has Keys to ICANN


The United States will eventually transfer oversight of the Internet domain
naming system (DNS) to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and
Numbers (ICANN).


Just exactly when, however, is still at issue.


At a Department of Commerce hearing Wednesday, John Kneuer, the acting
assistant secretary for communications and information, said the U.S.
government remains committed to transferring control of the DNS.


However, Kneuer also told the panel the U.S. would continue into the
foreseeable future to control changes to the master file of Internet
addresses.


ICANN was created in 1998 to run the DNS system under the supervision of
National Telecommunications and Information Agency (NTIA), a division of the
Department of Commerce.


The original concept was for the U.S. to cede private control to ICANN by
2000, but the memorandum of understanding (MOU) has been extended five times
as the Marina Del Rey, Calif.-based ICANN failed to meet certain performance
standards.


The latest MOU is set to expire Sept. 30.


“It’s extremely likely there will be a renewal of the MOU,” David McGuire of
the Center for Democracy and Technology, who testified at Wednesday’s
hearing, told internetnews.com.


As for Kneuer’s comments, McGuire added, “All envision ICANN to be
independent someday, so it’s not shocking that someday that will happen.”


Someday.


“It is clear now that the original timetable established for ICANN was
overly ambitious,” McGuire testified Wednesday.

“Nine years later, questions
remain about how well ICANN has met…initial goals, and the U.S. government
retains an increasingly controversial oversight role in the ICANN process.”


That controversy
exploded last summer when the United Nations’ Working Group on Internet
Governance contended that “no single government should have a pre-eminent
role in relation to International Internet governance.”


The international movement to wrest control of ICANN from the U.S. prompted
the House of Representatives to approve
on a 423-0 vote a “Sense of the Congress” resolution to keep Internet
governance in U.S. hands.


The resolution was non-binding and carried no weight of law.


McGuire said ICANN has met its goals in stabilizing the DNS registry system
and promoting competition among domain name providers.


He added, though, ICANN “has yet to achieve the procedural transparency, and
more importantly, the broad involvement of Internet users essential to its
bid for global legitimacy.”


“On the issue of representation specifically, ICANN has taken notable steps
backward, hastily abandoning direct public representation after an abortive
experiment with global elections.”


McGuire also said ICANN might need to meet an additional milestone before
becoming an independent body.


Before the U.S. turns over control to ICANN, he suggested, there needs to be
“mechanisms in place so that it [ICANN] is not recaptured by another
entity.”


The DNS system acts as a sort of address book for global Internet services,
translating URLs, such as internetnews.com into strings of
numbers, such as 63.236.72.133, that computers can understand.


Under the current MOU, the Department of Commerce must approve any
significant changes to the naming system.

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