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US To Cede Control Of DNS With ICANN Independence

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

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Independence day for the Internet will be on 1 October, as the United States surrenders control of Icann

The United States has confirmed that the internet management body Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) will be fully in control of the Domain Naming System (DNS) from 1 October this year.

It comes after ICANN submitted in March its official transition plan for key technical Internet functions to be removed from US government control after years of international pressure, and placed under “global stewardship”.

Independence Day

The United States government has accepted for a while now that its control over a crucial part of the internet’s governance would end. In March 2014, it agreed to end its direct oversight of ICANN, and asked the non-profit organisation to work out the migration plan.

Icann will remain headquartered in Los Angeles. The organisation was created in 1998 to oversee functions such as Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). But for years the US’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), part of the Department of Commerce, had the final say over what it was able to do.

From 1 October the US government, via NTIA, will no longer will be to intervene on matters around internet naming.

independence day posterThe confirmation was made in a blog posting by Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator, Lawrence E. Strickling.

“On Friday, ICANN informed NTIA that it has completed or will complete all the necessary tasks called for in the transition proposal by the end of the contract term,” explained Strickling. “NTIA has thoroughly reviewed the report. We informed ICANN today that based on that review and barring any significant impediment, NTIA intends to allow the IANA functions contract to expire as of October 1.”

“The IANA stewardship transition represents the final step in the US government’s long-standing commitment, supported by three Administrations, to privatise the Internet’s domain name system,” wrote Strickling. “For the last 18 years, the United States has been working with the global Internet multistakeholder community to establish a stable and secure multistakeholder model of Internet governance that ensures that the private sector, not governments, takes the lead in setting the future direction of the Internet’s domain name system.”

“To help achieve this goal, NTIA in 1998 partnered with ICANN, a California-based non-profit, to transition technical DNS coordination and management functions to the private sector,” he wrote. “We appreciate the hard work and dedication of all the stakeholders involved in this effort and look forward to their continuing engagement.”

DNS Control

This means that from October, ICANN will be fully responsible for maintaining the stable and secure functioning of the Internet, including co-ordination of the Internet Protocol address spaces, assignment of address blocks to regional Internet registries, maintaining registries of Internet protocol identifiers and of course, managing the top-level domain name space, the DNS root zone, including operation of the root name servers.

This DNS function allows ICANN to assign the numeric IP addresses of servers with a familiar web address such as TechweekEurope.co.uk.

The move will be welcomed in many quarters, and comes after concerns over the US government’s influence over the Internet, particularly in the wake of the US National Security Agency (NSA) mass-surveillance scandal.

The European Union has led calls for the US government to have less control of the Internet. It also warned there was a secret war being waged by nation states over the control of the Internet.

This was evidenced in 2012, when Russia, UAE, China, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Sudan, and Egypt demanded some powers should be transferred from ICANN to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), an agency of the United Nations (UN).

Following a backlash from the US authorities and their allies, that proposal was later withdrawn.

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