The United States will give up its role overseeing the system of Web addresses and domain names that form the basic plumbing of the Internet, turning it over in 2015 to an international group whose structure and administration will be determined during the next year, government officials said on Friday.
Since the dawn of the Internet, the United States has been responsible for assigning the numbers that form Internet addresses, the .com, .gov and .org labels that correspond to those numbers, and for the vast database that links the two and makes sure Internet traffic goes to the right place.
The function has been subcontracted since 1998 to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), an international non-profit organisation, with the expectation that the United States would eventually step back from its role.
But that transition has taken on a new urgency in the past year because of revelations that the U.S. intelligence community, particularly the National Security Agency (NSA), has been intercepting Internet traffic as part of its global spying efforts. While other countries have called for the United States to turn over the keys to the system, many businesses, dependent on the smooth functioning of the Internet for their livelihood, have expressed concern about what form the new organisation will take.
“We don’t want to break the Internet,” said Laura DeNardis, a professor at American University and the author of The Global War for Internet Governance .
Lawrence E. Strickling, the assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information, said on Friday that the United States will not accept a proposal that replaces it with a government-led or intergovernmental organisation.
The Commerce Department also laid out principles that must govern any new body, including maintaining the openness of the Internet and maintaining its security and stability.
Icann will conduct a meeting that will be the first step in the transition process, beginning March 23 in Singapore.
“We are inviting governments, the private sector, civil society and other Internet organisations from the whole world to join us in developing this transition process,” said Fadi Chehadé, the president and chief executive of ICANN. “All stakeholders deserve a voice in the management and governance of this global resource as equal partners.”
While the announcements were structured to portray a cooperative global community, there has been widespread hostility toward the United States since the former NSA contractor Edward J. Snowden began releasing documents showing the extent of U.S. global spying.
Those spying programs had nothing to do with the role of the United States or Icann in administering Internet addresses. But the perception that the United States was pulling all the strings led to a global uproar.
With its statement that no government-led organisation would take over Icann, the United States also made clear that the International Telecommunication Union, a United Nations affiliate that oversees global telephone traffic, would not be allowed to take over Internet governance. That was an issue last year at an ITU conference in Dubai. — New York Times News Service
An international group, whose structure and administration will be determined in 2015, will take over role