Join us at TNW Conference 2022 for insights into the future of tech →

The heart of tech

This article was published on August 4, 2015

    Here’s the plan for separating control of the internet from the United States entirely

    Here’s the plan for separating control of the internet from the United States entirely
    Owen Williams
    Story by

    Owen Williams

    Former TNW employee

    Owen was a reporter for TNW based in Amsterdam, now a full-time freelance writer and consultant helping technology companies make their word Owen was a reporter for TNW based in Amsterdam, now a full-time freelance writer and consultant helping technology companies make their words friendlier. In his spare time he codes, writes newsletters and cycles around the city.

    The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is responsible for maintaining the database of addresses for much of the internet, along with top-level domains and the root name servers.

    Historically it was under the control of the United States, despite being a non-profit organization dedicated to keeping the internet running smoothly. In 2009, the U.S Department of Commerce gave up its control of the organization, but it was still primarily based within the country.

    Now, a 199-page proposal from ICANN has detailed how it plans to move its responsibilities to be operated by the “global internet community.” It’s a long, technical document that ultimately details how the organization would be split up to redistribute control.

    When ICANN was formed in 1998, it contracted the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to manage many functions of the internet, including top-level domains and IP addresses.

    Now, it’s moving away from NTIA as part of Obama’s plan to decentralize control.

    Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 2.31.27 PM

    For managing domain names, it’s proposed that ICANN create a separate legal entity to manage them and contract the operation of it to ICANN. This new entity would be consistently monitored to ensure it’s performing its obligations.

    The change to a separate legal entity is intended to allow “possible separation from ICANN in the future” if required.

    It also recommends that the DNS root zone currently maintained by NTIA should be changed and not require prior approval for adding to the system.

    IP addresses would continue to be managed by ICANN under contract with the existing five Regional Internet Registries, but with the addition of a ‘service level agreement’ to ensure each operator performs its responsibilities.

    Finally, the protocol parameters such as URI schemes and character encodings, managed by IANA under ICANN would continue to be operated by the organization. That said, it will need to hand over the protocol parameters into the public domain and manage impact of any transition from its current hosting location.

    Ultimately, the split is designed to ensure that replacing NTIA’s role does not end up with control being held by another government department and the proposal does exactly that.

    ICANN is looking for public feedback on the proposal right now, noting that it’s collected responses from many organizations that maintain the internet already.

    If you manage to chew through the document, you can submit a response here. Otherwise, you should be able to rest easy knowing that no single government will be able to control the internet in the future.

    Image credit: Shutterstock