The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has announced that it will move to an international management and control process rather than continuing its contract with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). NTIA is the Commerce Department’s agency for managing the military and government frequency spectrum and other communications policy. This move indicates that ICANN could come under the influence of an international body that may not be as fair, neutral, and liberal. Decisions could be more political than technical.
ICANN manages and assigns Web addresses and domain names. It was formed in 1998 and has continued as a non-profit organization. The Internet was invented in the U.S., which has provided an open and neutral approach to expanding it throughout the world. ICANN operates independently with little or no interference from the NTIA. The general goal of the potential new arrangement is to admit more influence and control by other countries. While no specific international organization has been designated, the U.N. and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) have been mentioned. A new organization may be the solution.
While ICANN has performed its duties in a competent and neutral manner, many countries have voiced concern about the National Security Agency’s monitoring policies and worry about possible connections to ICANN’s duties and policies. The current administration initiated this shift and may be using it to assuage any feelings of concern about the NSA revelations internationally.
This potential transfer of ICANN will not occur until September 2015, so there is time to reconsider. The announcement has not been popular, as there is serious concern over security and freedom issues if countries like China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and other hostile nations begin having too much control. As this administration is attempting to regulate the Internet by establishing net neutrality rules on the industry through the Federal Communications Commission, it could be relinquishing its management of the crucial Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) function—an interesting policy combination. It is possible that Congress will get involved and have some say in this controversial and potentially damaging action.