US Claims Final Separation From Privileged Internet Oversight

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The Obama administration has announced a decision to make a last step towards completing privatisation of internet core infrastructure oversight, namely the central root zone of the domain name system. But it is not clear what this will mean for international efforts to increase intergovernmental control over the internet.

The move comes after many years of intense diplomatic discussions over the privileged role taken by the US Commerce Department National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) with regard to the so-called Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions.

Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Lawrence Strickling said in a press release: “The timing is right to start the transition process. We look forward to ICANN convening stakeholders across the global Internet community to craft an appropriate transition plan.”

ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, is a non-profit private company established in 1998 to develop policies for the domain name system (DNS) carrying out the IANA functions under US contract. US internet security company VeriSign under a cooperative agreement with NTIA performs technical root zone management functions.

The IANA contract also includes the assignment of protocol parameters for the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the allocation of IP address blocks to the five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs). ICANN was expected to work with all the parties to ensure a smooth transition, the NTIA release reads. IETF, RIRs and related bodies of the technical community were quick to welcome the decision. They confirmed in a joint statement that “roles on policy development processes of the Internet technical organizations and ICANN’s role as administrator of the IANA functions” would “remain unchanged.”

The NTIA has underlined that it will not accept any governmental oversight model of the internet.

The transition of the US government stewardship envisaged since the early days of IANA functions contract, was now “feasible due to the maturity of the internet technical organisations involved in performing their respective roles related to the IANA functions, and ICANN will facilitate a global, multi-stakeholder process to plan for the transition.”

ICANN announced the launch of a global multi-stakeholder accountability process. ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade in a press release invited governments, private sector, civil society and other internet organisations from the whole world to join the ICANN community in developing the transition process. Chehade had pushed for change since a year with the revelations of Edward Snowden about pervasive surveillance by US intelligence agencies fuelling debates about the US “stewardship role” even more.

ICANN Fadi Chehade called the decision “historic” and a “triumph for the multi-stakeholder model.”

While the technical community and ICANN applauded the move, business representatives are expected to be much more critical. “Is the US Government about to give away the Internet,” Daniel Castro, senior analyst with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation asked in a first reaction.


Monika Ermert may be reached at

Creative Commons License"US Claims Final Separation From Privileged Internet Oversight" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.


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