ICANN Is In No Rush In Respect To Transfer Of Internet Addresses
April 3, 2014

ICANN Is In No Rush In Respect To Transfer Of Internet Addresses

Peter Suciu for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Last month the US government announced that it will formally end its relationship with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), with the latter’s contract to operate key domain-name functions expiring in September 2015.

ICANN oversees the Internet’s addressing system while under contract from the US government, and on Wednesday government officials and the private non-profit group backpedaled – promising not to rush a Commerce Department plan to relinquish oversight over the Internet infrastructure management, Reuters reported.

This follows fears from critics that such a move could open the door for countries including China and Russia to push against the Internet as an open platform.

“I stand in front of you today with a firm commitment that we will run an open and transparent process,” Assistant Secretary of Commerce Lawrence Strickling and ICANN Chief Executive Fadi Chehadé, said during a hearing of the House of Representatives’ communications and technology panel, as reported by Reuters. “We will keep it calm and wise. We have no rush. It's more important to get it right than to rush it.”

ICANN, which is under a contract from the Commerce Department, was established in 1998 by the United States government and sets policy for domain names and Internet addresses. It is still overseen by the government under a contract that has been renewed every three years.

The US decision to back away from overseeing ICANN follows a global debate over how the Internet should be run. Both China and Russia have pushed for a new system that would be operated by the United Nations, which could potentially give each of those nations more control – while at the same time the United States has been reportedly pushing for a vision of the Internet that could exist free of government interference.

The Wall Street Journal reported, “(The U.S.) credibility on that issue has suffered, however, from the wave of disclosures by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden about U.S. surveillance practices, as well as from its oversight of Icann. The move to pull back from Icann has been broadly interpreted as a way for the U.S. to mollify critics.”

The paper added that the administration maintains the US role in overseeing ICANN is largely clerical and that the government doesn’t interfere with decisions; and as such the US may be looking to transfer oversight to a group made of global companies, engineers, academics and nonprofit organizations.

Republican lawmakers see that the US giving up even this symbolic role should be viewed with caution. WSJ reported that several members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have already introduced a bill that would bar the administration from ending the ICANN contract pending a review by the Government Accountability Office.

"[Such a decision] should be met with a critical eye, especially when you take into account the administration’s track record of saying one thing and doing another,” Michigan Republican Fred Upton, the committee’s chairman, told the Wall Street Journal. “There is no going back once we relinquish our oversight.”

“If there are not sufficient safeguards in place to prevent foreign government intrusion, then this concept should go no further,” Representative Greg Walden, who chairs the communications subcommittee, said at the hearing, as reported by Reuters.