Goodbye, America: how the U.S. is losing control over the Internet

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A contract with the United States on the coordination of key functions of the Internet governance is expired, it will go to the new organization. Russia supports the decision, but in favour of increasing the role of governments in the management of the network

October 1 terminated the contract on performance of functions of the administration of address space the Internet (IANA) between the Corporation on management of domain names and IP addresses (ICANN) and the structure of the Ministry of trade of the USA — National authority on telecommunications and information administration (NTIA), the report said ICANN.

The US government has historically been behind the creation of the Internet and until recently has retained a number of “special rights” in the management of infrastructure, on which depends the whole of the global network. The key of such rights — just the coordination of the IANA functions. They involve the so-called system of the Internet’s unique identifiers: in particular, the DNS root zone management, delegation and allocation of numbering resources of the Internet (IP addresses and Autonomous system number).

Now these are the IANA functions will be transferred to the new, separate legal entity — Public Technical Identifiers (PTI), a non-profit Corporation for public benefit, registered in the state of California. PTI is created as a “daughter” of ICANN, the latter will be responsible for the coordination of its activities. To monitor the performance of the contract, compliance with its terms and to resolve disputes between ICANN and PTI are separate structures, the customer standing Committee (CSC) and the multilateral review process on the IANA functions (IFR).

“The global Internet community has adopted a model of multilateral Internet governance. Management model, defined to include all votes, including business, academics, technical experts, civil society, governments and many others — the best way to ensure that the Internet of tomorrow remains free,” — are reported, ICANN said its Board of Directors Stephen Crocker.

The coordinating role of the U.S. government in the IANA functions have always been quite formal: under the contract the Agency had to review and approve requests to ICANN for a modification of the DNS root zone file — a kind of a catalogue with information about all existing top-level domains. It is a narrow and technically simple feature, but it’s always been considered a critical and politically relevant, as it affects the work of the global domain name system — including, for example, доменов.RU I. RF. In all the years the actions of the former mechanism, the U.S. government has never blocked received from ICANN’s request, but nevertheless the representatives of Russia and other countries, as well as the technical community, demanded to change the system.

Minister of communications and mass communications of the RF Nikolay Nikiforov said that he welcomes the termination of the NTIA contract. “The contract terms for execution of this function (the IANA — RBC) generated unilaterally by the United States Department of Commerce, created a steel model of governance of the Internet”, — stated in the Minister’s statement released on Saturday. At the same time, it notes that, initially, ICANN pledged “at least two kinds of unequal rights and powers: first, the authority of the U.S. government relative to other governments and the second — the powers of governments compared to most of the other stakeholders.” Nikolay Nikiforov indicated that progress in relation to the second kind of unequal rights, yet, and the ability of governments to influence decisions made by ICANN that is restricted to purely Advisory role”.

Russia, like several other States, has not fully subscribed to the principle of decision-making in ICANN’s management, with the participation of all stakeholders. Its essence is that governments, the private sector, civil society, end users and the technical community have equal weight in the elaboration and adoption of decisions. According to Russian officials, the government should have special rights. To ensure that they would transfer stewardship of the IANA functions to intergovernmental organizations, for example, a specialized UN Agency — the International telecommunication Union (ITU).

However, against this initiative are representatives of the community, and the United States, which in any case retain and organizational structure, and a fundamental part of the physical infrastructure for managing unique identifiers in their jurisdiction and on their territory. In the United States and many other countries support the principle of managing global network infrastructure with the participation of all stakeholders. Finally, many experts doubt the ability to move technology community, accustomed to working in conditions of free interaction and exchange of views, in the corporate shell of the ITU, rather bureaucratic organization.

The author is consultant to the PIR Center

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