US voluntarily gives up control of internet

The Commerce Department announced late Friday afternoon - an information dump designed to get the least coverage possible - that it would relinquish control of the internet by not renewing its contract with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a non-profit group that makes sure the net runs smoothly.

Washington Post:

That contract is set to expire next year but could be extended if the transition plan is not complete.

“We look forward to ICANN convening stakeholders across the global Internet community to craft an appropriate transition plan,” Lawrence E. Strickling, assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information, said in a statement.

The announcement received a passionate response, with some groups quickly embracing the change and others blasting it.

In a statement, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) called the move “consistent with other efforts the U.S. and our allies are making to promote a free and open Internet, and to preserve and advance the current multi-stakeholder model of global Internet governance.”

But former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) tweeted: “What is the global internet community that Obama wants to turn the internet over to? This risks foreign dictatorships defining the internet.”

The practical consequences of the decision were harder to immediately discern, especially with the details of the transition not yet clear. Politically, the move could alleviate rising global concerns that the United States essentially controls the Web and takes advantage of its oversight position to help spy on the rest of the world.

U.S. officials set several conditions and an indeterminate timeline for the transition from federal government authority, saying a new oversight system must be developed and win the trust of crucial stakeholders around the world. An international meeting to discuss the future of Internet is scheduled to start on March 23 in Singapore.

The contract is set to expire in September of  2015, but is likely to be extended several years given the lack of consensus on just what a non-US controlled internet would look like. "Crucial stakeholders" include China, Russia, and the Arab block. All those stakeholders want a different kind of internet than any western country - one where the internet as we know it would be destroyed and replaced with something far more restrictive - and slow.

There are a lot more authoritarian dictatorships in the world than democracies. Given the fact that the new internet will be voted into existence by all, the chances of this abanonment of responsibility by the US turning out well are not very good.

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