Developing a globalized ICANN
There is a new proposal for ICANN, one of the major Internet regulators, to take a more globalized approach to governing and regulating the Internet.
The Internet's history is long and complicated. Serving billions of users, it has become one of the most important forces in the world today, with power of connecting people from all corners of the globe. The origins of cyberspace date back to the 1960s, when researchers sought to create stronger communication between computer networks. Research in the United States was funded in a large part by the National Science Foundation.
As research progressed and the Internet became more and more commercially viable, institutions needed to be created in order to help organize and regulate the rapidly expanding network. One organization that emerged from this trend was the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. ICANN is responsible for making sure that each web address is unique so that computers can connect with one another, and making sure computers can access these domains.
A move toward globalization
One of the major criticisms of ICANN is that it is currently a predominantly American institution technically subject to supervision by the United States Department of Commerce.
For years, the United States control over ICANN has been a growing debate. Purists claim that given the global presence the Internet, it should not be governed by any country but be a self-sustaining, independent body. Over the years, this controversy has caused the United States to cede more and more autonomy to ICANN but the United States has steadfastly refused to entirely release its grip.
A new plan
One university believes it as a solution to the problem. The School of Information Studies at Syracuse University recently released a proposal that would shift control from ICANN to a new, allegedly globally representative organization. In a press release, the university proposed creating a neutral and independent private sector consortium to take over the major root zone functions of ICANN.
"We think this plan provides the roadmap for making ICANN into a truly global and multistakeholder institution," said Dr. Milton Mueller, a Syracuse professor and one of the co-author's of the proposal.
The authors will present the proposal at the NETMundial Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance in Brazil this coming April.
The proposal creators contend that the U.S. control over ICANN has gone on for longer than intended, which is setting a precedent for other governments – including ones that severely limit Internet activity – to demand the same authority over Domain Name System (DNS).
"Unless we take a consistent and principled approach to non-governmental Internet governance," said Dr. Mueller. "It is only a matter of time before other governments succeed in bringing the coordination and management of the Internet under the control of intergovernmental treaty organizations."
Globalizing ICANN and IANA
The proposal would involve separating the functions of the the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority – a more technical organization within the Internet structure – from the policy-making efforts of ICANN in order to separate polices from technical capabilities. The proposal would integrate IANA functions with the Root Zone Maintainer to create a new DNS Authority.
This authority would be run by a consortium of TLD registries and root server operators through a nonprofit organization. In other words, it would be run by the groups that sell domain names for a profit.
This idea would allegedly allow regulators to govern the Internet free from bias, and making sure that principles of online freedom are maintained internationally. Based upon who the suggested players would be on the new organization, one needs to take such a conclusion with a grain of salt. Or perhaps an entire shaker.