US Retains Control of Internet's Root Servers

Posted on July 11, 2005

The Register reports that a statement by the United States government sent shockwaves around the Internet world. The Bush Administration was supposed to relinquish control of the Internet's root servers on September, 2006 but based on this statement the U.S. will no longer be giving up control. Some countries had been hoping the Bush administration would give control of the root servers over to the UN. The Register says the U.S. now plans to control the Internet's root servers indefinitely.

An extraordinary statement by the US government has sent shockwaves around the internet world and thrown the future of the network into doubt.

In a worrying U-turn, the US Department of Commerce (DoC) has made it clear it intends to retain control of the internet's root servers indefinitely. It was due to relinquish that control in September 2006, when its contract with overseeing body ICANN ended.

The decision - something that people have long feared may happen - will not only make large parts of the world furious but also puts ICANN in a very difficult position. The organisation has slowly been expanding out of its California base in an effort to become an international body with overall responsibility for the internet.

While many have been shocked by the decision others like USA Today's Andrew Kantor say the U.S.'s decision to control the net is "no big deal" and ICANN will still be an international organization. The U.S. statement does state that individual countries will be allowed to control their ccTLD such as .uk (UK), .ca (Canada) or .de (Germany) -- as they should be allowed to do.
The United States recognizes that governments have legitimate public policy and sovereignty concerns with respect to the management of their ccTLD. As such, the United States is committed to working with the international community to address these concerns, bearing in mind the fundamental need to ensure stability and security of the Internet's DNS.
As long as ICANN does not fight the decision, which is unlikely, it should continue to run smoothly. However, problems would arise if countries decide to start setting up their own Internet root servers and splintering off from ICANN and U.S. control. Then the world might have multiple, seperate internets where some countries could block out other internets. Fortunately, this is also seen as unlikely providing ICANN remains neutral and doesn't try and prevent countries from running their top level domains (TLDs). ZDNet also has a report on this story and Joi Ito has a post called The Internets where he writes:
Since more and more people are using the Internet, there are more and more diverse views about the policies and control. This is clearly making consensus more difficult and ICANN is one of the groups which is having to adapt to the increasing number of inputs in the consensus process. This is all the more reason to work harder to keep everything together. Please. Lets fight to keep the Internet and not let it turn into the internets... It is a difficult process with various flaws, but if we give up, it will be very difficult if not impossible for all of to talk again very soon.

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