An international nonprofit organization responsible for technical maintenance of internet protocols convened in November, holding its first meeting after gaining independence from U.S. government control in October.
In October, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), the organization responsible for allocating and managing internet protocol addresses and domain names—identifiers necessary for almost all internet functions worldwide—was transferred from management by the U.S. Department of Commerce to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a nonprofit organization headquartered in Los Angeles, California.
Eli Dourado, a research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and director of its Technology Policy Program, says the transition is an example of government returning economic control to the private sector.
“The IANA transition simply removed U.S. Commerce Department oversight of a private, nonprofit organization that administers the coordination of domain names online,” Dourado said. “This transition had been contemplated as far back as 1998, and the process of privatization has taken two years. By completing the transition, the U.S. government has reaffirmed its belief that the internet can govern itself, as it has argued for decades.”
‘Smart Move for Diplomacy’
Dourado says the transition is a win for the American people, facilitating the nation’s foreign policy goals in the online realm.
“The IANA transition was a smart move for diplomacy that will put the United States on much stronger ground for future internet fights,” Dourado said. “The IANA transition keeps us going in that direction, by removing the charge of hypocrisy leveled in diplomatic discussions by enemies of internet freedom.”
Keeps Online Records
Shane Tews, a visiting fellow with the American Enterprise Institute Center for Internet, Communications, and Technology Policy, says IANA is basically a digitized accountant and record-keeper.
“There are two things that happen at the ‘dot.com’ level—delegation and re-delegation,” Tews said. “‘Delegation’ adds a top-level domain into the ledger that the IANA function maintains and gives it permission to exist. In re-delegation, well, say you are the current proprietor of a dot.com, if the contract would go up for bid and I win this bid, it would transfer the linking rights from one spot to another. That’s all the IANA function does.”
Calls for Vigilance
Tews says consumers will be unaffected by the transition but should continue to keep an eye on the issue.
“Tomorrow you’ll have the same internet you’ve used today and even in the next couple of years,” Tews said. “What you want to watch for is in the next five years. Does the internet change tomorrow? No, but what we need to be vigilant about is that it doesn’t change in the future.”