Friday, March 21, 2014

Exactly who or what will take over the DNS from the US government? And will it make the Internet better or worse?

On March 14, 2014, the United States announced its intention to turn over control of the Internet’s Domain Name System (DNS) to someone else
writes Bob Rankin.
But exactly who or what will take over? And will it make the Internet better or worse? Here is my analysis of what’s really happening…

Is the U.N. Taking Over the Internet?

Despite what you may have heard about the recently announced changes in Internet governance, it's not exactly "new news," it's not going to happen any time soon, but it could affect how people in some countries access the Internet (or not). Here's what you need to know.

Some Concerns About Human RIghts

What unsettles some is that Russia, China and other countries with less-than-stellar human rights policies are making the most noise about moving Internet governance out of the USA. They would like the U.N. to be in charge, giving them more power to censor online political speech and dissent. And given the U.N.'s track record of putting dictators in charge of things, one can understand these concerns. Last November, Russia, China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia were chosen by secret ballot to serve on the UN's laughable Human Rights Council.

Typically, whoever controls the purse strings controls everything. If the new Internet governance body is funded by member contributions, then power will concentrate in the factions that contribute the most money. ICANN will have to come up with a different, politically neutral funding mechanism. Selling IP addresses and domain names may be a workable option, but provisions will be needed to prevent any entity or faction from cornering the market.

The news that the U.S. is giving up control of the Internet is being painted as a reaction to current events, including the NSA’s spying activities. In reality, it’s a long-anticipated step in what has been planned for the Internet since 1998. Before NTIA and ICANN, control of the Internet was held by DARPA. In fact, at one time a single person held the power to decide who got a domain name and who didn’t. His name was Jon Postel and his power was so awesome that his nickname within the geek community was simply, “God.”

The transfer of power from a military agency to the Commerce Department, which serves broad commercial interests, was a step towards openness and inclusion of more stakeholders. Delegating power to the non-governmental ICANN was a further step. Taking the U. S. government entirely out of the picture is the final step, and it won’t be taken until another suitable custodian of the Internet is available.

Bottom line, the Internet isn't likely to fundamentally change (at least in the USA) once this transition is complete. You'll still be able to find cat videos on Youtube, and spew the most private details of your life on Facebook, if you choose to do so. Users in China, Russia, and other totalitarian regimes may not be as lucky.