Since 1997, the U.S. Department of Commerce has overseen ICANN and the Internet Assigned Numbers Association through its National Telecommunications and Information Administration. While the non-profit has thrived underneath U.S. oversight, some, including Sir Tim Berners-Lee, argue that it needs to break off from the U.S. to truly thrive. Well, they just got their wish.
The U.S. Department of Commerce announced over the weekend that it intends to transition "key Internet domain name functions to the global multistakeholder community." In other words, it's going to end its role as steward of the IANA and DNS. The move allows the DNS to go completely private.
“The timing is right to start the transition process,” said Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Lawrence E. Strickling. “We look forward to ICANN convening stakeholders across the global Internet community to craft an appropriate transition plan.”
Interestingly enough, ICANN will be holding a meeting in Brazil next month to discuss how the IANA and the DNS will operate when they're completely free of U.S. oversight. There are bound to be a number of proposals from the countries attending the meeting, but the U.S. Department of Commerce says any new proposal must adhere to four principles:
The Commerce Department also says that it will not accept any proposal "that replaces the NTIA role with a government-led or an inter-governmental organization solution." In other words, the future of the Internet must remain free from the influence of any government to maintain neutrality.
Those worried that the Internet might suddenly stop working need not be. The IANA's current contract with the Department of Commerce lasts until September 30, 2015. ICANN and other interested parties have until then to develop a transition plan that satisfies all parties.
Image via IANA