If you know anything about the Internet, then you know about ICANN. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has power over the the most important parts of the Internet – domain names, IP addresses and protocol numbers. That kind of power comes with great responsibility and the US Department of Commerce agrees that ICANN is the only one capable of doing it.
The Register reports that the US Department of Commerce has agreed to extend ICANN’s rule over the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority for the next three to seven years. The news was confirmed by the National Telecommunication and Information Administration last night. The most important part of the deal is that ICANN has retained the power to add and remove top-level domains as they see fit.
The retention of that power is essential as ICANN recently hosted the largest digital land grab in history with companies from all over the world paying to own various generic top-level domains, or gTLDs. Companies like Google and Amazon applied for scores of domains to either use for their own purproses or lease out for individuals to run Web sites with the .soy domain.
All of this doesn’t means that ICANN is free to as they wish with the entirety of the Internet like they used to. The NTIA published a press release that details the new regulations that ICANN must adhere as the overlord of the IANA.
Based on input from the global community, NTIA added new requirements. Those include a clear separation between the policy development associated with the IANA services, and implementation by the IANA functions contractor; a robust company-wide conflict of interest policy; a heightened respect for local national law; and a series of consultation and reporting requirements to increase transparency and accountability.
While some may not like ICANN’s approach to ruling the Internet, they are not alone. They have to work with multiple stakeholders from around the world to actually get anything done. It’s the kind of approach that has worked well for the Internet and maintains a level of equality for all who wish to surf the Web (local governments blocking access to sites notwithstanding).
Besides, if you don’t like ICANN, you can at least agree that it’s better than the UN controlling it. Here’s hoping ICANN can keep it that way when the UN meets later this year to discuss a possible take over of the Internet.