The US Government is winding down their participation in the Internet Corporation for Assisgned Names and Numbers (ICANN). ICANN’s duties include setting policies for domain names, top level domains, and controlling the root nameservers that are the backbone of the Domain Name Service, which is a distributed registry that translates addresses entered into a web browser from something like www.google.com to a machine readable address (in this case 188.8.131.52). While much hay has been made by certain political personalities, among them Moonbase Commander Newt Gingrich, about this loss of control by the US to an undefined international community, this move has been planned for a significant amount of time, and the transition of ICANN towards a more global regulatory system will occur under a planned framework.
There was another possible path for the governance of the DNS and addressing systems, that being the ITU, which would have been overseen by the UN. However, as every nation would have had a vote in that situation, and the number of nations which would like to see substantial control instituted and widespread surveillance authorized is almost certainly greater than those who (at least publicly) would like to see a free and open internet. Many nations saw this as problematic, among them the US and Russia, which has lent significant weight to the process being adopted now of reforming ICANN and reducing US Government influence. That said, the existing system was no longer sustainable, especially in the wake of the Snowden leaks which revealed wide ranging activities by the US Government, activities which have done significant damage to the moral authority which is the foundation of governance.
Pursuing ICANN as a regulatory body for the future is an example of the use of the Multistakeholder governance model, which will essentially give regulatory control to a number of major internet and technology companies, and Internet civil society groups. A presentation on the application of this model in ICANN may be found here.
Dan Gifford, MCySec Media Manager