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US Crawfishes On ICANN, Will Remain Internet “Steward”

Jason Lee Miller
Staff Writer
Published: 2005-07-01

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The US Commerce Department announced yesterday its decision to indefinitely maintain supervision of the Internet's "root servers" that control web traffic. The decision hasn't been popular with international stakeholders who think oversight of Internet traffic should be a multi-national effort.

The United States pioneered the development of the World Wide Web, footing most of the expense during its early development. There are 13 "root servers" that serve as the Internet's master directories.

These servers belong to private entities, but the government assigns or approves Internet suffixes like .com, .gov, .edu. By default, web traffic is governed by the United States government-and the Internet, existing under that authority, can be shut down if US policy makers see fit.

In 1998, the Commerce Department assembled a private organization consisting of international members to assign domains. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), though an independent entity, is still subject to veto power from the Commerce Department.

The Commerce Department communicated that it would relinquish oversight authority once ICANN reached certain conditions of independence. But the government reneged on the idea, announcing it will retain oversight of the main computers, conditions or none.

Michael D. Gallagher, assistant secretary for communications and information at the Commerce Department, said the declaration was in response to growing security threats and increased reliance on the Internet globally for communications and commerce.

In essence, he maintains that the US will have custody of the Internet for its protection.

"The signals and words and intentions and policies need to be clear so all of us benefiting in the world from the Internet and in the U.S. economy can have confidence there will be continued stewardship," Gallagher told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The international community isn't wild about the news. Critics claim that an international body should oversee something so critical to a global economy and that reaches the corners of the globe rather than remain under the control of one nation.

Japan's Masahiko Fujimoto of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications expressed disappointment in the announcement.

"When the Internet is being increasingly utilized for private use, by businesses and so forth, there is a societal debate about whether it's befitting to have one country maintaining checks on that," said Fujimoto.

Many critics fear that such a leverage move will alienate international partners. Some nations have suggested that oversight of the Internet root servers should be transferred to the UN International Telecommunication Union.

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About the Author:
Jason L. Miller is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

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