US relinquishes control of domain names

The US government has announced that it is withdrawing from its role as steward of the internet’s domain name system

The US commerce department’s national telecommunications and information administration (NTIA) said it was aiming to let go of its control of the internet’s domain name system and called in non-profit organisation the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to help convene a multi-stakeholder process for its replacement. The structuring role will be shared, which is hoped will open up governance of the web and lead to greater transparency and accountability.

During NETmundial, a meeting of global internet stakeholders held in Sao Paolo in April, intentions were set out to guide development of internet governance. There were participants from 97 countries and thousands of user comments were taken into consideration.

Ben Wagner, a researcher at the European University Institute in Italy, who takes part in the Internet Governance Forum, agrees that a process which is “less dependent on any one individual institution is probably a good thing.”

However, he says the NTIA’s actions appear “more a response to international pressure and a relatively low-cost way to be seen to respond to the Snowden whistle-blowing affair politically.” He added: “Whether it leads to more pluralistic or democratic governance of the internet is an open question.”