The US is finally ready to relinquish control of the Internet's domain name system.
If all goes according to plan, the US Commerce Department will give up oversight of the DNS and hand it over to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) on Oct. 1.
The DNS converts alphabetic names into numeric IP addresses, so you can type URLs like "pcmag.com" or "google.com" instead of a series of numbers and dots. Since 1998, the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has partnered with ICANN, a California nonprofit, to keep things running.
As NTIA chief Lawrence Strickland said this week, "NTIA's current stewardship role was intended to be temporary." Two years ago, the agency started the process of transferring control, which required ICANN to carry out a series of technical tasks. The plan had to have broad community support, and address specific principles, including a promise to maintain the openness of the Internet and the security of the DNS.
ICANN met the criteria needed for a transition in June, though NTIA requested a few more things before it would give the final sign-off. That happened this week.
"The IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) stewardship transition represents the final step in the US government's long-standing commitment, supported by three Administrations, to privatize the Internet's domain name system," Strickling said this week.
"For the last 18 years, the United States has been working … to establish a stable and secure multistakeholder model of Internet governance that ensures that the private sector, not governments, take the lead in setting the future direction of the Internet's domain name system," he added.
The move, however, has become a somewhat partisan issue. In 2014, Republicans drafted the Domain Openness Through Continued Oversight Matters (DOTCOM) Act of 2014, which would have required the Government Accountability Office to study the impact of the US giving up its oversight role of the DNS before it becomes official. The GOP was concerned that the US would hand over control of the DNS to an entity that might manipulate it for political purposes.
The DOTCOM Act did not pass, but the Republican party platform approved at this summer's convention calls the transition "America's abandonment of the international Internet."
President Obama "threw the Internet to the wolves, and they — Russia, China, Iran, and others — are ready to devour it," the GOP claims.
For more, see The US Giving Up ICANN Will Kill the Internet, as well as Stop the TinFoil Hat Misinformation About ICANN.