Feeds

US government told to take its hands off internet

Request for comments produces stark results

Boost IT visibility and business value

The United States government has been told to end its oversight role of the internet during its own consultation exercise over the future of net governance.

In a stark result, over 87 percent of those that commented on the US's continued control of the internet's hierachy said that it was time for it to transition toward a new, more international model. The company that the consultation was designed to review - not-for-profit overseeing organisation ICANN - fared little better, with nearly two-thirds of comments coming down against it.

The results will be a wake-up call to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) - the arm of the US government that carried out the consultation prior to the ending of its contract with ICANN on 30 September. The NTIA had quietly announced a notice of inquiry at the end of May in which it asked the public to respond to a number of questions it had over the future of ICANN's role as technical overseeing body for the internet.

In the end, the NTIA was swamped with emails and took a week after the deadline had ended to post all the comments received. Just over half of the 632 comments finally received (discounting multiple emails) were not relevant to the inquiry itself, with 153 concerning themselves with the hot political issue of net neutrality in the US at the moment, and a further 174 making broad and often unhelpful comments along the lines of "keep the net free!" and "let the internet the way it is".

However, of the remaining 305 comments, nearly two-thirds (197) explicitly stated that the US government should review its own position as ultimate head of the net (with a further nine saying so as a secondary point), compared to 26 that supported its role (and four supporting it as a secondary point). There were a variety of suggestions over how the USG could transition its role to a new body but a broad consensus was reached that it should not be a United Nations body but one outside of existing organisations, capable of moving faster with greater flexibility.

Academia

Half of the comments critical of the USG repeated the same message as devised by an organisation called the Internet Governance Project (IGP), run by noted net academic Milton Mueller. The IGP had produced a simple two-paragraph response to the inquiry which was then used by a large number of people within the US and outside to make a single point.

It read: "The Internet's value is created by the participation and cooperation of people all over the world. The Internet is global, not national. Therefore no single Government should have a pre-eminent role in Internet governance.

"As the US reviews its contract with ICANN, it should work cooperatively with all stakeholders to complete the transition to a Domain Name System independent of US governmental control."

Many of the comments went into great depth about the successes and failures of ICANN as an organisation since its inception in 1998 and while the vast majority accepted that the contract with ICANN will be renewed by the US government, there were still strong words of criticism.

There was almost unanimous agreement that the area where ICANN had failed most was in realising the "private, bottom-up coordination" aspect of its role. The organisation remains too secretive and does not take into sufficient account the views and wishes of everyday internet users and companies, a very large number of comments pointed out.

Controversy

The most controversial issues were the proposed .xxx domain (which elicited two comments solely about the saga) and the renewal of the dotcom contract. Difficulties with the domain name system itself formed the lead point of eight comments and a further four concentrated on the issue of Whois.

In total, forty-four comments were openly critical of ICANN, and a further eight criticised the organisation as a secondary point in their comments. On the other side, 24 comments supported ICANN, saying it had done a good job, with a further six comments providing support as a secondary point.

There was however a broad consensus that ICANN should remain in its position for the time being, and be held under the auspices of either the US government or an international organisation until such a time as it had solved its existing problems.

ICANN itself did not respond to the inquiry, having decided to run its own parallel consultation, but there are clear signs that CEO Paul Twomey is already aware of the feeling held against his organisation. Several new members of staff have been recruited to improve ICANN's communication with other stakeholders and encourage greater public participation.

It remains to be seen how the United States government will react to an overwhelming call for its to end its role as head of the internet. It will hold a public meeting in Washington on 26 July where the comments will be discussed. ®

For a more detailed rundown of the comments go here.

Related links

The full list of comments
NTIA's notice of inquiry

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Sonos AXES support for Apple's iOS4 and 5
Want to use your iThing? You can't - it's too old
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
Joe Average isn't worth $10 a year to Mark Zuckerberg
The Social Network deflates the PC resurgence with mobile-only usage prediction
Chips are down at Broadcom: Thousands of workers laid off
Cellphone baseband device biz shuttered
Feel free to BONK on the TUBE, says Transport for London
Plus: Almost NOBODY uses pay-by-bonk on buses - Visa
Amazon says Hachette should lower ebook prices, pay authors more
Oh yeah ... and a 30% cut for Amazon to seal the deal
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.