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ICANN boss: 'Russia and China will NOT take over interwebs'

Is he Putin us on?

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ICANN boss Fadi Chehadé appeared before a House of Representatives committee on Wednesday in an attempt to reassure troubled lawmakers that China and Russia will not take control of the internet once the US government pulls out in 2015.

"Do you really think that Vladimir Putin ... can't figure out some way to get control? China and Russia can be very resourceful," asked Louisiana Republican Steve Scalise, according to Reuters.

Chehadé apparently responded by arguing that the “multi-stakeholder” model ICANN hopes to have in place once the US Department of Commerce contract expires in 2015, will help ensure no one nation has too much influence.

“I agree that people will talk about capturing [control of ICANN], but they haven't,” he said. “For 15 years ICANN has operated without one government or any government capturing the decision making.”

The anti-China/Russia voices, no doubt already wearyingly familiar for Chehadé, will only grow louder in the run up to September 2015.

In fact, such is the political consternation over the move that three House of Representatives members have proposed legislation which will force the Commerce department to maintain control over ICANN’s activities until Congress has reviewed the proposals.

Given the speed at which legislators move, this could lead to a significant delay in the handover timetable.

Those who support the Obama administration’s decision say that the Commerce department’s oversight capacity had become little more than symbolic – that ICANN had been running the show ever since the department outsourced the running of the net to the global non-profit in ’98.

However, those worried about what the future may hold believe that, symbolic or not, the US government’s withdrawal could leave a dangerous vacuum which the likes of China or Russia may exploit.

In a statement announcing the proposals in March, Chehadé had the following:

We are inviting governments, the private sector, civil society, and other internet organisations from the whole world to join us in developing this transition process. All stakeholders deserve a voice in the management and governance of this global resource as equal partners.

However, it remains to be seen what form this transition plan will take. Whatever happens it’s likely to be a long, drawn-out affair.

“If we finish it in 18 months, great. If we don't, then you know what, it doesn't matter, let's get it right,” Chehadé told Reuters.

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