Philip Baczewski, Director of Academic Computing and User Services
The Internet development
never stops, but a number of recent developments seem to have definite
implications for the Internet's future. We take for granted that new
services like YouTube and
MySpace will keep cropping up.
We also see the continuous growth of access to the Internet, whether
it be an increased availability of
services or access from
cell phones. Less noticeable are some of the political
developments affecting the direction and nature of the Internet.
At the political and operational center of the Internet is the
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
The heart of ICANN's mission is to coordinate the numeric addresses
and names which allow the easy access to information that we've become
so used to. ICANN was created by the U.S. Department of Commerce.
According to an ICANN
the latest memorandum of understanding that governs ICANN's
relationship with the U.S. Government sets goals which, if achieved,
"will result in a fully independent ICANN organization." It seems,
however, that the U.S. Government is having a hard time letting go of
reported that a recent ICANN public
meeting held in Lisbon, Portugal, included a discussion of a
proposal by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to hold the keys
used to "digitally sign"
the root DNS
zone for the Internet. The idea of securing DNS is to ensure that
servers needing to translate address names to numbers will be able to
determine that they are communicating with the "real" root server.
Technical issues aside, the U.S. DHC proposal indicates an
unwillingness on the part of the U.S. government to give up control of
the Internet and to let it become an independent and international
This question of ICANN's current and future independence is not a new
one. As reported in this column back in
December 2005, the attempt to establish a ".xxx" domain to support
sites of a sexually-oriented nature was apparently suppressed by the
U. S. government. (The .xxx top-level domain application was again
rejected at the recent ICANN meeting in Lisbon.) This latest apparent
attempt, whether effective or
not, by the U.S. government to exert control over the Internet is
reviving questions as to whether ICANN can truly be independent.
In an apparent effort to consider its independence, at its December
2005 meeting ICANN established a
President's Strategy Committee. The committee's final
was presented at the Lisbon meeting on March 26, 2007. The report
encourages ICANN to explore " moving ICANNís legal identity to that of
a private international organization based in the US." This would make
it similar to organizations such as the
Red Cross or the
International Olympic Committee.
This has led to
speculation that ICANN might even move its headquarters to
As it stands now, no single corporation can own the Internet, even if
that was possible. A fully independent ICANN would mean that no single
country could "own" the Internet. As the Internet continues to expand
internationally, it would seem that international cooperation,
uninfluenced by any particular political bloc would support the
Internet's reach to a fully world-wide scope. But as Galileo and
others have known all too well, nothing stifles science and technology
better than politics.
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