The Internet as we know it is facing its doomsday on September 30. That’s the day when President Obama hands control and oversight of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority from the United States to a “multistakeholder community.”
Currently the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), along with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Number (ICANN) control everything on the Internet. And it works just fine because America is an honest broker. That can’t be said rest of the world in the “multistakeholder community.”
I used to run an Internet Service Provider. I used to teach this stuff at the local tech college. I also gave a class every Saturday morning in the mid-90’s to help people understand what the Internet actually was. It really hasn’t changed much in the last 20 years. (Yes, there’s IPV6 etcetera, but that’s still rather exotic.)
Here’s a primer of how this all works.
This is a fairly simplistic view, but accurately represents the steps. Note that all the domain registrars in the world are stored in the “root servers.” There are now probably thousands of domain registrars, and currently there are 1,205 top-level domains (“TLDs” like .com). All of these are centrally managed and stored in the root servers.
There are thirteen root servers (physically, there are hundreds of computers, but only 13 originals; the others are copies).
These thirteen databases “seed” the entire Internet so that when you type “google.com” your computer actually get a valid Internet Protocol (IP) address for Google’s website. If the root server databases were ever corrupted (it has happened once), then every address on the planet would suddenly be suspect.
ICANN and NTIA take server security seriously, and go to great lengths to ensure the root servers don’t get corrupted. That’s because they’re run by the United States.
What happens if NTIA and ICANN transition from U.S. control
Once control of these servers and the databases, protocols and procedures that assign addresses and names to every computer on the Internet have been globalized to “multistakeholders,” then other countries may have the authority to change the way they respond to requests. Or possibly other international organizations, responding to foreign court orders, U.N. directives, or The Hague, could demand changes and the U.S. would have no veto over this.
So if Russia decided Google was a threat, it’s possible that the database entries for Google could be altered to point–somewhere else. Or maybe conservative websites that promote what other countries call hate speech could be banned from the Internet–their names and addresses permanently disconnected.
U.S. law and American interests would no longer apply in the “multistakeholder” environment.
Why this is bad
At the risk of repeating the obvious: This is bad because other countries don’t have the same legal requirements, commitment to free speech, and–well–honesty, that America possesses. They don’t have the same interest in human rights or information transparency. If America had its own Internet and the rest of world had its own, then we could at least trust America. But that’s not how it works.
The root servers are coordinated. If America no longer controls the root servers (and we always have, exclusively), then America no longer controls the Internet. Period.
This isn’t a matter of evolution, or “it’s time to give the Internet to the world.” That’s absurd. America has already given the Internet to the world. We invented it and we do a very good job keeping it honest.
There’s only one reason that IANA should shift from NTIA/ICANN control to the new world order, and that’s to wrest it from American control. Nothing good can come of this, and it’s really akin to ceding American control of our weapons systems, or our aircraft carriers, to some world body. The Internet is a national asset, and should not be given away.
The problem is, once we give it away, we will never, ever, get it back. The deadline is September 30. Congress must act. It was a bad idea from the get-go.