US announces handing over of the internet domain name system
On Tuesday, the US government approved the transition of managing the internet domain naming system in October to a non-profit organisation, ICANN, essentially privatizing the process under a multinational, multi-stakeholder model. It ends a 20-year process of handing over a crucial part of internet governance that had been with US for a long time. The agreement to complete the transition was made in 2014.
Domain Name System
The Domain Naming System is one of internet's most important components. It is used to resolve human-readable host names like www.facebook.com into machine-readable IP addresses like 220.127.116.11. Without DNS, one can only access websites by typing in a series of numbers, i.e. its IP address.
An act of international diplomacy
Earlier, other countries, particularly China and Russia, had put pressure on the UN to call for the DNS to be controlled by the United Nations' International Telecommunication Union. However, the US, along with UK, Canada and Australia refused, citing concerns over human rights abuses. US is voluntarily giving-up control and using its remaining power over DNS to shift control to ICANN instead of UN.
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers
Founded in 1998, ICANN is a non-profit organization responsible for coordinating the maintenance and procedures of several databases related to the namespaces of the Internet. It performs the technical maintenance of central Internet address pools and DNS root registries according to the IANA function contract.
National Telecommunications & Information Administration's compliance plan
In June 2016, NTIA had laid down the following tasks for completion of transition: Support and enhance multistake holder model. Maintain security, stability and resiliency of Internet DNS. Meet the needs and expectations of global customers, partners of IANA service and maintain openness of the Internet. On Friday, ICANN informed NTIA that it has completed or will complete the tasks before the contract-term expires.
Ire of the Republicans
The Republicans declared that the Obama Government's decision would "open the door to the likes of China and Russia to meddle with a system that has always been 'protected' by US". In May, Senator Ted Cruz wrote a letter to NTIA Assistant Secretary Strickling, which was followed by a bill he introduced along with Republican Wisconsin Representative Sean Duffy, to stop this impending transition.