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United States to Relinquish Control of Internet Upsetting Some Pleasing Others

The U.S. Commerce Department National Telecommunications and Information Administration said Friday that it intends to give up oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICAAN).

The announcement drew immediate criticism from some politicians and business leaders concerned about potential lack of control and oversight.


Assistant secretary of commerce, Lawrence E. Strickling said, “The timing is right to start the transition process. We look forward to ICANN convening stakeholders across the global Internet community to craft an appropriate transition plan.”

ICAAN is a cooperative made up of a number of companies and people, as well as more than 100 governments. One of the key remaining functions overseen by the U.S. is the assignment of domain names.

Steve Henn from National Public Radio indicated current revelations over NSA spying ramped up calls for the U.S. to hand over control of ICAAN saying, “The announcement by the Commerce Department Friday that it would relinquish its oversight role of ICANN was widely viewed as a response to that criticism. “ Administration officials have said any new governance structure for ICANN should be transparent and free from any hint of government interference.”

According to The Washington Post, those who were critical of the move expressed serious concerns about the ability of ICANN to operate without oversight on the part of the United States.

Garth Bruen, at the Digital Citizens Alliance told the newspaper, “This is a purely political bone that the U.S. is throwing. ICANN has made a lot of mistakes, and ICANN has not really been a good steward.”

The exact timeline for the handover was not set as part of the announcement. U.S. officials created a list of conditions and said a new oversight system must first be developed and approved by stakeholders all over the world.

One of the world’s largest Internet providers, Verizon (NYSE: VZ), issued the following statement, “A successful transition in the stewardship of these important functions to the global multi-stakeholder community would be a timely and positive step in the evolution of Internet governance.”

Major companies like Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), Facebook (NASDAQ: FB), and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), on the other hand, have complained that con artists create phony websites designed to look like theirs and create marketplace havoc.

Dan Jaffe, of the Association of National Advertisers said, “To set ICANN so-called free is a very major step that should done with careful oversight.” Jaffe added, “We would be very concerned about that step.”

At the time of this writing, Jim Probasco  had no position in any mentioned securities.

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