US Government to relax its grip on the internet

The US Government will relinquish much of its control over the systems at the heart of the internet. A US Commerce Department meeting heard the unexpected admission by Department official John Kneuer.

The Department will retain some control over the 'root', the document that details which top level domains are permitted, but this will be a purely technical arrangement. "It should not be read so expansively as to say we're going to retain all of our historic controls," said Kneuer, according to CNET

The US Government took a supervising role over the core administrative parts of the internet in 1998, including a brief overseeing the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which actually operates those central naming systems.

The current arrangement is set to expire on 30th September, though that may be extended as in previous years. As the internet has grown in importance internationally, many interested parties have expressed concern that the US government has such a hold over what is considered to be an international resource.

The president of the Internet Society, Lynn St Amour, argued at the meeting that this is in itself a problem. "We continue to be concerned about attempts to politicise the Internet and its management," said St Amour. "As long as the US government has a role in ICANN’s governance and management, organisations and other governments have an incentive to try to leverage political channels to their favour."

US President George Bush told the UN's world internet summit in Tunisia that the US would not relinquish its root control. It would, though, create a governance forum which would oversee the issues under the auspices of the UN to create more international accountability around the issues.

ICANN was formed in 1998 as a way for the US government to be less involved in the governance of the central root of the internet. Its oversight of ICANN was designed to be a process of transition towards a situation where the government was not involved at all, a transition that was designed to have been complete by now.