A closer look at why the US giving up ICANN will kill off the Internet as we know it

After years of handling the names and addresses on the Internet, the United States is giving control to other bodies by September 2015.

This was inevitable. The United States has been controlling the functions of the Internet since the idea was invented in the US in 1969, and evolved by US edicts for the purpose of serving US interests. This resulted in creating a neutral, nonprofit body called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) on 18 September 1998. Along the way certain foreign regimes that operate as dictatorships or centrally controlled governments have been trying to wrest this control away from the US and give it to some more diverse "international" body.

Don't let anyone kid you, their rationale for wresting away control is not for any good reason. ICANN has spent its time making sure the Internet operates smoothly without political agendas. The Internet today is essentially a free speech zone. Unfortunately, in countries that prohibit or restrict free speech, this is considered an issue that needs fixing.

Most countries have some sort of free speech restriction (including the US, ironically, which is slowly buying into the United Nations' notion of hate speech). Restricting speech is important to prevent critiques of favoured groups, certain religions, or ideas. You see this evolve in the US too, with various memes about anti-bullying.

Many Middle Eastern principalities/kingdoms forbid discussing rulers in anything but glowing terms. Even Germany prohibits the depiction of Nazi symbolism. Restrictions are rampant, but today's Internet is wide open. It's a megaphone blaring past the local restrictions.

Many ruling elites say this unrestricted chatter must be stopped. People read this stuff!

Do not think that the US is not complicit in this. US Senator Jay Rockefeller (D., West Virginia) has been a huge promoter of removing American control and giving it to some "neutral" entity outside the US. Why? To be nice?

As an aside, Rockefeller also made a huge fuss over the proposed ICANN generic top-level-domain (gTLD) called ".sucks." It would mean someone could create a website called, say, Jayrockefeller.sucks. I suspect that this gTLD was a going-away gift from ICANN and will probably be killed by any new international operation of the system.

There is no real reason that the US has to transfer governance of TLDs or anything else to any other country or entity. None.

It's a form of unconditional surrender.

Some people argue that the NSA has made the process easier by its exploitation of the Internet with strong hints that ICANN governance allowed this to happen. This is utter bullcrap. ICANN has nothing to do with the networks per se. Besides, the British equivalent of the NSA, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), does the same thing, as do other nation states. All the NSA fiasco managed to accomplish was to show that the US is not trustworthy, thus it shouldn't be trusted with Internet governance.

Over the years, ICANN would lecture anyone interested in listening as to how bad things will get if governance goes to a worldwide body with principles and ideals that vary from ours — those less concerned with maintenance of the system and more concerned with content itself.

I agree. Once the focus of Internet governance becomes content, as will surely happen, the Internet, as we know it, will be over. I've always thought that we are in a weird golden age that will only be appreciated decades from now. "Wait a minute? Are you telling me there was a depiction of nudity on the Internet? Really? How was that allowed?"

When I got my lectures from ICANN years back I was told that key players wanting to get involved in governance included Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Russia, China, and Brazil. All have issues with content more than they care about maintaining DNS stability.

Porn, of course, will be the first thing to go. We all know there is too much on the net and it is too freely available. But this is not the job for ICANN. Will it become the job of the next group to come along? You can count on it. Forget net neutrality; content neutrality is over.

So enjoy the Internet while you can. America has waved the white flag.