Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

U.S. Won't Cede Control of Net Computers

Filed under
Web

The U.S. government will indefinitely retain oversight of the main computers that control traffic on the Internet, ignoring calls by some countries to turn the function over to an international body, a senior official said Thursday.

The announcement marked a departure from previously stated U.S. policy.

Michael D. Gallagher, assistant secretary for communications and information at the Commerce Department shied away from terming the declaration a reversal, calling it instead "the foundation of U.S. policy going forward."

"The signals and words and intentions and policies need to be clear so all of us benefiting in the world from the Internet and in the U.S. economy can have confidence there will be continued stewardship," Gallagher said in an interview with The Associated Press.

He said the declaration, officially made in a four-paragraph statement posted online, was in response to growing security threats and increased reliance on the Internet globally for communications and commerce.

The computers in question serve as the Internet's master directories and tell Web browsers and e-mail programs how to direct traffic. Internet users around the world interact with them every day, likely without knowing it. Policy decisions could at a stroke make all Web sites ending in a specific suffix essentially unreachable.

Though the computers themselves - 13 in all, known as "root" servers - are in private hands, they contain government-approved lists of the 260 or so Internet suffixes, such as ".com."

In 1998, the Commerce Department selected a private organization with international board members, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, to decide what goes on those lists. Commerce kept veto power, but indicated it would let go once ICANN met a number of conditions.

Thursday's declaration means Commerce would keep that control, regardless of whether and when those conditions are met.

"It's completely an about-face if you consider the original commitment made when ICANN was created," said Milton Mueller, a Syracuse University professor who has written about policies surrounding the Internet's root servers.

ICANN officials said they were still reviewing Commerce's statement, which also expressed continued support of ICANN for day-to-day operations.

The declaration won't immediately affect Internet users, but it could have political ramifications by putting in writing what some critics had already feared.

Michael Froomkin, a University of Miami professor who helps run an independent ICANN watchdog site, said the date for relinquishing control has continually slipped.

Some countries, he said, might withdraw support they had for ICANN on the premise it would one day take over the root servers.

In a worst-case scenario, countries refusing to accept U.S. control could establish their own separate Domain Name System and thus fracture the Internet into more than one network. That means two users typing the same domain name could reach entirely different Web sites, depending on where they are.

The announcement comes just weeks before a U.N. panel is to release a report on Internet governance, addressing such issues as oversight of the root servers, ahead of November's U.N. World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisia.

Some countries have pressed to move oversight to an international body, such as the U.N. International Telecommunication Union, although the U.S. government has historically had that role because it funded much of the Internet's early development.

Ambassador David Gross, the U.S. coordinator for international communications and information policy at the State Department, insisted that Thursday's announcement was unrelated to those discussions.

But he said other countries should see the move as positive because "uncertainty is not something that we think is in the United States' interest or the world's interest."

Gallagher noted that Commerce endorses having foreign governments manage their own country-code suffixes, such as ".fr" for France.

Associated Press

More in Tux Machines

Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.1 Officially Released with Support for Linux Containers

Red Hat was proud to announce earlier today, March 5, the availability of the first maintenance release of its Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 operating system for computers, used in numerous enterprises worldwide. Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.1 contains a great amount of bug fixes and improvements over the previous release, as well as various new features. Read more Also: iSER target should work fine in RHEL 7.1

Help: Linux to the rescue of older operating systems

As you know, when someone offers free stuff, we give it a few weeks in order to give each group, organization or individual in need a chance to respond. That’s what we’ll do with Mary Greenfield’s generous offer to donate free fabric, so give it another week and then we’ll forward responses to her. One of the most rewarding aspects of writing this column is realizing that it generates discussion, and here’s a response to that question about updates for an older computer running Windows ME... Read more

Open source used to manage Figueres’ environment

The Spanish town of Figueres is relying on free and open source software to help manage its urban and natural environment. Fisersa Ecoserveis, an environmental company, is using a range of open source solutions to create, update and manage interactive geographic maps, used for monitoring and planning the city’s green spaces. Read more

I/O-rich SBC runs Linux on Cortex-A9 Sitara SoC

MYIR launched a “Rico” SBC for TI’s Cortex-A9 AM437x SoC, with an open Linux BSP, 4GB of eMMC flash, and coastline GbE, HDMI, and USB host and device ports. Read more