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ICANN boss defends US giving up Internet ownership

by on03 April 2014

Russia and China will not be in charge

The head of a nonprofit that manages the infrastructure of the Internet defended the US government's move to cede oversight of the body, and downplayed concerns that Russia, China or other countries could exert control and restrict the web's openness.

Last month the US government saw sense and realised that the world wide web really belonged to the world and said it would relinquish oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The United States has overseen the process but since 1998 has contracted it out to ICANN. Since then, the Department of Commerce has planned to phase out its stewardship and has taken many steps toward that. The US contract with ICANN will expire in September 2015, and last month the Commerce Department said it plans to formally turn the oversight capacity, which it says has become symbolic, over to a global multi-stakeholder mechanism that the ICANN community will propose. But the move has provoked a backlash among right wing conservatives who claim that it will give control to China or Russia, to use ICANN as a venue to push for more restrictive Internet governance policies.

ICANN's chief executive, Fadi Chehadé pointed out that while everyone is focused on these three, four countries the outfit will have 150 other countries involved. Fadi Chehadé, said the multi-stakeholder model is not so much for the few who do not believe in it, it should be to the great “middle mass that would like to see us stand by it and they will stand with us. This is the bet we need to make."

Assistant Secretary of Commerce Lawrence Strickling also defended the move at the House of Representatives' communications and technology subcommittee hearing.

"No one has yet to explain to me the mechanism by which any of these individual governments could somehow seize control of the Internet as a whole," Strickling said.

Louisiana Republican Representative Steve Scalise said: “Do you really think that Vladimir Putin ... can't figure out some way to get control? China and Russia can be very resourceful.”

Chehadé said that people will talk about capturing (control of ICANN), but they cannot. For 15 years ICANN has operated without one government or any government capturing the decision making and nothing has happened.

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