The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will complete the process of privatizing the Internet address book on October 1, a task begun in the 1990s.
When the federal government recognized the potential of the Internet in the 1990s, the White House asked the Commerce Department’s NTIA (DOC) to privatize the Domain Name System (DNS). The DNS creates and stores the names of Internet sites. Because of DNS, users enter memorable names rather than strings of numbers when they want to visit web addresses.
With the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the NTIA worked to ensure that Internet stakeholders were representatives of private industry, academia, and other online communities rather than than the federal government. The federal government has no statutory authority over ICANN. In an op-ed published on the DOC’s website, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said the NTIA must accomplish its mission to keep control of the Internet out of the clutches of authoritarian governments.
“In recent years, Russia, China and other countries that censor content and limit free speech have expressed support for the United Nations takeover, arguing that if the United States is so involved , every government should be involved,” Pritzker wrote in the Post. “We must not let this happen. Transferring control to the UN – or any intergovernmental body – would leave the internet vulnerable to geopolitical disputes and endless bureaucratic delays. It would also stifle innovation and hinder the expansion of the Internet to billions of people around the world.
The Obama administration has announced that it will finally complete the task of privatizing the DNS in 2014. The move is aimed at thwarting web monopolization by Russia and China. Pritzker said the Center for Technology and Democracy and Human Rights Watch, as well as industry groups such as the Internet Association, support the proposal.
She said it was important for the internet to remain accountable to the people and businesses that use it. According to the post, more than 5 billion people will use the internet in 2020. Pritzker said that if Congress tried to obstruct the privatization effort, it would only empower those who seek total control of government.
“Yet as the United States, our allies and global internet freedom advocates prepare to adopt a long-term framework to protect the web from government intrusion, some members of Congress are threatening to derail this effort. Their claim that President Obama ‘gives the internet’ is a patently false and misleading misrepresentation,” Pritzker wrote. “The misleading claim that President Obama ‘gives the Internet’ implies that this transition somehow weakens American power – when in truth, it makes us stronger.”