It’s Our Internet, And You Can’t Have It, Says U.S.

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Al Gore may not have really invented the Internet, but we can still bloody well control it, the U.S. seems to be saying.

In a gesture which is being seen by some as the U.S. thumbing its nose at the global Internet community, the U.S. has drawn a line in the sand and said, in essence, “possession of the Internet is 9/10s of the law”. Or something.


Of course, you can’t really possess the Internet, and indeed to the extent that one could, it is not regulated by any one specific law. But let us back up here.

For purposes of this discussion, what you need to know is that there is a certain file, if you will, called a “zone file”, which contains the DNS (Domain Name and Addressing System) information – the roadmap – for the Internet. Or you can think of it as a flow chart. The point is, when a computer system is looking for another computer system on the Internet, the data in this file tells it where to go, so to speak.

That file is mirrored at any given time at several sites around the world, so there are always many fresh copies of it, and the lookup load is distributed across these files.

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However, there is one which is considered to be the master file, the so-called “authoritative root zone file”, and that authoritative root zone file is presently administered by Verisign, a U.S. company, at the leisure of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and the private U.S. non-profit ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers).

There has, however, been increasing global dissatisfaction with this arrangement, and with how things are being administered, and some call to have this control transferred to a more distributed global body which would allow smaller and poor countries to have some say in how the Internet is administered.

Therefore, this sudden announcement by the United States, just days before a global ICANN meeting in Luxembourg, and a few months before the U.N.’s ITU (International Telecommunication Union) Summit in Tunisia, has more than a few noses bent out of joint.

 

Here’s what the U.S. had to say, in a document published today:

“U.S. Principles on the Internet’s Domain Name and Addressing System

The United States Government intends to preserve the security and stability of the Internet’s Domain Name and Addressing System (DNS). Given the Internet’s importance to the world’s economy, it is essential that the underlying DNS of the Internet remain stable and secure. As such, the United States is committed to taking no action that would have the potential to adversely impact the effective and efficient operation of the DNS and will therefore maintain its historic role in authorizing changes or modifications to the authoritative root zone file.

Governments have legitimate interest in the management of their country code top level domains (ccTLD). The United States recognizes that governments have legitimate public policy and sovereignty concerns with respect to the management of their ccTLD. As such, the United States is committed to working with the international community to address these concerns, bearing in mind the fundamental need to ensure stability and security of the Internet’s DNS.
ICANN is the appropriate technical manager of the Internet DNS. The United States continues to support the ongoing work of ICANN as the technical manager of the DNS and related technical operations and recognizes the progress it has made to date. The United States will continue to provide oversight so that ICANN maintains its focus and meets its core technical mission.

Dialogue related to Internet governance should continue in relevant multiple fora. Given the breadth of topics potentially encompassed under the rubric of Internet governance there is no one venue to appropriately address the subject in its entirety. While the United States recognizes that the current Internet system is working, we encourage an ongoing dialogue with all stakeholders around the world in the various fora as a way to facilitate discussion and to advance our shared interest in the ongoing robustness and dynamism of the Internet. In these fora, the United States will continue to support market-based approaches and private sector leadership in Internet development broadly.”

So there you have it.

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9 thoughts on “It’s Our Internet, And You Can’t Have It, Says U.S.

  1. “The Internet began as a Cold War project to create a communications network that was immune to a nuclear attack.” is a myth created many years after the Internet itself.

  2. Tony: Nice Wikipedia quote there, but you forget that all that information isn’t necessarily correct. ARPANET wasn’t the ‘true’ founder of the internet as we see it. Our friends across the Atlantic drink in those crazy liberal finger countries are the people we have to thank for today’s true Internet.

  3. Dear Aunty,

    It’s a perfect subject to be discussed in Political Geeks.
    The problem however is, that giving your opinion – not
    chiming in with Sip(owitz)’ interpretation of reality – the mail in question
    is manipulated (deleted) and the sender banned out, as one of our employees
    experienced recently.

    I do fear that the noble promises of the US with regards to the freedom of
    use of Internet are of the same level.

    Best regards,
    A.Ruiter

  4. Well, that solves it. The USA created the internet, therefore the USA owns it lock, stock and barrel, and the USA can do as it wishes with it, including control it or sell it. And why not? The USA is, after all, the biggest boy at school and should control everything, not just the internet. Look at all the other wonderful things the USA has given us in the rest of the world. And look at all the wonderful things the USA does for us in the rest of the world every day. Stand aside everyone! The big kid is here and he’s in charge. Just ask him. He’ll tell ya!

  5. Just remember who created the internet. From Wikipedia: The story of the Internet begins in 1969 with the implementation of ARPANET by academic researchers under the sponsorship of the United States Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). Some early research which contributed to the ARPANET included work on decentralized networks, queueing theory, and packet switching. However, ARPANET itself did not interact easily with other computer networks that did not share its own native protocol. This problem inspired further research towards the development of a protocol that could be “layered” over many different types of networks.

    The Internet began as a Cold War project to create a communications network that was immune to a nuclear attack. In the 1969, the U.S. government created ARPANET, connecting four western universities and allowing researchers to use the mainframes of any of the networked institutions. New connections were soon added to the network, bringing the number of “nodes” up to 23 in 1971, 111 in 1977, and up to almost 4 million in 1994. As the size of the network grew so did its capabilities: In its first 25 years, the Internet added features such as file transfer, email, Usenet news, and eventually HTML. Now, new developments come to the Net one right after the other. It is this explosive growth in recent years that has captured the imagination of computer users the world over.

  6. While I don’t blindly trust the US government, I don’t believe for a second that the governments of China, the EU, the tin-pot African countries, et al, have any interest but their own (and NOT of their people) in this. Imagine UN control of DNS.

  7. Thanks for helping perpetuate the fallacious myth that Gore claimed to have invented the internet.

  8. In a way, this has already been addressed: countries can add a high level domain ID, eg “fr” for France or “tv” for Tuvalu, and even establish their own root servers.

    But it is cheaper to just grab what exists. And then establish impossible rules in the manner of the EU constitution, of which its main designer says he cannot understand it.

  9. QUOTE: “As such, the United States is committed to working with the international community to address these concerns, bearing in mind the fundamental need to ensure stability and security of the Internet’s DNS.”
    READ AS: So you can give us your suggestions and we’ll do what we think is best.

    QUOTE: “The United States will continue to provide oversight so that ICANN maintains its focus and meets its core technical mission.”
    READ AS: As the only country qualified, we need to tell ICANN what to do and keep them in line or all hell will break loose.

    QUOTE: “In these fora, the United States will continue to support market-based approaches and private sector leadership in Internet development broadly.”
    READ AS: We remain open to an offer by microsoft to buy control of the internet from us (if the price is right)

    “being seen by some as the U.S. thumbing its nose at the global Internet community”
    Nah…..We all love the US attitude, and what do you mean “global” – there is no internet or users outside the US, is there ?

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