I support the IANA transition but the proponents also stretch the truth. Nothing important will change no matter how this resolves, because ICANN has little real power. ICANN, a once obscure agency, maintains the Directory Name Service, DNS. If Vladimir Putin or Donald Trump takes over ICANN, they couldn’t effectively use it to censor. The Internet is a network of networks. The “infrastructure of the Internet” is actually controlled by AT&T, France Telecom/Orange, MTN South Africa, Russia’s Sistema and the other carriers and backhaul systems. The DNS is just one possible way for those networks to communicate. If ICANN becomes a problem, those companies can and would move to another system.
Andrew Sullivan, Chairman of the Internet Architecture Board, notes, “Other name systems have been invented and deployed, and they don’t depend on a root zone. Also, even if we keep using DNS, nobody can force you to use the same root zone. … If the IANA system ceases to be useful (or starts to be too politically controversial), then people will choose something else. And there is no central point where people could be forced to use the IANA system because there is no center in a network of networks. That is also the reason why nobody — not China, not Russia and not the bogeyman in the basement — can ‘take over’ the internet.”
Ted Cruz is a bleeping idiot thinking ICANN could be dominated by the Russians or Chinese. ICANN’s Chair is Steve Crocker, who has worked alongside Vint and others to build the Internet since earliest days. Also on the board are George Sadowsky, who had a distinguished career with the U.S. government; Marcus Kummer, who served the Swiss government and then was ISOC’s policy lead; Thomas Schneider, currently of the Swiss government; Ron de Silva, of Time Warner Cable in the U.S.; Jonne Soininen of Nokia; and a half dozen others with generally concurring views.
These folks will maintain the current system with very few changes. In addition, they will choose their successors, almost certainly like-minded. The ICANN rules make it very hard to impose change from outside. The U.S. + Europe has an effective veto over any government initiated changes. The “IANA transition” moves control from nominal U.S. government supervision to a board that holds the same values as the U.S. government. Larry Strickling has been working brilliantly for seven years to pretend the U.S. is giving up control while making sure nothing really changes.
ICANN can affect how much you pay for domain registration and who gets the money, but little else. It has never done anything important that censors the net, which Cruz thinks will be the problem. Cruz writes Obama’s Internet Handover Endangers Free Speech Online. Some know nothing convinced him ICANN has the power “to oversee the infrastructure of the Internet.” (below, in full.) Pure ignorance.
To my dismay, those who agree with me that ICANN should be privatized also make false claims. Tim Berners-Lee and Danny Weitzner wrote an oped, Ted Cruz is wrong about how free speech is censored on the Internet. They are correct, “control over ICANN does nothing to advance free speech because ICANN, in fact, has no power whatsoever over individual speech online. ICANN — the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers — supervises domain names on the Internet. The actual flow of traffic, and therefore speech, is up to individual network and platform operators.” But Danny, now an MIT colleague of Timbl, knows ICANN not represent, “the global consensus that has enabled the Internet to function and flourish over the last 25 years.”
One third of the Internet has been systematically excluded from the ICANN board. (China) Another third is barely represented, almost exclusively by people in concurrence with the Americans and Europeans. Danny knows this well. With Larry Strickling and Terry Kramer, he led the multi-million dollar effort in 2012 to keep the present system. He was in government then.
My source that the U.S. prevented China is definitive: ICANN Chair Fadi Chehadé. “The Chinese of course expect ‘One Internet, one world’ means they have a seat at the table. That seat at the table was impossible so long as ICANN is, still today or will continue to be, under contract to the U.S. government.”
Here’s Cruz’s statement from his own website. I think Cruz is saying what he believes true, which is unfortunate. A symptom of Beltway Blindness, the Washington disease, is belief in obvious falsehoods. Also known as cognitive distortion, it afflicts both right and left.
Sen. Cruz: Obama’s Internet Handover Endangers Free Speech Online