Should the Internet ‘go private’?

PC World commented on Saturday about the Regional Internet Registries adding their voices to the call for the US government to step back from control of the Internet.

At the present moment ICANN manages the global Domain Naming System (DNS) database under an agreement with the US department of commerce. The DNS database is what’s used to convert domain names (like geek-speak.co.uk) into IP numbers (like 127.0.0.1), which allows data to be properly routed around the Internet. ICANN controls many top-level domains like .com, .net, .org, and points browsers to the correct Regional Internet Registry (e.g. any domain ending in .uk would be pointed to Nominet’s DNS servers).

This is all fine and dandy, but the Internet has grown to such a vital piece of global infrastructure that people are getting jumpy about the US Government having a stake in it. The most paranoid point of view would be, “what if the US decide to just pull the plug?” Should one country have that ability?

On the other hand, much of the early research into packet-switching networks was done by the US military as they started to build the ARPANET, a communications network designed to be able to withstand one or more of its control nodes going down (there’s some debate over whether that was because they weren’t particularly reliable, or because there was fear of nuclear attack). Then the National Science Foundation, another US federal body, started networking university systems together and formed the backbone of the modern Internet. If the research and much of the groundwork was carried out by US governmental bodies, is it fair to say the US government should keep its hands off Internet governance?

And here you see my problem – from a personal point of view I’d much rather not see any one country having control over such a vital function as the central DNS databases. On the other hand, I doubt they’d be willing to drop control since so much of the groundwork was done in and by the US.

So, in true indecisive style, it’s over to you. What do you think about this? Should the US back off from any control over the Internet? Or is that entirely unreasonable? Let us know in the comments!

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Comments

  1. Tough question to answer Chris. It doesn’t feel right that one country effectively controls it, but I’m not sure if I can think of a viable alternative. Maybe the United Nations? What do others think?

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