A couple of weeks ago, the US Government’s NTIA announced they would relinquish coordinating control of Internet DNS to a to-be-formed non-governmental international body. Missed the announcement? I’m not surprised. As Byron Holland points out, most of the media coverage has been sensationalist politicizing of the event out of the USA, getting the facts wrong in the process. The actual press release states:
WASHINGTON – To support and enhance the multistakeholder model of Internet policymaking and governance, the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) today announces its intent to transition key Internet domain name functions to the global multistakeholder community. As the first step, NTIA is asking the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to convene global stakeholders to develop a proposal to transition the current role played by NTIA in the coordination of the Internet’s domain name system (DNS). ((NTIA Press Release The release continues from there, and adds A FAQ for good measure.))
The fearmongering politicization has helped distract from the import of the announcement and detract from its actual content. For example, Sarah Palin said “Surrendering our control of the Internet is a colossal foreign policy error with long term negative repercussions for freedom.” Apparently she doesn’t understand what’s happening here (no surprise there). Meanwhile, Fox News distorted Bill Clinton’s comments to help shape the news (again, I curb any minimal surprise). But does it matter? From his considered perspective, Michael Geist explains why he thinks very little will change, and not any time soon.
It may not be obvious how less control equates with less freedom, particularly given that “control” in this context is to be expanded beyond a single government’s interests. Since those who have the control have the freedom, the “freedom” Palin speaks of can only be understood as that of Americans over against that of the rest of the world. Further, Geist points out that DNS is only one aspect of American-held control over the Internet, and one over which they aren’t planning to fully release control. Still, the rest of the world might consider this a welcome and necessary first step to the globalization of control of the Internet.
If anything, this underscores for me the fact that it does matter. Byron Holland concludes,
Internet governance issues… have a direct impact on the lives of billions of the world’s citizens. Freedom of speech and much of the global economy rely on the free and open nature of the Internet, something that has increasingly come under threat. ((CIRA CEO Byron Holland, “I can see the Root Zone from my house“))
I agree. We should care about this… but remember to read your news sources carefully when they become so highly politicized.