The action had been debated among technologists and policy makers, but the prospect of the U.S. relinquishing control concerns some businesses because of the potential for censorship.
“If you hand over domain-name registration to someone who doesn’t want certain
classes of domains registered, then you’re setting up a censorship structure,” said Bill Reinsch, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, which represents businesses.
According to Larry Strickling, administrator for the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration the new governance model must ensure that Icann is free from government influence. The plan must also fulfill several other conditions, such as preserving the security and stability of the Internet while keeping it open and free from censorship.
Until 1998, the functions were managed by Jon Postel, a computer scientist at the University of Southern California, one of the early pioneers of the World Wide Web. Upon Postel’s death in 1998, the Commerce Department issued a contract to Icann to take over those functions, making Icann the primary body in charge of setting policy for Internet domains and addresses.
Mr. Strickling said the U.S. always viewed its role as overseeing Icann as temporary.
“The Internet was built to be borderless and this move toward a more multistakeholder model of governance creates an opportunity to preserve its security, stability and openness,” said Vint Cerf, Google vice president and chief Internet evangelist, in a statement.
Some Silicon Valley executives support the move, which they view as inevitable in light of the concerns over the NSA disclosures.
The Obama administration’s relinquished control includes a set of conditions – namely that ICANN be free of any other government influence or interference, that nothing interfere with the preservation of the Internet’s stability and security, and that it be kept open and free from censorship.