Should The Government Take Back Control Of Internet Domain Names?

The US government has formally asked whether it should reassert its control of the internet’s administrative functions, effectively reversing a handover to non-profit organization ICANN two years ago.

“Should the IANA Stewardship Transition be unwound? If yes, why and how? If not, why not?” reads one of 23 questions that the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has put into a formal notice of inquiry [PDF] published on Tuesday in the Federal Register.

In effect, should Uncle Sam regain ultimate control of IANA – the ICANN department that oversees the planet’s domain-name system, IP address allocation, and network protocol number assignments? All three functions glue together the global internet as we know it today. ICANN took full stewardship of IANA in 2016.

The question is part of a broader effort to seek input on what the US government’s role and priorities should be when it comes to internet policymaking, but its inclusion is still extraordinary given how controversial such a reversal would be.

It’s not clear whether the question was included as part of an implicit promise from NTIA head David Redl to look into the transition, or whether it has been included in light of recent events, in particular the disastrous attempt by ICANN to retain the Whois service in the light of European privacy legislation.

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