Tag Archive for 'ICANN'

What you should know about the Internet before we give away ICANN

Allow me to tell you a story of innovation bordering on the miraculous, scientific stewardship driven by professionalism and shared values, and global leadership that qualifies as agape. And the possibility that all three could be headed for an intersection where the best intentions of good people could be in jeopardy.

Approximately 23 years ago you and I were given access to the Internet, an invention that a generation earlier would have been considered science fiction. Most experts define the headwaters of this seminal invention to be the digital protocol work of Bob Kahn and Vint Cert, both researchers for a division of the U. S. government. Subsequent to its commercialization, these two and a few other geniuses created a number of digital innovations that enabled the Internet and established it as an unprecedented resource.

First question: How did the rest of the world get the Internet?

Since it was initially considered part of national defense, all of this mad scientist stuff was funded by the government’s National Science Foundation and its various contractors. As it became evident that the Internet had commercial applications, the U.S. began sharing with the world what we knew and what we had. Nothing was withheld, enabling the Internet to rise in every corner of the world.

Second question: Who operates the Internet?

Think of it like a private toll road system. The U.S. government allowed private investment to create interconnected computer networks into a “backbone” system that, for a “toll,” delivers our digital business around the world using the protocols created by Kahn and Cerf, and later applications like browsers. Similarly, more private investment built out the infrastructure to transfer digital info from the backbone to last-mile users, like you and me, at the speed of light.

Third question: Who’s in charge of Internet governance?

Who runs the Internet is more complicated to explain, but it’s important because of that intersection thing mentioned earlier. In fact, the U.S. government allowed Kahn, Cerf and others to create governing bodies like the Internet Society, the Internet Engineering Task Force, the Internet Architectural Board, and the World Wide Web Consortium, as organizations overseeing governance, access and standards for the global proliferation of the Internet. The Internet Society, which is the incorporated parent of two of these organizations, has 80,000 stakeholders and 110 chapters in 140 countries. That’s a lot of shared governance with one goal – a free and open Internet, sans politics.

The reason I’m telling you about the origin and governance of the Internet, is because a very important, last piece of U.S. direct influence of an Internet possession is about to be lost. The 18-year contract between the U.S. government and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) expires on September 30, 2016. When you create a new website it actually has two addresses: 1) a name, like abcsupply.com, for humans to remember and manage; and 2) a number value, like, for the way computers work. If you type either the words or numbers assigned to your website into a browser, the same page will be delivered.

According to NetChoice.org Executive Director, Steve DelBianco, in 2014 the Obama administration instructed ICANN to create, and transfer itself to, a “global, multi-stakeholder community.” On my radio program recently, DelBianco reported that this new body has been created and will take over on October 1. As part of the transitioning team, he says the new ICANN will be not unlike the other bodies mentioned earlier who’ve been governing the Internet for decades. That’s the good news.

Last question: If the Internet had been the property of Russia, China, or even France, would access and control of such a powerful resource have been so freely shared?

I think not. Consequently, in spite of my confidence in DelBianco and his colleagues, I’ve been very outspoken in the past three years against this plan for ICANN. I’m concerned about the loss of the last thread of direct influence by the U.S. government. I’m worried about what will happen if when we reach that intersection in the future, global, multi-stakeholder organizations, who’ve governed so dispassionately – without ideology – for decades, somehow become influenced or overridden by bad actor states, or possibly worse, the United Nations. The UN has a long history of coveting control of the Internet.

The United States is the most benevolent broker on the planet and has never let geopolitics influence Internet access or governance. With so many experts projecting that cyber-attacks pose a more imminent threat to our sovereignty than nuclear weapons, I fear the best intentioned Internet governors and investors may ultimately be no match for someone named Putin, Jinping, Khamenei, Jong-un, or their proxies.

Write this on a rock … Pray the world doesn’t regret America’s divesting of this last vestige of U.S. Internet ownership and control.

SBA Poll Results: Stop Obama from giving the Internet away

The Question:
President Obama is planning to give U.S. control of the Internet to a global consortium. What do you think?

2% - Agree with the president-it doesn’t matter who governs the Internet.

86% - This is a very dangerous decision that could have catastrophic implications.

12% - Uncertain

My Comments:
For at least a dozen years, I’ve reported on my radio program about the global covetousness of the U.S. control of the Internet–even though we built it. So it doesn’t surprise me that other global players would like for the U.S. government to relinquish its control. But I was surprised a few weeks ago when my Brain Trust member and ICANN expert, Steve DelBianco, reported on my show that the Obama administration planned to cede ultimate ownership and control of Internet governance and management to a “multi-stakeholder” global group.

Since I believe this plan is a dangerous mistake of epic proportions, I’ve ramped up my reporting on this with other experts, including Mike Daniels, former President of Network Solutions, Inc., the governance contractor prior to ICANN. Plus last week I wrote an article about why Obama’s plans for the Internet are unnecessary and could be disastrous (see last week’s Feature Article). Even former President Clinton has recently gone on record as an opponent of Obama’s plan.

For some reason, the ICANN issue didn’t get the media coverage it deserved–probably because of the Malaysian Airline story, or Russia invading Crimea–but it looks like it may now be coming to the attention of Congress. Hopefully something can be done to stop the divesting of arguably one of the greatest assets of the U.S., and one we’ve shared as honest stewards with the rest of the world, freely and unencumbered by geopolitics.

And I’m happy to report that when we polled our audience about what they think, 86% gave a thumbs down to the Obama administration’s Internet governance plans. But there’s more to do. Contact your members of Congress and tell them as Americans, we don’t want to relinquish oversight of the Internet. You may not care whether Putin invades Crimea, but you should care a lot about whether Russia, China, Iran, or Venezuela one day has a vote in how the Internet is managed.

If you like your Internet, you may not be able to keep it

The Internet, created and managed by the U.S. government from the 1960s to the 1990s, is clearly the most dramatic and successful example of technology transfer from government to private sector.

That transfer began in 1993 when the world was first allowed to use the Internet for commercial purposes. At that point, Internet governance and management was contractually transferred from the government to a contractor, Network Solutions, Inc. (NSI).

The NSI agreement was a lucrative one because it conveyed a monopoly on the management, sale, and distribution of top level domain names, e.g., xyz.com. In response to various political pressures, as the contract expired in 1998, the Clinton administration approved the creation of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a U.S.-based, non-profit entity formed to replace NSI. It’s important to note that, again, this transfer of control to a new contractor maintained U.S. default ownership.

Although ICANN is a U.S. company, it operates through a democratic structure with input from executives, committees, and overseeing entities representing 110 countries. Nevertheless, for years various global interests have resented and coveted the ultimate control the U.S. has maintained over the Internet, not the least of which is the United Nations.

Alas, the Obama administration is now proceeding to divest the U.S. of its ultimate authority over the Internet more than a year before the current ICANN agreement expires. As reported by Steve DelBianco, Executive Director of Netchoice.org, the Commerce Department has instructed ICANN to create a “global, multistakeholder community, and expects ICANN to develop that entity.”

As the U.S. government relinquishes an asset we did build and govern to the free, equitable, and non-political benefit of everyone on the planet, consider four troubling possibilities:

  1. The transition being executed would leave ICANN responsible only to itself.
  2. Ultimate control of the Internet would be decided without the default authority and honest stewardship of the U.S.
  3. Future controlling interests could be influenced by geopolitics.
  4. The U.N. could become the “owner” of the Internet. And when that happens, your business will have to pay the GIT, Global Internet Tax.

Every individual and business should be extremely concerned about the implications of the decision to divest the U.S. of this invaluable asset.

The implications of this transfer of Internet control makes the 1977 Panama Canal transfer look like the sale of a kid’s lemonade stand.


Listen to my latest interviews below with Chuck Martin. We discuss the implications for your business if the Obama administration’s plan to give the Internet away goes into effect.

The origins of Internet management and governance

Obama’s plan to give the Internet away

What if your business couldn’t connect to the Internet?

Check out more of Jim’s great content HERE!

Take this week’s poll HERE!

Watch Jim’s videos HERE!

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