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Neta-giri with the Net: What the hell is wrong with US?

The Background:

The US Department of Commerce (DoC) had pushed and funded expansion of the internet in its early stages. And when the internet had gone global, it had created a private company, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to run it. Before I explain to you what exactly ‘running’ the internet means here, there are a few basic stuffs you need to be aware of.

Any website has to be present as a file on a computer and each computer connected to the internet has a unique ID (called the Internet Protocol address i.e the IP address). The IP address is nothing but a string of a maximum of 12 digits (eg: 10.195.200.200).

Obviously it is impossible for us to remember so many numbers for accessing so many sites. DNS severs come to our rescue here.

DNS stands for domain name server. The DNS machines store information that lets us get around the net by way of easy-to-remember domain names, such as www.amrit.co.nr, and spare us from having to deal with the numeric addresses that computers understand. They translate the domain names into their IP addresses.

There are many DNS machines, but all of them finally link to only thirteen ROOT servers located in different cities of the world (but most of them are in US). [Click here to see the list]

And now I come back to what running the internet is all about. To quote from ICANN’s website, “ICANN is responsible for coordinating the management of the technical elements of the DNS to ensure universal resolvability so that all users of the Internet can find all valid addresses. It does this by overseeing the distribution of unique technical identifiers used in the Internet’s operations, and delegation of Top-Level Domain names (such as .com, .info, etc.).” The overseeing and delegation is achieved with the aid of those 13 computers I talked about.

The issue and why US sucks:

Everything had been running smoothly till suddenly someone asked this: Why is this overseeing and delegation being done by a company which is directly in control of the US Government? Is it just because the US created the internet?

The Inter-Neta* had been questioned! And everyone including the EU joined the bandwagon. This issue got so much highlighted in the recently held second phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) at Tunis that the core issue which was supposed to be discussed (about bridging the gap between the internet-reach between the poor and the rich) was sidelined.

I wonder why US hasn’t given a proper answer till date! Is it so because it simply does not have a ‘proper’ answer? The US is obviously never going to state that greed for power is the only thing it strives for, and so according to it, the rest of the world should stop challenging its undisputed control over the overseeing and delegation act on the internet.

But then the world (and that includes me) is not worried for no reason. I don’t see any point in not letting the running of the internet pass on to an international and independent committee so that no one can politically misuse the power which currently lies solely with the US.

Think of this: today if someone gets a domain name called www.rape-india.com and fills it with rotten stuffs, and then the Indian Government discovers this site and finds it objectionable and tries to remove it from the web, the only way it can do so is by asking ICANN (and that means the US Government) to do so. What a state of affair!

To spread a false impression of an international private company, this is what ICANN writes in its website: ‘ICANN’s Board has included citizens of Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, France, Germany, Ghana, Japan, Kenya, Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Portugal, Senegal, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States.’ How does this really matter as long as it is evidently clear that no one else but only the US has the power to directly control the company?

If the US doesn’t change its stand soon, we will see the emergence of new ROOT servers and new sets of internet operating in different countries. Each nation will start its OWN thing.

The following example will emphasize the consequence of such an event: if I, sitting here in Chennai would type a domain name, a different webpage would open than what you would get on typing the same domain name, sitting in say Paris. Internet would never remain the same. In fact its power would be reduced to a devastating extent.

It’s high time the Neta of the Net changes its attitude!

*Neta stands for politician in Hindi Language; Neta-giri is the act of playing politics.

8 replies on “Neta-giri with the Net: What the hell is wrong with US?”

Give the DNS to an International Body?

I agree that the domain name system has international effects. And this question is legitimate – Should the United States be allowed to dominate this increasingly critical element of the international communications infrastructure?

Well, in response to the belief that some sort of international public law solution would be most appropriate, some people have proposed creating a new treaty-based body or a new intergovernmental or international semi-governmental entity to counter US dominance over the root file.

Well, will an international body make things better or worse? I believe this will only make the underlying public policy and accountabilty problems more complicated.

Rationality 1: This is similar to the unaccountable International Olympic Committee. Remember the controversies that recently occured over the Olympic City Bids?

Rationality 2: Allegations of corruption and financial mismanagement at the top of the International Federation of Football Associations, the Zurich, Switzerland-based organization universally known in the soccer world by its French acronym, FIFA.

Maybe full privatization of ICANN is a possible solution. But such a transition will be incur a huge cost.

[Phew!]

Phew!Phew!

Now that was a well thought response. Great job!

Regarding the comparision of ICANN with the international Olypic commietee, all I want to say is that the internet will cetainly become much more important to the common man (in case it is not already!) than Olympics. So the things which work for Olympic, might not server the purpose in internet’s case.

Well done!
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