The future of the Internet is in your hands

31/08/2015

By Alex Dans, ICANN Communications Manager for Latin America and the Caribbean.

Internet Governance isn’t currently driven by a single government, a single organization or a single company. Instead, Internet Governance is a collaborative effort among multiple stakeholders, including governments, technical organizations, the private sector, academia and end users. This collection of individuals and organizations is what is usually known as the global Internet community.  The fact that none of these stakeholders can control the decision-making process has made it possible to preserve the openness of the Internet, an openness that has been essential for its expansion and the development of countless innovations.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is one of the entities that are part of the Internet ecosystem and involved in its governance, yet it is not the only one. ICANN is a global organization responsible for coordinating the Domain Name System (DNS). The DNS is a system designed to make the Internet accessible to people. The main way in which the devices that are part of the Internet are able find each other is through a series of numbers (known as “IP addresses”) that are unique to each device. The human brain, however, finds it hard to recall long lists of numbers, which is why the DNS uses letters instead of numbers and translates a specific set of letters into a specific set of numbers.

A few weeks ago, in an interview with LACNIC News my colleague Daniel Fink recalled that the Internet originated from a research and defense initiative set up by the US government in the 70s. The creation of ICANN in 1998 represented the beginning of the Internet privatization process; in other words, responsibilities were transfered from the US government to the stakeholder community.

During the course of 2014, different groups have been working on drafting proposals in response to the historic announcement made by the US Government (14 March, 2014) of its intention to transition stewardship of certain vital technical Internet functions (the IANA functions) to the global Internet community. In essence, the Unites States National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) asked ICANN to convene the global Internet community to develop an effective transition proposal for such transition.

Since then, several groups of individuals representing different Internet communities around the world have joined their efforts and volunteered thousands of hours to prepare proposals on how (and who) will take over stewardship of these key Internet functions while maintaining a free, secure and unified Internet.

The time has come for everyone interested in the future of Internet Governance to read the proposal which has already been published and will be available for public comment until 8 September 2015.  Until then, individuals from any country can review the proposal and submit their comments. All feedback will be considered before finalizing the proposal that will be submitted to the US government for consideration and approval.

At the community’s request, the NTIA recently announced it will be extending the IANA functions contract for another year in order to cover the period of time needed for the transition. Plans have not been modified and the transition will still be implemented in September 2016 (Phase 3 of the process, see image below). Theresa Swinehart, Senior Advisor to the President on Global Strategy at ICANN, explained this announcement in a video published on 18 August.

Let me conclude by stressing that it is absolutely critical for everyone to participate to ensure that the Internet continues to be an open tool for promoting innovation as well as the economic growth and development of our societies. Please continue participating!

I’d like to invite you to read the latest news about this historic process on our scoop.it page and to check out the image below, which shows the three phases of the transition process.

For more information about the IANA Functions’ Stewardship Transition: https://www.icann.org/stewardship

Image: The three phases of the transition process

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