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Why should we do this? | Thoughts from Behind the Pressline

By now you may have heard that by September 2015 the United States will turn over its oversight of the Internet to an international stakeholders group. The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced its plans to transition control of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to a “multi-stakeholder” body. The agency said this has been part of the long term plan since 1997.

The purpose of this nonprofit group is to create and assign top-level domain names that end in common three letters like .com, .org and .net. Think of it like the folks behind the telephone directory. ICANN establishes the protocols that create the organizational structure to the internet.

The Internet is still an evolving entity that has linked the people of the world, making the sharing of ideas, commerce and news something everyone can access provided you choose to be connected.

The big question that no one has really answered since this transition was announced a few weeks back is why are we giving up control of ICANN?

It’s been reported that several times in the last decade, a group of countries has urged that control of domain names be transferred to the United Nations. This movement is primarily led by China and Russia.

Now think for a moment if we really want Russia to have a major say in the creation of sites? Russian authorities shut down several websites critical of the government in the days before the country began its recent takeover of Crimea – a clear move to stifle debate and silence the opposition. Would those sites have ever been given permission to get on the Internet in the first place if countries not so supportive of freedom of expression had control over the naming process?

American creativity gave birth to the Internet and has adequately overseen this process since its inception, so why is it in our best interest, or for that matter, the world’s best interest, to give up control over the ability to create a name?

Dan Alexander is associate publisher of New Market Press and publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at dan@newmarketpressvt.com or dan@denpubs.com.

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