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Republicans wary as US prepares to relinquish internet control

The US Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced its intent to transition key internet domain functions to Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in 2014. Photograph: (Getty)

California, United States Sep 29, 2016, 06.33 AM (IST)

US is set to cede control over the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organisation that oversees the allocation of domain names and IP addresses, as the Department of Commerce's contract with the non-profit organisation expires on Friday midnight.  


Republicans, however, are sceptical about President Barack Obama-led administration's decision to remove last elements of internet control after decades.


Last week, the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump opposed the transition saying that it will allow the "countries like Russia, China and Iran to take control over the Internet". 


"Donald J Trump is committed to preserving Internet freedom for the American people and citizens all over the world. The US should not turn control of the Internet over to the United Nations and the international community. President Obama intends to do so on his own authority on October 1st, unless Congress acts quickly to stop him. The Republicans in Congress are admirably leading a fight to save the Internet this week, and need all the help the American people can give them to be successful," a statement on Trump's website had said. 


Senator Ted Cruz echoed similar concerns. "Once the government's out of the picture, First Amendment (that guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition.protections go away," Cruz was quoted as saying by local media. 


"Why risk it? The Internet works. It's not broken. What is the problem that is trying to be solved here?"  


Conservatives like Cruz are worried that if the US government relinquishes oversight of ICANN and internet's domain naming systems, it will hamper the freedom of speech. California-based ICANN is not a "democratic body"  and authoritarian countries in the world may benefit from the move, Cruz had earlier warned. 


According to American tech news website, the US Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) that earlier supervised the core aspects of internet, gradually backed from its responsibility in 2014 to  and tasked "ICANN to formalise a multistakeholder approach to internet governance  by convening involved parties" 


"The Commerce Department's June 10, 1998 Statement of Policy stated that the US Government is committed to a transition that will allow the private sector to take leadership for DNS management," an official statement on NTIA's website reads. 


The system will be managed through a "multistakeholder" model in which engineers, businesses, non-government groups and government bodies serve as checks against any single entity, international news agency AFP reports. 


Meanwhile, Christopher Mondini, ICANN's vice president for global business engagement, claims the change will have no impact on day-to-day internet use. It will assure the global community that the system is free from government regulation and interference. 


"This is a new kind of governance model," he told AFP.


(WION with inputs from AFP) 

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