For decades, the key infrastructure of the internet was either directly or indirectly under the control of the US government. This may finally change as ICANN seeks a more ‘multistakeholder’ governance of the web.
ICANN is currently the key body that is tasked with overlooking some of the most critically important parts of the internet. The role was previously played by the US Department of Commerce but over time, government has handed over the reigns to ICANN which is a non-profit organization.
Now, the Commerce Department has asked ICANN to look for a more ‘multistakeholder’ governance for the internet. This essentially means that the US government is ready to withdraw from the control of the internet, at least formally, and put it in the hands of a diverse organization. This decision has been forced, in part, by the blunders committed by NSA and the damning leaks from Edward Snowden.
According to Fadi Chehade, the Chief Executive of ICANN, ‘There is no question that Edward Snowden’s revelations have stimulated the dialog. I attended a couple of sessions at the World Economic Forum about security risks. I saw leader after leader of major companies like GE sincerely worried about the trust factor on the Internet. And we have the Target situation. The trust in the ecosystem has been punctured a little bit.’
The understanding of ICANN is that these ‘multistakeholders’ which will possibly come on board for the control of the internet, include Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the Internet Architecture Board (IAB), the Internet Society (ISOC) and finally, Regional Internet Registries. One hopes that with such a diverse set of new stakeholders, internet’s control and fate will be in securer hands in the coming days.