The Internet – Transferred or Transformed?

The late Dr. Jonathan B. Postel was an American credited with creating the internet, and for administering the original numbering system under the Internet Assignment of Numbers Authority (IANA).

In a tribute to his work on the tenth anniversary of his death, the Internet Society published the following remarks:

Jon Postel’s technical influence can be seen at the very heart of many of the protocols which make the Internet work: TCP/IP determines the way data is moved through a network; SMTP allows us to send emails; and DNS, the Domain Name Service, help people make sense of the Internet. He contributed to these and many other technologies.

“He was our rock,” said Vint Cerf, shortly after Jon’s death. He was “the foundation on which our every web search and e-mail was built.”

By virtue of Postel’s and his American colleagues’ work and innovations, one could regard the internet as “American.” Or at least otherwise, then indeed for supporters of Al Gore who claimed to have taken “…the initiative in creating the Internet,”  it would be fair to deem the internet an American asset.

Nevertheless, despite efforts of Senators Ted Cruz and Representative Sean Duffy who introducted a bill, “Protecting Internet Freedom Act,” in June this year to block the transfer of the internet to a multinational organization on October 1, 2016, the Obama Administration says the transfer of internet governance will go forward.

Lawrence Strickling, head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the Department of Commerce, said that “barring any significant impediment,” the contract with IANA will expire on October 1. Thereafter, its functions will move to a “global governance model.”

Indeed, on August 10, 2016, the Department of Commerce registered the non-profit corporation, Public Technical Identifiers (PTI), with the California Secretary of State. PTI was formed to perform the naming-related IANA functions.

Identities of the members of the Board of Directors of PTI are not yet published, and it is not known whether they have been appointed, or by whom they will be. PTI will not assume any work until the current contract expires on October 1 [unless a significant impediment arises].

Cruz warns that the transfer will increase the influence of foreign governments, and decrease the influence of the United States over management and control of the internet, and threaten freedom of expression.

For further information, read summaries of Senate Bill 3034 and its companion House Resolution 5418.

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