US Government Endorses ICANN's Ongoing Web Monopoly

23 May 2006

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the California based non-profit group that oversees technical matters governing how computers communicate via the world wide web, is set to retain its global monopoly.

The US Commerce Department confirmed on Thursday its intention to renew ICANN's sole source contract - a decision that will not be received with glee by such nations as Iran, Saudi Arabia and Brazil, all highly critical of the status quo.

"We continue to believe ICANN is uniquely qualified to perform the services," loftily pronounced a spokesman for the department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Even the European Commission is unenthused, having recently called for the removal of the Commerce Department's quasi-sovereignty over the world wide web with its uncomfortable implications of US hegemony.

Capitol Hill lawmakers, however, remain adamant that the USA must retain its oversight of the internet despite the wishes of other countries that want a say in its running.

"The people in the government have one eye on the domestic situation, where the internet is the American flag," believes Michael Gallagher, a former assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information.

That belief has little historic foundation given that the world wide web is the invention of an Englishman, Tim Berners-Lee, employed at the time of its origination in 1989 by Geneva-based CERN, the largest internet node in Europe.

However, a relatively dispassionate voice from within the US opines that ICANN, far from perfect though it may be, remains the best option for management of the web.

"We would like to see ICANN get better; we would like to see [it] become more transparent and more representative … but we tend to agree that ICANN is the only reasonable option at this point for managing the internet's domain name system," says the Centre for Democracy and Technology, a Washington public policy group whose views frequently do not accord with those of the administration.

Data sourced from Sydney Morning Herald; additional content by WARC staff