Why is President Obama giving control of the Internet away?
Answer by Franklin Veaux:
This is what happens when you read pop media news reports but don't do any research beyond that.
Obama is not “giving control of the Internet away.” Sigh.
Okay, here's a quick lesson in how the Internet works:
There is no such thing as a Web server that has a name, like “Google” or “Facebook” or “Quora.” All Web servers, indeed all devices attached to the Internet, only have numbers. These numbers are called an “IP address.”
When you go to Google, you actually go to 22.214.171.124. There is, as far as the Internet’s routing is concerned, no such thing as a Web site called “google dot com.” It is only 126.96.36.199.
Imagine a telephone. Same thing. There is no such thing as a phone called “Franklin.” My phone number is just a number.
When you type “google.com” into your browser, the browser goes out and consults a DNS server. This server is just a giant telephone book. It lists names and numbers. The DNS server says “Google…google….ha, here it is. Google is 188.8.131.52.
The job of maintaining this enormous list of names and numbers belongs to an American corporation called the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN. ICANN was started in 1998. Before 1998, this job was done by one guy, a guy named Jon Postel, a university researcher.
When ICANN was first founded, it received oversight from the United States Department of Commerce. The US government had paid for and done a lot of the research on the networks that we today call “the Internet,” and so it wanted oversight to make sure ICANN was up to the task.
This government oversight was always supposed to be temporary. It was supposed to expire in 2003, after which ICANN would no longer be controlled by the government.
However, its contract with the government was extended to 2006, then to 2009, then to 2014. In 2014, the Department of Commerce decided it didn't need to continue overseeing ICANN, so it started negotiating letting go of that oversight. The negotiation took two years, and now ICANN is an independent American corporation that is no longer subject to Department of Commerce oversight.
All of this is just about management of the American corporation that runs the list that assigns numbers to domain names. This change in management had been planned since September 1998.
Then something bizarre happened.
Conservatives, most of whom favor small government and minimal interference of government in private corporations, went apeshit.
Ted Cruz bizarrely started spouting that the US was “giving control of the Internet to the United Nations.” (I still scratch my head every time I hear this. ICANN is an American corporation, headquartered in California. It is not the United Nations.) People who don't know how to use Wikipedia bizarrely believe him. (Wha—?)
Folks, here's the scoop: ICANN is an American company. ICANN makes lists of names and numbers, just like they've been doing for the past 18 years. ICANN no longer has to report management changes and operational procedures to the Department of Commerce, that's it. Exactly as was planned in 1998.
Obama did not hand over control of the Internet. Set down your TV remote and back away from Fox News slowly.