Home / International News / The Internet Was Just Taken Over by a Global Monopoly, And No One Even Noticed

The Internet Was Just Taken Over by a Global Monopoly, And No One Even Noticed

On Saturday, the United States ceded oversight of one of the Internet’s most basic and fundamental functions — the so-called “root zone,” which governs new domain names and addresses — handing it over to a small non-profit group by allowing a 47-year contract to expire.

For decades, the U.S. Commerce Department held a contract with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) — whose executives and board of directors must now report to an Internet “stakeholder community,” loosely comprised of academics, activists, engineers, government officials, and corporate interests.

In theory, this advisory panel could revoke ICANN’s authority entirely should it not live up to expectations — but all actions “are supposed to be done by consensus.”

With the lapse of the contract, the U.S. fulfilled its objective to “privatize” the Internet — something proponents claim would help bolster its integrity around the world. As the Internet rapidly expanded around the planet, many felt U.S. oversight anachronistic.

“This transition was envisioned 18 years ago,” said Stephen Crocker, board chairman of ICANN and an engineer who helped develop early Internet protocols, in a statement cited by AFP, “yet it was the tireless work of the global Internet community, which drafted the final proposal, that made this a reality.

“This community validated the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance. It has shown that a governance model defined by the inclusion of all voices, including business, academics, technical experts, civil society, governments and many others is the best way to assure that the Internet of tomorrow remains as free, open and accessible as the Internet of today.”

But the move didn’t come without vehement opposition, including from some U.S. lawmakers who felt giving up oversight could permit less scrupulous regimes to seize total or partial control of this vital Internet function — with potentially disastrous results.

Attorneys general from Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma, and Nevada staged a last-minute effort to intervene, by requesting a temporary restraining order which was heard in federal court in Texas on Friday. Despite their understandable fears the contract lapse would put the U.S. and the Internet in uncharted territory — and could threaten the integrity of .gov addresses and more — the judge denied their request.

Opposition to handing oversight to ICANN has largely, but not entirely, come from the GOP. Sen. Ted Cruz asserted this week after a failed attempt to halt the move by adding legislation to a funding measure,

“President Obama intends to give increased control of the Internet to authoritarian regimes like China, Russia, and Iran. Like Jimmy Carter gave away the Panama Canal, Obama is giving away the Internet.”

Technical experts say it isn’t as simple as ‘giving away’ the Internet, since the U.S. didn’t ‘own’ it in the first place; but placing control of the root zone — officially, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) — in the hands of ICANN does present pertinent questions.

As the Chicago Tribune reports:

“While the Internet itself was designed to function without a central authority, ICANN has played a small but crucial role since its founding in 1998 at the urging of the Clinton administration, replacing a program run under the authority of the Defense Department. ICANN oversees the process of assigning domain names and the underlying Internet Protocol, or IP, addresses, allowing users and anyone on the Internet to navigate to sites such as Washingtonpost.com. Private companies called registrars and approved by ICANN – such as GoDaddy.com or Name.com – sell the domain names to companies or individuals.”

ICANN’s decisions haven’t been without controversy, however, and the U.S. had the option of offering the contract to another entity.

“Somebody has to be responsible for this. This is a common space,” explained Garth Bruen, a cybersecurity expert who sits on an ICANN advisory board, as quoted by the Tribune. “There’s no checks and balances anymore. . . . Before, there was a threat of accountability.”

And as The Economist noted, whoever controls the Internet’s “address book” also holds the power to censor — any domain name can be revoked and the website no longer found.

Critics have also noted the eagerness of proponents of the transition, such as notorious globalist George Soros, as an indicator ceding control should be considered more carefully — or at least delayed significantly to give the American public some say in the matter.

Still, experts say such fears are wildly overblown.

“There is absolutely no way that this is going to imperil freedoms,” asserted Matthew Shears, director of Global Internet Policy for the Center for Democracy and Technology, a Washington-based advocacy group largely supported by the tech industry, per the Tribune. “There is absolutely no way that this is going to allow Russia or Iran or anybody to take control of the Internet. This has nothing to do with that.”

Whether the transition will ultimately prove beneficial or detrimental likely won’t be fully realized for some time.

  • 30yrfed

    “There is absolutely no way that this is going to imperil freedoms,” asserted Matthew Shears,..didn’t someone say that about the Patriot Act?

    • Christine Mackenzie

      Actually I am wondering if this might be a good thing if the government doesn’t own it anymore we can open new web sites that they have no censorship over.

      • Rev. Walking Turtle

        Errrmmm… IMVHO, Ma’am, that notion is based on a depth of naiveté that is most dangerous indeed when applied to World Affairs, whjich the handover certainly is.

        Don’t know what else to say without writing a thirteen-chapter book about it here! So this note will have to do, at least for now. And that is all. 0{:-|o[

        • Phil Freeman

          I suppose we could destroy any one of the nodes/roots and ruin it for everyone. I contend that taking out the transformers in specific areas would do the job. Fiber optics cut. Etc. It happened in California a few years ago and no one reported it. It took months to repair. Two shooters, and a get away driver did it in less than a half hour. Simple operation really.

          • Rev. Walking Turtle

            0{>:-|o[ Yeah, I read of that action via a Netful friend back when it was done, thank you. So, Bre’r “Freeman”, you might just wanna’ just go right ahead and just BE the US Domestic Insurgent/Terrorist if y’wanna’, now that you have honked your Obligatory Horn and made the online rabble-rouser move that the Troll Pay Money likely pays you to make in FULL PUBLIC VIEW. Congratulations on getting the hard-to-find job in these Toughening Times, OK. BUT:

            Fact: Yours Truly promptly provided simple and perfectly network-valid “How to Get BY, Even IF” instructions at the top of this column, first thing, for the benefit of all readers here who actually VALUE their online communications capabilities and wish to KEEP them DESPITE any Rogue Agency-generated top-down “Kill Switch” action. But YOUR response is diversionary, disingenuous and innately destructive, did you KNOW that? (Oh and did I mention CRIMINAL already…?

            Just leave YT OUT of that “Freeman”-proposed action, thank you!
            Proposing to commit a crime, when so proposed ACROSS STATE LINES, is a CRIME in its OWN right, did you EVER KNOW THAT????

            Well, chopping cables and cutting the public off at the KNEES really IS criminal and why do you IGNORE that little FACT if you are NOT trying to cause trouble for some poor credulous sap hooked on SSRIs or FaceBook or sumpin’ similar, HM?

            Fact: YOU, my good friend, obviously seek to DESTROY something that I helped build. Which is NOT acceptable. Duly flagged and reported. GoodBYE and PLONK. Just YOU stay AWAY from MY PERSON and MY NETWORKED DESKTOP.

            Fact: Firewalls and system-audit-on-boot apps are MADE for SELF-DEFENSE against YOUR VERY SORT. And that is all. 0{>:-|o[

          • Phil Freeman

            No threat was made, directly, or indirectly. There are no thought crimes, yet. A simple solution for a complex problem. One that’s already been done. A study in law might improve your understanding in the areas aforementioned. I owe no allegiance to any government, agency, nation, or body politic. My allegiance is to my tribe only, a sovereign nation long antecedent to the founding of the corporate franchise styled as United States.

    • mangomuffin2

      That comment prompted a similar reaction from me…

  • Troy Jackson

    I hope all the democrats and Obama and US government lose their domain name because of this would be karma on then

  • Christan

    I noticed by what can one person do?

    • Rev. Walking Turtle

      Kindly refer to Yours Truly’s instructions, above. And that is all! 0{:-)o[

  • Ibcamn

    hey assholes that voted for the net neutrality deal and this bullshit,hope your all happy the ICANN will destroy your free speech and ruin the internet and kill thousands of jobs and free markets….and then no one will be able to tell the truth to each other about what is really going on in the world…………thanks assholes……

  • Rev. Walking Turtle

    “…as The Economist noted, whoever controls the Internet’s “address book” also holds the power to censor — any domain name can be revoked and the website no longer found.”

    But the underlying ***BASE IP ADDRESS*** remains. Those who wish to retain access to the Global Network on a “No Matter What” basis should start using online Netwrok Tool called “PING” to collect the IP addresses of their favorite and essential We sites for noting-down and later use. (The online banking, the online bill-paying for the ISP service, the various REAL News Services, indie blogs etc rise to mind fwiw.)

    It won’t work on every site. Indeed, thefreethoughtproject-dot-com site is a no-go by this means per CloudFlare fiat (but WHY?), even though it “PINGs out” @ IP addy 104.24.25.40 – enter those numbers in your browser’s Address Bar, Gentle Reader, and see WHY for yourself- then ask again, WHY?.

    Then try 82.221.129.208 and see how Direct Addressing REALLY works. Go on – dive right under ICANN’s Big Book of Names (and the Big Nose too) and get where you are going ANYWAY – the way it’s S’POZED to be! (Please take that site’s content and its author dead-seriously.)

    Then BUILD THAT ADDRESS LIST – Just In Case. And that is all. 0{;-o[

  • “This transition was envisioned 18 years ago”
    “President Obama intends to give increased control of the Internet…”
    wut?

    • tenshi7angel

      What does increased control mean? Was there less control before? And what are they controlling, and to what end?

  • “Critics have also noted the eagerness of proponents of the transition, such as notorious globalist George Soros,
    as an indicator ceding control should be considered more carefully — or
    at least delayed significantly to give the American public some say in
    the matter. ”
    It’s all ogre!

  • tenshi7angel

    Pulling domain names won’t mean censorship, because as history has proven, when you try and remove the truth, it becomes more prevalent. Just look at what happened to Wikileaks when they tried to take it down. How many mirrors of that site popped up? Along with the media attention it grabbed by all of the mess. With people posting on social media websites, pulling down an idea by taking down the whole domain, won’t work out all that well. But of course, with social media websites on the push to do full Orwellian censorship, social media websites won’t be a safe haven for ideas and expressions either. In some places, what you say can even have real life implications too, with the law trying to prosecute you. You don’t have to be a racist or a sexist, to end up in hot water. You just have to say something another person does not like.

  • JAn Karlsson

    Was’nt it a monopoly even before…. Just a different monopoly…. ?? Or that the current monopoly is more vulnerable than the previous monopoly ??