US relinquishes control of internet’s addressing system

March 14, 2014 11:40 pm

US relinquishes control of internet’s addressing system

By Richard Waters in San Francisco

The Obama administration said on Friday that it would give up control of the internet’s addressing system, marking one of its most significant responses yet to the international outcry over revelations of widespread US internet surveillance.

The offer to hand control of the internet addressing system to the private sector also signalled an end to a long-running dispute over a key aspect of the internet. Other countries have pushed Washington for more than 15 years to give up its final sanction over the global network.

The US began a transition in 1997 that was meant to bring the eventual privatisation of Icann, the body that assigns internet addresses. However, a change in the political mood in Washington after the 9/11 terrorist attacks left the body under the ultimate sanction of the Department of Commerce.

It has taken the outcry over internet surveillance to prompt the US finally to promise to give up its privileged role in overseeing the global internet, said Milton Mueller, a professor at Syracuse University who had proposed a way for the US to hand over its powers to an international body.

“The Snowden revelations had a lot to do with it, even though the NSA spying had nothing to do with Icann,” he said.

International anger over the revelations led to a call from a group of influential internet organisations last October for the US to step back from the internet addressing system.

In what became known as the Montevideo statement, the group warned of “the undermining of trust and confidence of internet users globally due to recent revelations of pervasive monitoring and surveillance”, raising the risk that the internet would fragment into separate national networks.

The US was also set to face pressure at a meeting over governance due to take place in Brazil next month, with calls growing for it to hand over more control.

Technically, control of the internet’s Domain Name System has left the US in a position to disrupt internet access in other countries, though few experts involved in the field believe it would ever have taken such a radical step.

However, the requirement for the commerce department to renew Icann’s contract every three years has left the body subject to intense lobbying in Washington, bringing a heavy political aspect to decision-making, Mr Mueller said.

While promising to step back, the Obama administration nonetheless made clear on Friday that it wanted Icann itself to shape the debate about how authority is handed to a new international group.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, part of the commerce department, said it had asked Icann to assemble a group of “international stakeholders” to decide the next step forward.

It also said it would block any attempt to transfer the internet addressing powers to any government-led group, reflecting continued US resistance to calls for the UN to take over the role.


About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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