U.S. officials announced plans Friday to relinquish federal government control over the administration of the Internet, a move that pleased international critics but alarmed some business leaders and others who rely on the smooth functioning of the Web.
Pressure to let go of the final vestiges of U.S. authority over the system of Web addresses and domain names that organize the Internet has been building for more than a decade and was supercharged by the backlash to revelations about National Security Agency surveillance last year.
The looming change — if successfully executed — would end the long-running contract between the U.S. Commerce Department and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a California-based non-profit group that goes by the acronym ICANN. That contract is due to expire next year but could be extended if the transition plan is not complete.
“We look forward to ICANN convening stakeholders across the global Internet community to craft an appropriate transition plan.,” said Lawrence E. Strickling, assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information, in a statement.
The announcement set off a passionate response, with some groups quickly embracing the change and others blasting it.
Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D-WVa.), chairman of the commerce community, called the move in a statement: “consistent with other efforts the U.S. and our allies are making to promote a free and open Internet, and to preserve and advance the current multi-stakeholder model of global Internet governance.”
But former House Speaker Newt Gingrich tweeted, “What is the global internet community that Obama wants to turn the internet over to? This risks foreign dictatorships defining the internet.”