Internet, a system architecture that has revolutionized communications and methods of commerce by allowing various computer networks around the world to interconnect. Sometimes referred to as a “network of networks,”

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in a meeting at Marrakesh (Morocco) decided that the ICANN will now be governed by a “multi-stakeholder” (multistakeholder ICANN community) model, including businesses, individual users and members of governments across the world. Since this group elects ICANN’s board of directors in the first place, it can be said that ICANN will now be an independent organization, with no external oversight.



ICANN and its present governance architecture

  • It is a non-profit body founded in 1998 that administrates domain names and Internet protocol addresses (IPs) globally.
  • ICANN has been assigned the task to manage Internet by the US Commerce Department’s National
  • Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) under a contract, which expires on September 30.
  • IANA (the Internet Assigned Names Authority, the part of ICANN that handles country codes, Internet
  • numbers and protocols) then went on being part of ICANN, despite concerns raised by a number of countries over the US’s stranglehold over the Internet.
  • ICANN’s architecture renders it answerable only to U.S. law and courts.
  • The main issue that non-U.S. actors have with the U.S. control over ICANN is that it can unilaterally interfere with the ICANN’s policy process, and the Internet’s root server


Why the debate:

  • Controversial US practices such as snooping on foreign leaders, as revealed in Wikileaks
  • Allegations that ICANN, though a transnational body functions under the supervision of Department of Commerce with which it has contract
  • A broader debate on internet governance touches the topics of cyber security, trade secrecy, freedom of expression and sovereignty


What is Internet Governance

In 2005, UN sponsored World Summit on Information Society defined Internet Governance as – “development and application of rules, norms, principles, practices by govt, civil society, business, each within its own respective role, to enable the evolution and use of internet”.

It encompasses

  • Technical aspects such as control over DNS servers etc
  • Civil aspects such as privacy, freedom of expression etc
  • Political aspects such as maintenance of sovereignty
  • Security aspects such as data security, cyber security etc


Problem with ICANN’s role currently:

  • It is transnational but not global in its current avtar
  • It is dominated by non state actors which is hugely problematic for countries like China, Russia etc which are trying to maintain state control over the internet
  • It is one of the few centralized points of control over the internet
  • It is overseen by US