October 3, 2006

What Universe Are They Living In?

I see the news filled with articles, many from Europe, proclaiming that that the United States government is finally releasing ICANN.

Nonesense.  The US Government is doing no such thing.

In the 1950's the damning phrase (and book title) was "The Man who Lost China".

People in the United States government are terrified of being labeled as the man (or woman) who lost the internet - it would end their careers faster than a lewd instant message to a Congressional page.

And the folks in the present US administration view the US hegemony as a national security issue.  Not only do they believe that retention of control over ICANN is necessary to protect US security, but they fear the attacks that would come from their political opposition if they should do anything that could be perceived or characterized as weak on security.

In addition, the new agreement between ICANN and the US Government is really only a cosmetic change.  Yes, ICANN can skip a few reports - which were mainly self congratulatory lists of how many numbers IANA has assigned and which were one of the few windows into the interior life of ICANN.  Don't forget that the main part of ICANN's work is not performed under this new agreement but under a separate purchase order for "the IANA function" - and that agreement has not significantly changed.

But the real kicker is the way that NTIA simply overturned one of the few policies in ICANN that was developed through a wide process, the policy regarding "whois" data.  In so doing, NTIA signaled quite clearly that it is the Alpha male in the NTIA-ICANN relationship.  And to add insult to injury, in so doing, NTIA has, without as much as a by-your-leave negated the privacy laws of Europe, Canada, and much of the civilized world.

ICANN benefits from this infinitely deferred emancipation.  The moment that the US Government is clearly no longer interfused with ICANN will be moment that ICANN will begin to feel the heat as denied entrepreneurs and ICANN-taxed consumers begin to ask whether ICANN is, under the laws of their countries, an illegal combination in restraint of trade.

Posted by karl at October 3, 2006 1:39 AM