WORLD WIDE WEB (CBSMiami/AP) — Flip the switch and the lights go on. Hit the starter button and the engine turns over. Type in an Internet domain name and the Web page pops open.
How does it all work? Who even thinks about that — until there’s a reason to wonder. Like when something goes wrong. Or when the administration of Internet domain names is about to undergo a major change.
If you’ve never heard of ICANN — the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers — you may soon enough, as the United States, which has maintained a role in the handling of Internet domain names, is about to hand over the last of its functions to the private, non-profit ICANN.
If all goes as planned, though, you’ll likely not hear much about it.
Why? Because the change, set to take effect on Oct. 1, will keep things mostly as they’ve been for some time now. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t critics.
One of them, oddly, is Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, the onetime presidential candidate who preached the gospel of conservatism out along the campaign trail and the role of a reduced government. Yet he supports the federal government’s role in assigning and overseeing domain names instead of total privatization of the function.
Cruz’s stated objection would be that handing the keys to the kingdom to ICANN might well allow other governments to begin to meddle with the Internet. Specifically, undue and unwelcome influence from China and Russia is feared.
However, ICANN has effectively been running the show since the late-1990s with minimal involvement from the feds. The government, whose role was largely an accident of history, has long been looking for a way to step back.
After two decades of planning, the transition that’s about to take place might still be more popular than the alternative — having the United Nations handle the assigning of Internet domain names, allowing possible influence from China or Russia.
The move has been supported by the last three presidential administrations.
In June, the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) released a report addressing whether the U.S. should relinquish its authority over ICANN.
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