It appears as though countries such as China and Russia are about to have access to one of the most bureaucratic and government-independent agencies in the world, and there are a lot of people who do not like the idea. But what is really going on and is the situation really as bleak as everyone is making it out to be?
A close look at the ICANN contract with the U.S. Department of Commerce shows that the contract will lapse if not renewed on October 1, 2016. When President Obama decided not to renew the contract, Senator Ted Cruz (who was a presidential candidate at the time he introduced the bill) introduced the Protecting Internet Freedom Act to prevent the ICANN contract from lapsing. The bill is still being considered, but with the contract being allowed to lapse, a Congressional law may be useless at this point.
What Is Going On?
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is the centralized body entrusted with regulating domain names and IP numbers throughout the Internet. It is a body made up of engineers and Internet experts from all over the world, and it was funded by the U.S. Department of Commerce until October 1, 2016. When President Obama allowed the contract with ICANN to lapse, he effectively gave up any kind of leverage the United States had with ICANN.
The act of allowing the contract with ICANN to lapse has been compared to handing the Internet over to China. But a closer examination of ICANN shows that it is basically an organization without a country that has a habit of following its own rules and creating a nightmare bureaucracy for governments to try and work with. In other words, ICANN is proud to operate on its own, and this severance from the United States only allows ICANN to work as an even more independent body.
No one country controls ICANN. There is a new committee in ICANN made up of governments from all over the world, but no one government has complete say in what happens. But should people be worried about China and this new open Internet? Recent information would say that China could very well be a threat to the Internet in more ways than one.
China Is Flexing Its Internet Muscles
Within its own borders, China is making changes to its own Internet that should be concerning to anyone outside of China. China is broadening its Internet resources and making it difficult for Western businesses to make money in China. A document that has many Western businesses very concerned is China’s newest cybersecurity law. This new law forces anyone using China’s Internet to follow all federal, regional, and local Internet laws. This would make it extremely difficult for outsiders to properly access the Internet in China, especially since many local Internet laws are unknown.
It is China’s habit of attempting to maintain control over everything that has the rest of the world concerned. Chinese Internet laws state that any information gathered on the Chinese public must remain in China. The Chinese government also has comprehensive rules on what kinds of hardware can be used on the Chinese Internet, and anyone using equipment that has not been approved is in line for serious legal repercussions.
Is China A Threat To The Internet?
China is the only oppressive country to have spent a great deal of time and money on developing Internet security and information distribution plans. China’s latest cybersecurity laws are open for the public to review, and Western business executives fear that these new laws make it increasingly difficult for Western businesses to make money in China.
China understands that money makes the world go round, and money may even be the key to running the Internet. China is already in the process of destabilizing the global economy through its cheap steel, and now China is trying to keep Western companies out of its marketplace by making its Internet increasingly exclusive.
Now that China has an equal say in ICANN thanks to the U.S. bowing out if its contract with the Internet organization, there is a real possibility that China will continue to use its aggressive tactics to have influence on how the Internet works all over the world, including inside the United States itself.