Wondering what is the Internet transition plan? Why is there so much buzz around this transition plan? What is at stake? How is the Internet transition plan going to impact the future of the Internet, especially for the international community? The Internet transition plan is equated to “preserving a free and open Internet” by this Google blog post that extends its support for the Internet transition plan.
What exactly is the Internet transition plan?
This video from Google explains in detail the gist of the Internet transition plan:
The Internet works on domain names, especially the parts like .com, .org, .gov, .in and so on. Ever wonder who controls the domain names that you use on daily basis? Who controls Facebook.com in the real sense? Who controls google.com? Who controls TechBakBak.com?
That’s one thing. As you may know, machines don’t understand names. What they understand are the addresses and the addresses are expressed in numbers. For example, your domain can be accessed using an IP address, something like 43.07 .92 .85. But it would be very difficult for people to remember these numbers especially when we have millions of websites these days. This is why a number is assigned to the domain name so that people can simply use the domain name in order to access that particular IP address. This is why, if you have ever had the experience of changing your web hosting provider, you have to change your name servers when you shift to another web hosting provider. So your domain name remains the same, but the IP address needed to access your webpages or your blog changes. Who controls this association? What happens if a single agency decides that the Internet should be shut down?
When we register a domain name from a company like GoDaddy.com we think that we “own” the domain. It is not like that. There is a California-based nonprofit organization called ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) that takes care of which domain name system or which domain name is associated with which particular IP address. It’s like the address book. These days, in order to dial a phone number you don’t actually dial the number, you simply select the name from your phone contacts list. ICANN is the agency that controls this address book.
Whereas ICANN acts as your address book the addresses and domain names are actually, technically, managed by an American government organization called IANA (Internet Assigned Names Authority). This organization eventually decides which domain name brings up which website. If there were no control, upon typing google.com, you may end up coming to TechBakBak.com (that would be, like, phenomenal in terms of traffic). IANA takes care that people who want to go to google.com, keep going to google.com. But this is an agency that allows the government of the United States to have a big control over domain names and IP addresses. This, is what, is being changed through the Internet transition plan.
The oversight of the Internet was assigned to the NTIA (National Telecommunications & Information Administration) to introduce some level of accountability and greater technical know-how into the entire process of controlling domain names and IP addresses. The present US government under Barack Obama is making an effort to give up this oversight so that the domain name system is entirely controlled by a non-profit organization like ICANN, completely. All stakeholders from all over the world will be members of this agency or organization. In simple terms, right now, the US practically owns the Internet. Once the Internet transition plan goes through the Internet will be in the hands of people from all over the world.
Why are some people in the US opposing the Internet transition plan?
Well, it is very difficult to give up control. Many in the US think that, despite supporting the most despotic, dictatorial and fanatical governments in the world, it’s the US that ultimately maintains a sense of freedom and democracy on the planet. The people opposing the Internet transition plan think that once the US government gives up its oversight over the Internet domain name system, it will fall in the wrong hands. All sorts of dictatorial governments will be able to control the domain name system and eventually, bring down domain names that don’t subscribe to their ideology. The people who are opposing the Internet transition plan think that as long as the entire system is under the US control, it is safe.
Yes, to an extent, the Internet has been free. But as its influence expands all over the world, it has become a global phenomenon rather than something being controlled by a university department or a defense organization or even a country. Since it is a global phenomenon it should be controlled by a global agency. Right now that agency is ICANN. In the coming years it may be some other agency – like the United Nations, but more in control – but somewhere the process has to begin.