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Plan Approved to Shift Control of Internet From US


FILE - Internet cables coil in a server room.

FILE - Internet cables coil in a server room.

Members of ICANN, the U.S.-based nonprofit agency that has managed oversight of the international Internet since its creation, agreed upon a final framework agreement that would shift oversight to a global body.

Meeting in Morocco this week, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, approved a plan to transfer technical oversight of the Web to an international team of stakeholders. The plan now goes before the U.S. Department of Commerce for final approval.

The controversial plan has been a priority for the Obama administration, and has earned support from a number of high-tech firms such as Google, Facebook and Verizon. Critics worry that ceding control of the Internet to an international group – which could include nations such as China, Russia and Iran – could lead to less freedom and more surveillance online.

FILE - Students at a summer reading academy at Buchanan elementary school work in the computer lab in Oklahoma City.

FILE - Students at a summer reading academy at Buchanan elementary school work in the computer lab in Oklahoma City.

Nonprofit

Under the proposal, ICANN would remain a private, not-for-profit firm that would remain involved in Internet governance. Any proposed major changes would be voted on by an advisory group comprised of representatives from various nations, businesses and researchers.

“The global Internet community has validated the multi-stakeholder model, by coming together to build a comprehensive transition package that we believe meets the requirements set out by the NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration), and we are confident that the United States Government will agree,” said ICANN President and CEO Fadi Chehadé.

ICANN was founded in 1998 as an independent agency to maintain the technical foundations and structure of the then-rapidly expanding Internet. It was founded in the U.S. largely because the Web was first developed there, and still remains the global leader in Internet development.

This photo provided by The Guardian Newspaper in London shows Edward Snowden, who worked as a contract employee at the National Security Agency, June 9, 2013, in Hong Kong.

This photo provided by The Guardian Newspaper in London shows Edward Snowden, who worked as a contract employee at the National Security Agency, June 9, 2013, in Hong Kong.

Snowden revelations

However, the 2013 revelations by Edward Snowden of comprehensive U.S. surveillance of the Web created friction in the international community and spurred a more global approach to the Web’s governance.

The Commerce Department has until later this fall to either agree to the proposal or submit another plan.

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    Doug Bernard

    Doug Bernard covers cyber-issues for VOA, focusing on Internet privacy, security and censorship circumvention. Previously he edited VOA’s “Digital Frontiers” blog, produced the “Daily Download” webcast and hosted “Talk to America”, for which he won the International Presenter of the Year award from the Association for International Broadcasting. He began his career at Michigan Public Radio, and has contributed to "The New York Times," the "Christian Science Monitor," SPIN and NPR, among others. You can follow him @dfrontiers.

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