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Internet handover is go-go-go! ICANN to take IANA from US govt

The most significant change in the internet’s functioning for a generation will happen tonight at midnight.

At 12.01am Washington DC time, the US government will walk away from the IANA contract, which has defined how the internet has grown and been structured for nearly 20 years, and hand it over to non-profit organization ICANN.

Nothing will change for ordinary internet users – ICANN will keep doing what it has done since its inception in 1999 – but the shift represents something much bigger: the first time that a new communications technology has been released from, rather than pulled under, government control.

With the transition to ICANN, it will be the internet’s users and not their countries’ representatives who will ultimately decide how the global network develops from here on in.

Having initially promised to release control of the internet’s names, numbers and protocols to ICANN within a few months of it signing the first IANA contract, it wasn’t until March of 2014 that the US government decided to move ahead with the plan.

Several times previously ICANN had asked to be given the contract, but the US government refused: its position was a useful point of leverage that meant officials always had a hotline to the organization’s leaders and which, on occasion, they used to force ICANN to reconsider bad decisions.

When in 2002 the United Nations came knocking and looked at redrawing the entire way the internet was governed, the US government made control of the IANA contract and a defense of ICANN as its contractor the cornerstone of its negotiations.

After years of negotiations that ended literally just hours before heads of state opened a World Summit, the status quo held.

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