Bid to block US net handover rejected

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The US has slowly withdrawn from its early role as a key administrator of the internet

A judge in Texas has rejected a last-ditch legal challenge to halt the final handover of internet naming power from the US government to a non-profit group.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) has administered the naming system since 1998.

But from 1 October it will operate without the ultimate oversight of the US government.

Four US states filed a joint motion on Thursday in an attempt to block the handover from going ahead, arguing it could disrupt freedom of speech.

“We’re disappointed with the ruling,” said Marc Rylander, a spokesman for the Texas attorney general.

“It’s a dire day in our country when the President is allowed to unilaterally give away America’s pioneering role in ensuring that the internet remains a place where free expression can flourish.

“We will continue to weigh our options as the suit moves forward.”

Independence day

Backers of the move said it was essential to preserve the independence of the internet amid growing pressure to remove the US’s dominance over the Domain Name System (DNS), a crucial component of how the web operates.

It links easy to remember domain names, such as bbc.com, to the harder to remember IP addresses, strings of numbers that points to the correct server containing the website.

Icann has had the task of administering this system for almost three decades, but the US government has held the power to veto any decision it made – something it very rarely did.

The handover will remove this power, instead making Icann – which is a body consisting of many interested parties, including nation states – entirely independent.

The Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), acting on behalf of the global technology industry, filed an amicus brief – essentially a group statement – to the Texas court in support of the handover plans.

“This effort by a small number of attorneys general is misguided and inconsistent with the founding values of the Internet,” said ITI president Dean Garfield.

“It is an ironic endeavor because the transition will actually keep the internet an open and flourishing engine of innovation and open global communication.”

The judge agreed – and the handover is now set to ahead as planned.



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