Honey, They Gave Away the Internet

You may have missed it, because there wasn’t much news coverage.

Yes, there have been a lot of competing stories, some of them indeed quite important. There’s the frightening erosion of our military position in Afghanistan (which withers, while our commander-in-chief dithers), the health care tug of war, and of course, the ongoing job-killing, deficit-exploding POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) economy, which the nation has endured since the summer of 2008.

But a few relatively and quite obviously unimportant stories have consumed way too much of the available oxygen. Yes, Chicago’s Olympic bid smackdown did expose Barack Obama and his handlers as over-proud, naive, or both. And yes, it was quite unusual for Saturday Night Live to openly mock a hard-left president after only eight months in office. Establishment media’s obsession with playing presidential defense in these two matters has exposed their hypocrisy to many casual news consumers who may finally understand that they can’t automatically trust what they see out of the big three networks, CNN, and others.

But meanwhile, you may not have noticed that our government gave away control of the Internet. Here’s how the UK Guardian reported it:

After complaints about American dominance of the Internet and growing disquiet in some parts of the world, Washington has said it will relinquish some control over the way the network is run and allow foreign governments more of a say in the future of the system.

ICANN -- the official body that ultimately controls the development of the Internet thanks to its oversight of web addresses such as .com, .net, and .org -- said today that it was ending its agreement with the U.S. government.

The deal, part of a contract negotiated with the U.S. Department of Commerce, effectively pushes California-based ICANN towards a new status as an international body with greater representation from companies and governments around the globe.

Given the controversy raised nearly four years ago when the idea of Commerce loosening its reins on ICANN first became a serious topic in advance of a UN-sponsored conference in Tunisia, and how roundly it was rejected at the time, it’s more than a little surprising that what occurred last week has generated relatively little coverage or comment.

The outcome is also an about-face from what might have been expected based on news from not very many weeks ago. In early August, a group of House lawmakers made it very clear that what has been a series of understandings renewed every few years needed to be replaced with “a permanent instrument to which ICANN and the Department of Commerce are co-signatories.” The signers of the letter requesting that action included House Committee on Energy and Commerce chairman Henry Waxman and that group’s Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet chairman Rick Boucher. Both Waxman and Boucher are Democrats.

Clever wording, guys. Nothing was said about how things might change, giving readers a false sense of security that nothing would change. Heck, searchers trying to keep up with Waxman and Boucher’s doings probably wouldn’t have found the news in the first place, as their names don’t even appear in the article I linked in the previous paragraph and several others I found. You’d think from reading these reports that they were only trying to set into stone the U.S.-controlled situation that had been in place for over a decade.