Since the inception of the World Wide Web, the governance of the Internet has transitioned from non-profit educational institutions, to for profit commercial entities as well as national regulators. Although conceived as a network of networks devoid of centralized governance, significant control can be gained through regulating the root authority of the Internet.
Internet Naming and Numbering Authority, or root control, is a crucial mechanism of the internet which assigns and coordinates Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, which are essential to directing users to domain names and websites. Root authority has the ability to “affect valuable Internet- related property rights, it also has the potential to serve as a powerful tool of Internet enforcement and to shape the nature of the Internet itself.” (Goldsmith and Wu, 33). At the early onset of the Internet in the 1970’s, while still a research project funded by the United States Department of Defense, root authority control was contracted to Stanford Research Institute, which collaborated with another engineer, Jon Postel.
A decade later, in 1988, the Department of Defense formalized Postel’s involvement with SRI and the root authority system through a contract with his employer, USC Information Sciences Institute. However, a change in federal procurement policy in the 1990’s, drastically altered the Internet’s governing structure. A revision to the Department of Defense purchasing regulations required open and competitive bidding for contracts. In 1990, SRI lost the bid to a commercial enterprise, Government Systems Inc. and their subcontractor, Network Solutions Inc. Under the new agreement, Postel and Network Solutions would “share authority over the naming system with Network Solutions becoming the sole registrar for the main nonmilitary domains but Postel retained policy authority (Goldsmith and Wu, 35). In the mid 1990’s, the Internet Society, launched a campaign to have root authority control transferred to a new international, non-profit organization based in Geneva. Private industry as well as United States government agencies feared that such a move would hinder the stability of the Internet. U.S. officials feared “that unless the U.S. government asserted its authority over the Net, it might fall prey to overregulation,” do to the broad membership of the proposed international group.
In 1998, U.S. policymakers formally issued a report which recommended the creation of a non-profit organization to manage internet addresses. The result was the creation of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers which still regulates IP addresses and domain names today.
Goldsmith, Jack, and Tim Wu. Who Controls the Internet? Illusions of Borderless World. Oxford University Press, 2006.
Matthew Zuccaro is currently the CEO of Digital Strategy Associates LLC, where he developed a boutique web design firm into a multi-faceted provider of IT and digital marketing solutions. A highly driven entrepreneur, Matt founded his first business while in high school and used the proceeds to self-finance his college tuition. As a seasoned IT professional, Matt has extensive experience in supporting Apple, Cisco, and Windows. A graduate of Montclair State University, Matt holds a BA (Summa Cum Laude) in History and Political Science. Outside of the office, Matt is passionate about traveling as well as volunteering within his local community.
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