ICANN: The Debate Over Governing the Internet

By: Kathleen E. Fuller

Since its creation, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has been the subject of criticism and controversy. ICANN is a private non-profit corporation that operates under contract with the US Department of Commerce. It was created at the request of the government for the purpose of privatizing the Domain Name System (DNS), the addressing system on which the Internet depends. The creation of ICANN in 1998–what some have called cyberspace’s own “constitutional moment” — represented a substantial shift in power to control the Internet from government to private industry. Today, ICANN is facing a virtual revolt. Domain name registrars outside the US are protesting bills sent by ICANN (which help finance approximately 1/3 of ICANN’s $5 million budget), claiming they want either better representation or the ability to break away from ICANN and set up their own networks.Domestic registrars who recently applied for new top-level domain names (and who submitted non-refundable $50,000 application fees) have threatened legal action, claiming that ICANN’s process for approving new domains is unfair. And recently, Professor Michael Froomkin of the University of Miami School of Law published a seminal law review article questioning the very legality of ICANN’s relationship with the Department of Commerce.

Cite: 2001 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 0002