/ Who administrates the Internet
In order to reach a website or a person on the Internet you have to type an address into your computer - a name or a number. A process that seems to be "normal" to us. But the coordination of these names and numbers is essential to guarantee stability and functionality within the world wide web. For a better understanding we have an overview of the most important organisatations that administer the Internet.
The IANA Stewardship Transition
On September 30th 2016, the contract between the US Commerce Departments National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) expired. Since this day a multistakeholder-organisation has the independent and sole responsibility for the zone files of top-level domains like for example .at or .com. A historical moment whose process (to privatize the Internet domain name system DNS) took more than 20 years.
ICANN - Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers
The “Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers” is a non-profit organization located in California. It was founded in 1998, commissioned by the US government to assume technical responsibility over the Internet (IANA function), a task which was originally fulfilled by the research network ARPANET and the US Department of Defense, respectively, and later by the US Department of Commerce.
Duties of ICANN:
One of ICANN’s main duties is to guarantee the technical reliability, security, stability and interoperability of the Internet. Within the scope of the so-called “IANA function”, ICANN coordinates:
- the 13 root servers of the Internet and, thus, the Domain Name System for all Top-Level Domains;
- the IP (Internet protocol) address blocks and provides them to the regional Internet registries
- the code specifications contained in the network protocols in cooperation with the IETF .
Furthermore, ICANN has a political function and defines itself as “the place to work out Internet governance policies”. In doing so, ICANN sets up the guidelines for the generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) and is responsible for the introduction of new Top-Level Domains. By means of bottom-up, consensus-oriented and multi-stakeholder processes, these guidelines are developed together. Some of ICANN’s most notable achievements are the price reduction for gTLDs, a mediation policy for gTLDs, the DNSSEC signature of the root zone as well as the internationalization of the Internet by implementing IDN (Internationalized Domain Names – e.g. Cyrillic etc.). Critics often object to ICANN’s dependence on the US government and its location in the US. However, up to now there are no known cases of abusing this situation.
Organization and structure of ICANN:
ICANN is a non-profit organization that is based on a multi-stakeholder model, in which everyone can contribute. ICANN has a bottom-up structure: four committees, the Government Advisory Commitee consisting of governments and international organizations (GAC), root-server operators (RSSAC), a security organization (SSAC) and representatives of Internet users (At-Large) can make proposals and recommendations that are voted on by the Board of Directors. This international Board of Directors, consisting of 21 members, eventually makes the decisions.
„We have been actively following the development process of Internet governance. It is important for us as a registry to know about the global developments of the Domain Name System. And as a technical provider of new Top-Level Domains, an advance in information expertise and networking is highly relevant.“
CENTR - Council of European National Top-Level Domain Registries
CENTR is the union of Country Code Top Level Domain registries like .at, .de or .uk and, thus, has a high relevance for the community. Established in 1998, the union currently coordinates 51 full and ten extraordinary members. By organizing specialized meetings at regular intervals as well as a General Assembly three times a year, the registries get the opportunity of a mutual exchange and of learning from each other.
But it’s not just about getting to know each other. As CENTR is located in Brussels, it is quite close to the European Commission and can constantly provide its members with important information and with reports from international meetings that are relevant for the industry. Apart from promoting and developing uniform standards among the registries, it becomes possible this way to provide a platform that can actively promote the interests of its members. nic.at gets involved in specialized meetings and in the board: CEO Richard Wein is an elected CENTR Treasurer.
„Encouraging exchange, identifying trends, getting helpful suggestions and working out solutions together – these are my benefits of CENTR Admin meetings.“
IETF - Internet Engineering Task Force
As an international voluntary union of network technicians, manufacturers, network operators, researchers and users, the standardization committee of the Internet ensures the technological improvement of the Internet, like for instance the current revision or redevelopment of Internet protocol. standards. In their meetings, which take place several times a year, specific technical issues are approached by work groups. nic.at is also represented in this work groups, for example in the person of Alexander Mayrhofer, who is the head of nic.at’s R&D and the author of 7 RCSs (Requests for Comment).
„I find it fascinating to take part in the global technical evolution of the Internet. We define standards that are not visible for the Internet user, but might become the basis for completely new things in the near future.“
RIPE NCC - RIPE Network Coordination Centre
As an independent non-profit organization the RIPE Network Coordination Centre provides important facilities, registry services and coordination activities that support the functionality of the Internet. This includes the coordination of assigning IP-addresses and AS-numbers in Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia. Furthermore, RIPE also takes part in activities that can be defined as Internet Governance. These activities include working with the technical community, governments, regulators, executive bodies and the civil society. As one of five Regional Internet Registries (RiRs), RIPE plays a central role in the maintenance and development of Internet standards.
„RIPE meetings are focused on current trends and policies regarding address management. This makes it an important industry meeting for us, where most ISPs and registries are represented. We also take part in RIPE monitoring projects like the RIPE Atlas.“
ITU - International Telecommunications Union
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which is a special organization of the United Nations, addresses the technical aspects of telecommunication. Its duties are to control and improve the international cooperation in communications, for instance through internationally assigning and registering broadcasting and receiving frequencies or regulating the use of frequencies. As these regulations currently only affect telephony, some countries also want to apply them to the Internet. This step is disputed internationally, especially by the USA and Europe.