Every open source project, and most closed source projects, depend on the Internet and its Domain Name Service (DNS) servers.
Management of the most important servers, those for .com, and .net, are currently contracted-out by ICANN to Verisign. Until this week it was assumed that ICANN would in time become independent of the U.S. NTIA (part of the Commerce Department) once it met certain conditions.
In a startling about-face, however, the U.S. government has announced that won't happen. The statement was delivered by assistant secretary Michael Gallagher to a meeting of the Wireless Communication Association yesterday.
When you cut through the rhetoric, the U.S. has determined that continued control of the Internet is in its vital national interest.
This may not go over like ice cream to the World Summit on the Information Society, now scheduled to meet in Tunisia in November. On the Web site of the UN's International Telecommunication Union are a statement of principles and an action plan that don't match up with U.S. policy.
The danger here is that the ITU could, at some point, create its own DNS root servers, and countries might point to them rather than those of Verisign, at which point the Internet as we know it will cease to exist. Instead we will have at least two, and perhaps more, Internets (a Bush malapropism will become a working reality) and you will only find what you need if the DNS your ISP is using points to it.
As Briton Max Christian wrote to my other blog, this Balkanization is already taking place:
"A high proportion (>50%?) of personal internet sites are on servers in East Asia. Here in London, I can't read most of them because (a) global internet links are slow, and (b) in those countries local last-drop links are much faster than in the west, so the sites are more bandwidth hungry. There's also the question of why China, Japan and Korea's 52.2 million broadband homes aren't, by and large, using the sites we know and love in the west. And this is just the start; as we all know China's internet population will dwarf the US and Europe combined. I haven't fully justified it here, but we already have a them-and-us situation."
Will our children have one Internet to go to, or just the Internet their government lets them go to?