The US government will give up control of the internet’s domain name system on October 1. It’s a largely symbolic move at this point though has provoked some political criticism.
Since 1988, DNS – translating web addresses to IP addresses – has been overseen by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority. That’s a department of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a private non-profit organization that takes care of all sorts of databases and systems that keep the internet running such as assigning blocks of IP addresses and overseeing top-level domains.
Until now, ICANN has been running the DNS under a contract from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, an agency of the US Department of Commerce. That meant that technically the US government had the final say over the DNS management. From October that contract will end and the US will voluntarily hand over full control to ICANN.
The BBC notes that the US has chosen the ICANN option rather than follow the suggestion of China and Russia to put DNS under the control of the United Nations.
The October 1 date is no coincidence. It comes the day after the expiry of a Congressional budget measure that explicitly stops the US government using public money towards the handover, which in effect made it impossible. That was driven by Republican politicians who argue the move risks hostile foreign governments getting too much power over the Internet’s workings – something that ICANN says is not the case given the way it operates.