Communications minister Malcolm Turnbull has described as a "momentous day in the history of the Internet" the announcement by the US Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration that it will end its role in the Domain Name System.
In a statement issued late last week the organisation called on the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) — the non-governmental body that co-ordinates the DNS — to oversee a process that will result in an end to the NTIA's role in overseeing the DNS.
Currently the NTIA administers the authoritative Root Zone file. ICANN's Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, which manages the Root Zone and Internet IP address allocation, operates under contract to the US Department of Commerce. The IANA functions contract will expire in September 2015; the NTIA announcement means there is no intention to renew the contract.
"While largely symbolic the US Government’s role [in the DNS] has aroused more and more controversy and from some quarters animosity," Turnbull wrote in an article published on his personal website. "How could the Internet belong to the world and yet at its very heart be overseen by a contract with the US Government?"
"The [Edward] Snowden revelations about the NSA of course have nothing to do with the administration of the DNS root zone whatsoever but they added to the anxiety about the US Government remaining at the centre of the Internet and gave considerable momentum to the argument that the governance of the Internet should move to a formal inter-governmental level," Turnbull wrote.
Turnbull said he had told ICANN's president, Fadi Chehade, that the Australian government would support the organisation's work to develop a new structure of governance for the DNS.
"A key question is whether the exit of the US Department of Commerce creates a gap that needs to be filled," Turnbull wrote.
"Is ICANN now sufficiently representative, sufficiently trusted that it can manage the DNS root zone, allocate top level domains and country top level domains without oversight other than that which comes internally from its board and the global constituencies they represent?...
"There is a lot of work to do to support ICANN in transitioning to a new model and the Australian Government, committed as it is to a multi-stakeholder system of governance, will work with the Australian and global Internet community including other governments to ensure that the Internet remains free, stable and resilient and continues to be a powerful platform for freedom around the world."