Fed Up With ICANN, Chinese to Launch Alternate Internet

Matt O'Conner
SHANGHAI — China The Chinese government announced the radical step of adjusting the country’s domain name system with four country-code Top-Level Domains (TLDs), three of which will use Chinese characters.

As of March 1, .CN will be the only English-language TLD used in the Chinese system, alongside the Chinese characters for .china, .com and .net.

The policy strikes a direct blow at ICANN and the U.S. continued dominance over international issues of Internet governance. Specifically, Internet users will no longer have to surf the web via servers under the management of ICANN.

“In other words, the Chinese Internet becomes a reality tomorrow,” Dr. Michael Geist, the Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, said. “With it, the rules of the game may change, as 110 million Internet users will suddenly have access to a competing .com.”

While the announcement was abrupt, China’s frustration with ICANN and the U.S. is nothing new.

Many delegates have complained that California-based ICANN, under authority of the U.S. Commerce Department, unfairly dominates the website addressing system through its control of the Internet’s root servers.

Countries like China, Iran, Cuba, Brazil, Denmark and many others have argued that the U.S. has an unfair influence over the Internet and that control of the web should be shared more equally with the rest of the world.

For it’s part, the U.S. has met all criticism with loud proclamations that it does not intend to cede authority or make concessions any time soon. In fact, there has been no credible threat to the U.S. authority because no other country has stepped up to create an alternate root.

”This week's announcement certainly doesn’t mark the end of a global interoperable Internet,” Geist said. “It does move one step further toward that path since, in Internet governance terms, the credible threat is now real.”