[discuss] discuss Digest, Vol 3, Issue 67

Milton L Mueller mueller at syr.edu
Tue Feb 18 23:08:15 UTC 2014

Your quotation from the GAO report of 2000 is rather selective. Here is a fuller picture.

"... control over the authoritative root server is not based on any statute or international agreement,..."

" The Department [of Commerce] has no specific statutory obligations to manage the domain name system or to control the authoritative root server."

"Although the U.S. government has supported and funded the development of the domain name system, Congress has not chosen to legislate specifically in this area, nor has it designated an agency to be responsible for it. DOD, NSF, and now the Department have undertaken their activities under their general authorities. "

"In its policy statement [the 1998 White Paper], the Department was announcing that it planned to phase out its management role over the domain name system, a role that the government had assumed when the ARPANET was first developed. Since it is a role not specifically required by statute, the Department was not delegating or transferring a statutory duty when it proposed to transition administrative control over the domain name system to a private entity. The Department undertook its domain name system management responsibilities to carry out the President's directive to support efforts to privatize the domain name system.
Under these circumstances, neither the Department nor any other federal agency is under an explicit statutory obligation to manage the domain name system including control over the authoritative root server."

This last paragraph convinces me that DoC has every right and authority to relinquish its control by simply walking away from the IANA contract when it expires in 2015 and announcing as a matter of policy that the transition referenced in the White Paper is finished. 

I think the allegedly "unclear" nature of the transfer stems from the GAO's lack of confidence in its knowledge of both the technology of the root server system and its history. By supporting the development of the DNS, the U.S. federal government did not create a "property" interest in anything that I can see. It paid people to run a registry but as far as I know it is not claiming a property interest in the root zone data. 

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