Skip Links

Commerce chief faces 5 Internet emergencies

DNS security, ICANN relationship top Obama nominee Locke’s Internet policy agenda

By , Network World
February 26, 2009 01:50 PM ET

Network World -
If former Washington State Gov. Gary Locke (D) is confirmed as the new U.S. Commerce Secretary, he'll face several Internet policy issues that require immediate attention and decisive action in 2009.

Locke's advocates say he's up to the task. The Business Software Alliance on Wednesday hailed Locke as having knowledge and experience in the most important issues facing U.S. high-tech companies.

"Governor Locke showed a strong understanding of information technology's role in our economy and society," BSA says. "Locke also has a strong record in advancing free and fair trade, with an especially strong knowledge of China and other emerging economies."

One challenge for Locke is appointing a forward-thinking, tech-savvy leader for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which is the arm of Commerce that handles most Internet infrastructure-related issues.

NTIA oversees issues related to the Domain Name System, which matches domain names with corresponding IP addresses. NTIA also has contractual relationships with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the non-profit organization that coordinates DNS-related issues, and VeriSign, which operates DNS root servers and the popular .com and .net domains.

"The most important thing for transition is for the new leadership to get a handle of the core functions of NTIA, which include authorizing changes to the DNS authoritative root and overseeing the entire NTIA, ICANN, VeriSign triangle," says John Kneuer, a former NTIA administrator for President George W. Bush who operates a public policy advisory group in Washington D.C.

"Responsibility for the DNS along with spectrum management for critical government functions are the most important things that NTIA does," Kneuer said.

Kneuer says a key challenge for the new Commerce Secretary and NTIA director will be to stay focused on Internet infrastructure issues despite the push to spend $7.2 billion in broadband infrastructure grants included in the Obama Administration's economic stimulus package.

Internet issues "are going to be competing with the more high-profile things that NTIA is being called upon to do. The broadband infrastructure grants and DTV will demand a lot of attention from grant applicants and members of Congress," Kneuer says. "These are all very important, but they aren't as important as making sure the core Internet infrastructure works."

Kneuer says the new Commerce leadership team needs to understand the consensus-based process that NTIA and ICANN use to operate the DNS.

NTIA must "continue the role that the U.S. government has played as a back-stop for ICANN to make sure that ICANN is transparent, fully functional and responsive to all constituent voices," Kneuer says. "It's going to be important for NTIA to keep an appropriate focus on these core functions when there are going to be a lot of competing issues."

Here are five issues related to Internet infrastructure that Locke will need to address as soon as he takes office:

Our Commenting Policies
Latest News
rssRss Feed
View more Latest News