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By Ann Glynn – President/CEO Southern Jewelers Guild
How many times a day do you think about the Internet? Not about things that you actually do when you get on the Internet, such as checking your e-mail, social media feeds or searching for recipes or breaking news, but the actual backbone that delivers all of this relevant information seamlessly at your fingertips?
The Internet began more than 50 years ago under the direction of President Dwight D. Eisenhower as part of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA). ARPA was created as a direct response to Sputnik’s launch, and its purpose was to give the United States a technological edge over other countries.
While United States “born” technologies such as the telephone, windshield wipers and the dishwasher were all products of a single “inventor,” there is no single inventor of the Internet.
Why is tracing the roots of the Internet back to confirm the relevance of its roots important? Politics!
Over the last decade, there has been a push from global organizations to force the United States to turn over control of the Internet. Yet the truth is, one of the biggest factors in why the Internet has been so successful is because the United States government has been hands off when it comes to free speech and content oversight.
Today, there are a clamor of loud voices from countries looking to lock down the Internet with international regulations and governance. Countries such as Russia, China, Turkey and a number of countries with a large Muslim-based population are now open in their desire to limit free speech on the Internet, particularly when it comes to content, images and communications that they find offensive.
If you’re wondering why I am sharing all of this with you, it’s because I know the vast majority of people who use the Internet on a daily basis to communicate, consume information and transact business, are not aware of the current issues surrounding its stability for the future. This is my chance to inform you and empower you to take the necessary steps to help keep the Internet under United States oversight.
Right now, there are four leading Congressional figures who are questioning the legal right to transfer control of the key technical functions of the Internet outside of the United States government. In a recent letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), chair of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary Charles Grassley, chair of House Committee on the Judiciary Bob Goodlatte, Congressman Darrell Issa, and Senator Ted Cruz have asked the powerful government regulator to decide on the legal status of the Internet’s “root zone file.”
These politicians make note of the fact that the root zone file, the Internet’s main address book, is designated as a national IT asset by the federal government. As such, they are arguing that its creation was “funded by the American taxpayer and coordinated by the Department of Defense.”
In theory, any government (including the United States), through the IANA root zone file, could cripple portions of the Internet with the simple use of a keyboard. This could be done to advance a government interest or to achieve a political goal. This has never happened under US control, so why are so many other countries, including countries who don’t believe in the power of free speech, working with the United Nations to force the US government to give up its stewardship of the root zone file?
I cannot express to you the seriousness of the this situation. The potential harm to American interests, both in terms of national security as well as American commerce, is unmistakable. Think about what might happen if, once the root zone file is no longer in US control, there was a decision by an international foreign body to transfer oversight of the “.mil” domain that is currently used by our Department of Defense, to Russia, or if the “.gov” which is the extension assigned to our federal government, was transferred to China to manage? Under the current White House plan, this transfer would allow for that, and more, to happen, and the United States government would have no authority to stop it.
So what can you do? Make your voice heard. Call your congressmen and senators and demand that they work to protect the integrity of the Internet and stop the transition. If you are a member of Jewelers of America, please call and ask them to contact any one of the four leading congressional figures who are questioning the legality of this transfer, and offer support on behalf of the jewelry industry so that stewardship of the Internet will remain in the hands of the United States.
If you have additional questions about how the Internet transition might affect you, or what steps you can take to help make your voice heard on this issue, please feel free to e-mail me at Ann@SouthernJewelersGuild.com for more information.