The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) enjoys an undeserved obscurity. Its global powers and the consequences of its decisions for businesses large and small need to be more widely understood. This post briefly describes a handful of the essential facts.
1. ICANN is the Internet’s unseen regulator It is a canard that no one regulates the Internet. By technical necessity, a single global authority must coordinate and manage certain functions in order for every node on the Internet to communicate with every other. That authority is ICANN. Among other powers it holds because of a contract with the U.S. government, ICANN coordinates domain names and Internet Protocol addresses, operates the Internet root zone and conducts policy development related to these functions. No other organization in the world possesses these powers. Even though ICANN exercises its authority through contractual agreements rather than through direct regulation, the effect is no different. ICANN’s unique authority allows it to set the terms by which access to the Internet is available.