Feds head to Brazil to talk Internet control

Officials from the Departments of Commerce and State are headed to Brazil this week to discuss the future of Internet governance.

While attending the NETMundial conference in Brazil this week, the federal officials will discuss Internet governance issues, which will include working on a plan for the U.S. government to relinquish its oversight role of the technical side of the Internet's Web address system. 

The group going includes White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniels, Commerce Department Assistant Secretary Larry Strickling and Ambassador Daniel Sepulveda from the State Department, according to a blog post from the Commerce and State Departments published Monday.

The meeting in Brazil comes after the Commerce Department announced earlier this year that it would be relinquishing its oversight role of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), which manages the technical side of the domain name system.

While some considered the move a good step toward a more global Internet, critics — including Republicans in Congress — said it could open the door for oppressive governments to limit free speech online.

The IANA is currently managed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) under a contract with the U.S. government that must be renewed every two years. The current contract expires in September 2015.

Under the Commerce Department's plans, ICANN will convene global Internet stakeholders to plan the transition of IANA oversight away from the U.S. government.

Planning for that transition began at an ICANN meeting in Singapore last month and is set to continue at NETMundial this week.

In the blog post, officials said they "will try to construct a roadmap for the evolution of the existing multi-stakeholder system of Internet governance to increase its inclusiveness, transparency and responsiveness to the needs of underrepresented communities."

The post echoes the government's defense of the decision to transition IANA oversight away from the U.S. government.

"Along with most of the world’s Internet advocates and users, we believe that no one stakeholder or group of stakeholders, including governments, should have control over the operation or protocols of the Internet or the creativity, innovation, and freedom of expression that it enables," the group of U.S. officials wrote.

The Brazilian government called for the NETMundial meeting last year to address concerns raised by recent revelations about U.S. Internet surveillance. Those attending the meeting will also draft a set of general Internet governance principles, which is available online for public comment.  

-- This post was updated at 6:00 p.m.