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Privatizing domains won’t change much at all

Flip the switch and the lights go on. Hit the starter button and the engine turns over. Key in an internet domain name and the web page pops open.

How does it all work? Who even thinks about that – until there’s a reason to wonder. Like when something goes wrong. Or when the administration of internet domain names is about to undergo a change.

If you’ve never heard of ICANN – the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers – you may soon enough, as the United States, which has maintained a role in the handling of internet domain names, is about to hand over the last of its functions to the private, non-profit ICANN. If all goes as planned, though, you’ll likely not hear a peep.

Why? Because the change, set to take effect on Oct. 1, will keep things mostly as they’ve been for some time now. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t critics.

One of them, oddly, is Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, the onetime presidential candidate who preached the gospel of conservatism out along the campaign trail. And yet he supports the federal government’s role in assigning and overseeing domain names instead of total privatization of the function. Seems a most anti-conservative position, doesn’t it?

Cruz’s stated objection? Handing the keys to the kingdom to ICANN might well allow other governments to begin to meddle with the internet. Specifically, undue and unwelcome influence from China is feared.

But this is a straw man argument. ICANN has effectively been running the show since the late 1990s, with minimal involvement from the feds. The government, whose role was largely an accident of history, has long been looking for a way to step back.

Two decades of planning seems more than enough.

And the transition that’s about to take place ought surely beat the heck out of what had once been considered an alternative – having the United Nations handle the assigning of internet domain names.

Imagine the influence that China or Russia could have had in that scenario.

The move has been supported by the last three presidential administrations. That should say something. When Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all agree on something – and Ted Cruz opposes it – it’s probably the way to go.

The (Springfield, Mass.) Republican