Generally, we like to keep a low profile - unless there's a problem. HWB's
basically correct about the history. Let me explain my current
understanding of where everything sits. Keep in mind at least parts of
this have been disputed even within the US feds. Also, the dates and
details may be a little off.
The number space began life as a part of the ARPA "toy" internet. The
number space was managed by the NIC at SRI under a contract with the
Defense Communications Agency (which was managing the ARPANet under an
agreement with ARPA) until that contract was recompeted in '88. At that
time the numberspace management was transfered to the Internic under a
contract (cooperative agreement) with NSF. At this point the DOD basically
transfered "ownership" of the number to the Federal Networking Council
(actually, it may have been to its predecessor the FRICC - I don't remember
the timing). The understanding was that the DOD would continue to have
first call on the number space IF they needed it, but that block and other
delegations would be done by the Internic in consultation with the IANA,
EOWG, IEPG etc. As new schemes have come into being (e.g. subnetting,
CIDR) the gov't folks have basically ratified (mostly by silence) the use
of the space. The deal with the DOD having first call on the space was to
ensure that the DOD didn't give away the space and then have to start
paying for it. The deal today is that the FNC (as the representative US
organization) continues to own the space, but chooses to limit its control
over the space to issues (e.g. paying for numbers) that it considers
critical. Although the Internic performs the registrar function it does
this as an agent of the US Gov't and does not own the space nor does it own
the registration data. The registration function (at the top level
delegation) for numbers has been funded by the US Gov't since its inception
- first by ARPA and DOD, then by NSF.
The name space is another matter. In approx 1986, as a result of the
growth of the HOSTTABLE (can you believe all the names on the used to fit
into one file?) the Internet began the deployment of the DNS system. (The
internet at this time was about 50 networks total). At this time of its
life, the majority of hosts on the internet were still connected through
either the ARPANet or the MILNet - the growth of the NSFNet centric
internet was yet to come. The initial DNS deployment was limited to the
non-country TLDs (e.g. MIL, COM, GOV, EDU, NET, ORG - INT came later) -
this was corrected rapidly with the introduction of the country TLDs. All
of the TLDs were considered "undelegated" at the time. Shortly after this
deployment started, I wrote the policies for the .MIL domain which limited
registrations to the US DOD and described the rules for second level
registrations (e.g. independent service or agency such as ARMY or Joint
Chiefs of Staff - JCS) - this was the first delegation of the non-country
TLDs. Keep in mind, the registration function was still vested at the SRI
NIC which was being paid for mainly by the Defense Data Network program at
DCA with some contributions from ARPA related to ARPANet operational costs.
Its unclear whether DCA or ARPA would claim ownership of the root domain,
but it definitely vested within the US DOD. Ownership of the root domain
was transfered to the FNC at the same time as the numberspace was
transfered and upon recompetition of the NIC contract the registration
function for root and the undelegated TLDs was transfered to the Internic.
Registrations within .MIL transfered at the same time, but this was due to
the fact the DDN NIC contract was won by the same organizations.
The third delegation of a TLD was made circa '88 - EDU to the NSF (INT was
made to ARPA previous to this, but that's a very long story) in keeping
with its mission and connections program goals. .GOV was also delegated at
this time - to the US Gov't. The FNC finally issued a policy RFC covering
the .GOV registrations this year. At this time, COM, ORG and NET remain
undelegated at this time which basically places policy control for them
under the root authority which remains with the FNC. The notes above about
ownership of the Internic database etc apply here as well.
I was a program analyst at the Defense Data Network Program Management
office at DCA from 85 to 89. As such, I was responsible for the NIC
contract and directing the technical work there. The GOV, EDU, MIL and INT
domains were delegated at my direction at that time - Steve Wolff at NSF
agreed to accept policy control over EDU at NSF at that time. I currently
sit on the FNC exec committee.
All of the above notwithstanding the general mode of operation has been to
let the community work out the issues as they occur. Unfortunately,
sometimes the gov't has had to make decisions and give directions to its
contracts, either without community input or against community
recommendations due either to legal, financial or other issues. The feds
continue to fund the Internic and the IANA and have fiduciary and program
responsibilities due to this.
Please! Take all of the above with a grain of salt - my general feeling is
that the feds feel they are holding the numbers and namespace in trust for
the community and really do have the internets best interests (e.g.
continued operation) at heart.