The political economy of country code top level domains

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Information Management and Technology


Lee W. McKnight


Internet governance, Regime theory, ccTLDs, Political economy, Country code top level domains

Subject Categories

Communication | Library and Information Science | Mass Communication | Social and Behavioral Sciences


On the Internet, the identity of each nation is represented through country code top-level domain names ("ccTLDs"). Country codes were managed by non-state actors until the late 90's. Since the late 90's, governments started to emerge as threatening power to the non-state actors as competitive power to manage the ccTLDs.

This study is built upon regime theory. The ICANN regime was created by the US government to manage the domain name system in 1998. Unlike other international regimes, the ICANN regime recognizes non-state actors as decision-makers while relegating state actors to an advisory role. The ICANN regime promotes the norm of less state control and the norm of global market orientation.

This study investigated thirty one OECD ccTLDs including European Union's .EU and four ccTLDs of Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) and analyzed the thirty five ccTLD actors' reactions to the ICANN's global market orientation norm and the thirty five GAC actors reactions to the ICANN's less state control norm. Data about the thirty five ccTLDs was collected through interviews with thirty five ccTLD administrative contacts and thirty five Governmental Advisory Committee representatives in Lisbon in March 2007 and in Los Angeles in October 2007.

This study found that ccTLDs that actively participated in the ICANN regime are more likely to comply with the ICANN's norm of global market orientation. However, governmental actors who participate in the ICANN regime are more likely to assert greater levels of state control over their ccTLD, thus not complying with the ICANN's norm of less state control over ccTLDs. The state actor regime leaders such as the United States', the European Union's and Australia's noncompliance with the ICANN's norm is burden for the immature ICANN regime in sustaining itself.

The contribution of my study is (1) to introduce ccTLD as research agenda with market and state analysis, (2) to enrich regime theory by introducing non-state actors such as ccTLD managers as decision-makers together with the traditional decision-makers, state actors, in the ccTLD regime and (3) to make contribution to the ongoing global debate on Internet Governance.


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