RealTime IT News

DoC Set To Renew Vows with ICANN

The Commerce Department is getting ready to officially bless the "contract" extension of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), with the announcement expected as early as this afternoon.

Nancy Victory, an assistant secretary at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), told reporters at a conference call Friday the Department of Commerce would likely extend ICANN's several memorandum of understanding (MOU) "with modifications."

These MOUs were set to expire Sept. 30, and until Victory talked to reporters, NTIA officials have been mum on any word regarding ICANN's fate. The NTIA, a Department of Commerce office, has oversight control over ICANN, which was given control of the U.S. root server (management of .com, .net and .org, among others) in 1998.

Mary Hewitt, an ICANN spokesperson, said she expects official confirmation very soon, maybe as soon as later today or Thursday.

"We're still hammering out the details and proceeding on our reform process," Hewitt said, but didn't know if the NTIA would officially extend the MOUs until Victory's pre-emptive conference call.

"Given that Nancy (Victory) has said she wants to get the extension out as soon as possible before the Sept. 30 deadline, and her talk with reporters last week, I surmise the announcement will be imminent -- as early as today or (Thursday) or Friday."

The NTIA has ostensibly been talking with Internet advocacy groups and Congressional members over ICANN's fate. In a July 2002 open letter to M. Stuart Lynn, ICANN president, Victory stated the DOC would consider whether "ICANN has clarified its mission and responsibilities, and reformed its decision-making processes to provide for transparency and accountability, the views of all Internet stakeholders to be heard, and an effective advisory role for governments."

Clyde Ensslin, a spokesperson for the NTIA, wasn't able to confirm when an announcement might be released.

"What we have said is that we will make the announcement on or before Sept. 30," he said, though there is a "possibility it could happen this week."

In related news, ICANN has once again delayed its selection of a new .org registry winner. The decision by an ICANN committee to support the Internet Society's (ISOC) bid has come under fire by the other 10 bidders in the process, who say the review criteria was misleading and the results inconsistent.

Hewitt said a final decision would be made tomorrow or Friday at the latest; the decision to delay the announcement came as a result of a lot of last-minute feedback from bidders. The final decision of the ICANN staff was originally scheduled for Sept. 5, with ICANN board of director approval in "late September," and has been moved back several times.

Concerns the tardy selection could affect the .org domain space and cut off millions of domain names are overblown, she said. VeriSign , the current .org owner, could conceivably shut down after its contract with ICANN expires Dec. 30.

"I'm sure VeriSign would be willing to work with the transition of the .org name to whoever is selected," she said.