RealTime IT News

DoC Gives ICANN Another Year

With just 10 days to spare, the U.S. Department of Commerce Friday extended its "contract" with the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for one more year.

Through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) approved by the Commerce Department on Nov. 25, 1998, the U.S. government recognized ICANN as a private-sector not-for-profit corporation responsible for technical coordination and policy development for the Internet, especially in regard to the domain name system (DNS) and control of the U.S. root server (management of .com, .net and .org, among others). Twice already, the MOU has been extended by the Commerce Department for one-year periods, and it was set to expire on Sept. 30, 2002.

Friday's approval extends ICANN's responsibility until Sept. 30, 2003, and also makes a number of modifications to the initial MOU.

Under the new deal, ICANN will work with the DoC to develop formal legal agreements with the regional Internet address registries in order to better incorporate their policy-development activities into the ICANN process. ICANN will also provide quarterly reports to the DOC beginning Dec. 31, 2002.

DoC also called on ICANN to continue its efforts to improve its transparency and accountability measures, as well as to support informed participation in the ICANN community. It also charged ICANN with continuing to collaborate with it to study and plan an enhanced root-server system architecture, and to keep up its efforts to develop stable agreements with country code top-level domain (ccTLD) operators.

ICANN's continued official role was in some doubt until the DoC made its announcement Friday. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the DoC office which interfaces with ICANN, 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, Nancy Victory, an assistant secretary at the NTIA, 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."

ICANN has been a magnet for controversy almost since its inception, which has caused it to spend the past year working out reforms.