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ICANN Critics Launch New Attack

Critics of the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers Thursday are turning up their attacks on the group established last summer to take over control of the Internet's domain system from the U.S. government.

The trouble began last week when an alert reader spotted a notice in the Commerce Business Daily, the publication that carries bid soliticitations for government contracts.

The ad revealed ICANN had quietly made arrangements with the government--specifically the National Institute of Standards and Technology--to pay for the salaries of up to six people current working for the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, ICANN's predecessor.

Although the issue might seem small to some, to ICANN's critics, the financing arrangement is the latest example of the group's lack of openness.

"I must assume that they hoped they could sneak this by without any of us finding out. But they were wrong because it's the Internet and you can't be closed on the Internet," said Gordon Cook, publisher of The Cook Report, a technology newsletter.

Cook posted news of the financing arrangement on several mailing lists Wednesday night. Cook accuses ICANN's board of hiding behind a provision in the group's bylaws that allows it to conduct closed meetings.

He said Esther Dyson, ICANN's interim chairperson, has repeatedly asked detractors not to focus on ICANN's processes but instead to concentrate on the results it produces. Cook said that philosophy is unacceptable, because there's too much at stake in ICANN's decisions.

"I think ICANN will turn into the first regulatory body for the Internet. It is set up so it can do pretty much what it wants. As long as they refuse to answer questions and as long as we don't know who did what in putting them together, we had better keep our guards up," he said.

Neither Dyson nor any other ICANN chief could be reached for comment.