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ICANN Moves Toward Self-Rule

Executives from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) are inching closer to a new era of self-government apart from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Speaking from the Shangri-La Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, during ICANN's tri-annual meeting Monday, Vint Cerf, ICANN chairman, said seven of the 24 tasks needed to move ICANN's operations out of the hands of the U.S. government are complete.

"We've made significant progress in the time since the most recent amendment between the DoC and ICANN, but plainly we still have a lot of work to do," he said.

Paul Twomey, ICANN's CEO, said the list of tasks involved in the governance shift would be posted within the next 24 hours.

ICANN, a private company established in October 1998 to shepherd the technical aspects of the U.S. root server, which includes the globally-popular .com, .net and .org domain names, and ensure its safety and stability, is set to take the reins of control in September 2006.

The agreement was brokered in September 2003 with the U.S. Department of Commerce's (DoC) National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), the agency that originally contracted ICANN. If ICANN fulfills all the guidelines, it will become a self-governing international entity with full control of the U.S. root server infrastructure.

ICANN's meeting in Kuala Lumpur is a global get-together of government agencies, private business and Internet users. One of the topics sure to dominate talks is ICANN's current budget proposal, which has met with considerable opposition from a group of small registrars around the world.

In May, the organization significantly increased the revenues it collects from businesses who sell top-level domain (TLD) names, in some cases from $4,000 to $23,000.

The 76 registrars, mainly small organizations located outside the U.S., banded together to protest the fee increase; ICANN executives maintain the budget increases are necessary to complete the tasks laid out by the DoC.

The protest group launched a Web site at and proposed an alternative budget that its leader, Bhavin Turakhia, said would bring in the revenues ICANN is looking for, while easing costs for smaller registrars.

Twomey said he and ICANN staffers have been in constant talks with the group and made some "minor changes" to the proposed budget, though details will not be available for another day.

"The registrars are increasingly coming around to the model we're developing and we're very close to the support we require from the registrars for this to go straight through to the board [for final approval]," Twomey said.

According to Turakhia, the agreements made with ICANN dealt specifically with putting caps on any possible fee hikes in the next three years: The per-transaction fee of 25 cents for every domain name added, removed or changed will remain fixed; registrars won't have to share the costs for more than $3.8 million in the annual budget; and registrars will never have to individually pay more than $20,000 for the annual registrar fee.

"While we're still not completely happy and satisfied, but it is still better off than we had before and I do believe there is a possibility of approving it and moving forward with [the proposed budget]," he said. "The very fact this many modifications within such a short duration of time is a positive sign."