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Commerce Grants ICANN Another Three Years

The Commerce Department and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) Wednesday agreed to extend their Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for three more years to transition management of the Internet domain name and numbering system (DNS) from the U.S. government to the private sector.

Commerce currently serves as the "steward" of critical elements of the DNS while ICANN is the private sector entity responsible for day-to-day management of the system. In November 1998, Commerce entered into the first MOU with ICANN and subsequently the U.S. government and ICANN have signed a series of one-year agreements.

"This agreement between ICANN and the Department of Commerce marks a major milestone in ICANN's history and the process of transition from the historical purely governmental oversight of the Internet to a public/private partnership," said ICANN Chairman Vint Cerf.

According to a Commerce Dept. statement, "While numerous issues and substantial challenges confront ICANN, the organization has made notable progress toward achieving the goals of the MOU in the start-up phase of its existence. The Department and ICANN both now seek to complete the transition of DNS management to the private sector."

ICANN President and CEO Paul Twomey said, "We look forward to working with (Commerce) to complete, within this term, the transition toward privatization that began with the first MOU five years ago. We are pleased that we were able to reach agreementon a term giving us three years to get the job done."

The MOU highlights ICANN's responsibility to ensure the stability of the Internet and foster its globalization. According to the MOU, ICANN will implement an objective process for selecting new Top Level Domains; implement an effective strategy for multi-lingual communications and international outreach; and develop a contingency plan, consistent with the international nature of the internet, to ensure continuity of operations in the event of a severe disruption of operations.

Details of the MOU milestones include:

  • Strategic Plan: By Dec. 31, ICANN will develop a strategic plan that sets forth its goals for securing long-term sustainability of critical DNS management responsibilities, including the necessary corporate structure and financial and personnel resources necessary to meet such responsibilities.
  • Corporate Structure: By March 31, 2004, ICANN will collaborate with Commerce to ensure that ICANN's corporate organizational documents optimally support the policy goal of privatization of the technical management of the DNS.
  • Contingency Plan: By June 30, 2004, ICANN will develop a contingency plan to ensure continuity of operations in the event the corporation incurs a severe disruption of operations, or at least the threat of serious disruption, by reason of its bankruptcy, corporate dissolution, a natural disaster, or other financial, physical or operational event. In conjunction with its efforts in this regard, ICANN will work collaboratively with Commerce to ensure that the plan reflects the international nature of the DNS.
  • Root Server System Security: The root server system forms the critical infrastructure of the DNS by linking domain names to the corresponding numerical addresses. ICANN will formalize its relationship with the root server system operators to enhance the security of the system.
  • Allocation of Numbering Resources: ICANN will enter into agreements with regional Internet registries, which are responsible for allocating numbering resources within their respective geographic regions.
  • Transparency and Accountability: ICANN will continue to develop, test, and implement processes and procedures to improve transparency, efficiency, and timeliness in the consideration and adoption of policies related to technical management of the DNS. In conjunction with this effort, ICANN will take into account the need to accommodate innovation in the provision of DNS services. In addition, ICANN will continue to develop, test, and implement accountability mechanisms.
  • Country Code Top Level Domains: ICANN will continue its efforts to achieve agreements with country code top level domain operators.
  • New Top Level Domains: ICANN will develop, by September 30, 2004, and will implement by December 31, 2004, an appropriate long-term strategy for selecting new top level domains.
  • WHOIS Database: ICANN will assess the operation of the WHOIS databases and implement measures to secure improved accuracy of WHOIS data. In addition, by March 31, 2004, and annually thereafter, ICANN will publish a report providing statistical and narrative information on the InterNIC WHOIS Data Problem Reports system. By November 30, 2004, and annually thereafter, ICANN will publish a report providing statistical and narrative information on the implementation of the ICANN WHOIS Data Reminder Policy. Both reports will contain an evaluation of the impact of these policies on improved accuracy of WHOIS data.
  • Outreach: ICANN will continue to develop, test and implement appropriate mechanisms that foster informed participation in ICANN by the global Internet community, such as providing educational services and fostering information sharing for constituents and promoting best practices among industry segments.