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House Backs U.S. ICANN Stand

The U.S. House Commerce Committee backed the White House Thursday and emphatically opposed turning over governance of the Internet to the United Nations (U.N.).

In a letter to administration officials, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), chairman of the House Commerce Committee, and ranking member John Dingel1 (D-Mich.) wrote that the "United States should maintain its historic role in authorizing changes or modifications to the authoritative root zone file."

The letter comes just days before a United States delegation heads to Geneva for preparatory meetings prior to next month's U.N. World Summit on the Information Society in Tunisa.

Last month, the European Union (EU) proposed a new model of Internet governance that would remove the United States' control over the Internet naming system in favor of public and private organizations with an international multi-stakeholder forum.

Currently, Internet governance is handled through the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a California-based non-profit with oversight from the U.S. Deptartment of Commerce (DoC).

The new EU proposal is based on recommendations made by the U.N.-sponsored Working Group on Internet Governance (WGIG) in July to establish an Internet governance model that isn't tied specifically to one country, in this case the U.S.

"Given the Internet's importance to the world's economy, it is essential that the underlying domain name system of the Internet remains stable and secure," Barton and Dingell wrote. "As such, the United States should take no action that have the potential to adversely impact the effective and efficient operation of the domain name system."

ICANN provides technical and policy-making support to the Dept. of Commerce, which owns the 13 root servers housing the master index of domain names, including .com, .biz and .us.

An ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee serves as a conduit for individual countries' input to ICANN.

"[ICANN] is the appropriate technical coordinator of the Internet domain name system," the Commerce Committee's letter states. "While improvements continue to be made to the ICANN model, the Bush administration, and specifically the Dept. of Commerce, should continue to maintain strong oversight so that ICANN maintains its focus and meets it core technical mission."

A year from now, ICANN's contract with the DoC will end. The U.S. recently reversed its original position that it would turn over control of the root servers when the contract expires.

In June, the U.S. said it planned to retain veto power over ICANN's management of the Internet.