ICANN Tackles Future of Internet

Amid brewing controversies, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ 25th International meeting officially opened on Monday in Wellington, New Zealand.

The meeting, which runs through March 31, brings together members from the technical community, business and government to discuss the management and future of the Internet.

But some members of ICANN have made it clear that they don’t like the way the organization is conducting business, saying that ICANN is more concerned about wooing big business and government than serving ordinary Internet users.

In a recent open letter, the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, a long-time supporter of ICANN, said that its Board of Directors “have grown increasingly concerned with ICANN’s departure from a number of its core values” and wants ICANN to focus on “accountability, internal processes and transparency.” CIRA has suspended its involvement with ICANN and refuses to host or sponsor any ICANN events until ICANN “revises its policies and practices.”

During the opening sessions of the Wellington meeting a spokesman for ICANN’s ALAC committee, an advisory board that handles concerns of the general public, accused ICANN of losing touch with its philosophical “roots.”

Some of the dissent may be ironed out in more than 30 meetings and workshops scheduled this week. The agenda features discussions about ICANN”s Strategic Plan for 2006-2009 and about community involvement in Internet issues,

Also scheduled is a public meeting of ICANN’s Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC), which will analyze the stability and security of the Internet’s Domain Name System (DNS). SSAC will also examine recent Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks on the DNS system and suggest near- and long-term measures to reduce the threat of similar attacks.

The DNS system acts as a sort of address book for global Internet services, translating URLS such as InternetNews.com into the strings of numbers, such as, that computers can understand.

In a press conference on Monday, Paul Twomey, president and CEO of ICANN said, “We anticipate a very productive meeting in Wellington. Particularly important will be discussions relating to the GAC, which we hope will continue to evolve and play an increasingly significant role as the voice of international governments in our public-private partnership.”

Twomey also said rumors of China creating a separate DNS system that would provide another “route” to the Internet were incorrect.

The rumor was evidently sparked by a vague report in China’s “People’s Daily Online” news, which gave some the impression that China was replacing the standard format .com and .net with its own system of domain names in response to discontent over ICANN’s management of the global DNS system.

Instead, the Chinese added a new Chinese-language “.mil” domain (military) to the “.cn” root. China has had a system of Chinese character domain names for the past four years, and was simply adjusting the existing structure, Twomey said.

ICANN was expected to vote on the creation of an “.xxx” domain for adult websites this week, but questions have been raised by the U.S. Department of Commerce over perceived differences between the original application for the .xxx domain and the draft contract that is now being considered by ICANN.

The idea was to create a domain that would make it easier for people to filter out adult Web sites in order to ensure they aren’t accessed by children. But the Bush Administration is not in favor of the domain, saying it would create a porn-friendly red light district on the Internet.

The meeting will end with Friday’s Pacifika IT Day,” focused on Internet developments in the Pacific Islands.

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