With just 10 days to spare, the U.S. Department of Commerce Friday extended
its “contract” with the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers
(ICANN) for one more year.
Through a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) approved by the Commerce
Department on Nov. 25, 1998, the U.S. government recognized ICANN as a
private-sector not-for-profit corporation responsible for technical
coordination and policy development for the Internet, especially in regard
to the domain name system (DNS) and control of the U.S. root server
(management of .com, .net and .org, among others). Twice already, the MOU
has been extended by the Commerce Department for one-year periods, and it
was set to expire on Sept. 30, 2002.
Friday’s approval extends ICANN’s responsibility until Sept. 30, 2003, and
also makes a number of modifications to the initial MOU.
Under the new deal, ICANN will work with the DoC to develop formal legal
agreements with the regional Internet address registries in order to better
incorporate their policy-development activities into the ICANN process.
ICANN will also provide quarterly reports to the DOC beginning Dec. 31,
DoC also called on ICANN to continue its efforts to improve its
transparency and accountability measures, as well as to support informed
participation in the ICANN community. It also charged ICANN with continuing
to collaborate with it to study and plan an enhanced root-server system
architecture, and to keep up its efforts to develop stable agreements with
country code top-level domain (ccTLD) operators.
ICANN’s continued official role was in some doubt until the DoC made its
announcement Friday. The National Telecommunications and Information
Administration (NTIA), the DoC office which interfaces with ICANN, has
ostensibly been talking with Internet advocacy groups and Congressional
members over ICANN’s fate. In a July 2002 open letter to M. Stuart Lynn,
ICANN president, Nancy Victory, an assistant secretary at the NTIA, stated
the DoC would consider whether “ICANN has clarified its mission and
responsibilities, and reformed its decision-making processes to provide for
transparency and accountability,
the views of all Internet stakeholders to be heard, and an effective
advisory role for governments.”
ICANN has been a magnet for controversy almost since its inception, which
has caused it to spend the past year working out