DoC Set To Renew Vows with ICANN

The Commerce Department is getting ready to officially bless the “contract”
extension of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers
(ICANN), with the announcement expected as early as this afternoon.

Nancy Victory, an assistant secretary at the National Telecommunications
and Information Administration (NTIA), told reporters at a conference call
Friday the Department of Commerce would likely extend ICANN’s several
memorandum of understanding (MOU) “with modifications.”

These MOUs were set to expire Sept. 30, and until Victory talked to
reporters, NTIA officials have been mum on any word regarding ICANN’s
fate. The NTIA, a Department of Commerce office, has oversight control
over ICANN, which was given control of the U.S. root server (management of
.com, .net and .org, among others) in 1998.

Mary Hewitt, an ICANN spokesperson, said she expects official confirmation
very soon, maybe as soon as later today or Thursday.

“We’re still hammering out the details and proceeding on our reform
process,” Hewitt said, but didn’t know if the NTIA would officially extend
the MOUs until Victory’s pre-emptive conference call.

“Given that Nancy (Victory) has said she wants to get the extension out as
soon as possible before the Sept. 30 deadline, and her talk with reporters
last week, I surmise the announcement will be imminent — as early as today
or (Thursday) or Friday.”

The NTIA 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, Victory 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.”

Clyde Ensslin, a spokesperson for the NTIA, wasn’t able to confirm when an
announcement might be released.

“What we have said is that we will make the announcement on or before Sept.
30,” he said, though there is a “possibility it could happen this week.”

In related news, ICANN has once again delayed its selection of a new .org
registry winner. The decision by an ICANN committee to support the
Internet Society’s (ISOC) bid has come under fire by the other 10 bidders
in the process, who say the review criteria was misleading and the results
inconsistent.

Hewitt said a final decision would be made tomorrow or Friday at the
latest; the decision to delay the announcement came as a result of a lot of
last-minute feedback from bidders. The final decision of the ICANN staff
was originally scheduled for Sept. 5, with ICANN board of director approval
in “late September,” and has been moved back several times.

Concerns the tardy selection could affect the .org domain space and cut off
millions of domain names are overblown, she said. VeriSign , the current .org owner, could conceivably shut down after its
contract with ICANN expires Dec. 30.

“I’m sure VeriSign would be willing to work with the transition of the .org
name to whoever is selected,” she said.

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