ICANN Beginning to Smell Control

UPDATED: The U.S. Department of Commerce (DoC) agreed to relax its control over the
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) as part of a new
contract to replace the “highly prescriptive” one that expired Saturday.

Under the three-year deal, ICANN, whose chief job is allocating IP addresses, will have more freedom from the government, whose influences many critics felt were not always with those of the Internet community.

ICANN said in a statement it “will no longer have its work prescribed for
it. How it works and what it works on is up to ICANN and its community to

For example, ICANN is not required to report every six months as it has been
under the previous agreement. There is also no requirement to report
regularly to the DOC.

The group will now publish an annual report for the Internet community.

The deal puts ICANN that much closer to being a private-sector entity with
“multi-stakeholder management,” said ICANN President and CEO Paul Twomey.

“ICANN has secured an agreement that recognizes it as being responsible for
the management of the Internet’s system of unique identifiers on an ongoing
basis. It means ICANN is more autonomous.”

The deal, which runs through 2009, garnered praise from the European Union
Commissioner for Information Society and Media Viviane Reding, whose
division has for years opposed governmental control over ICANN.

“I welcome the U.S. government’s declared intention to grant more autonomy to
ICANN and to end its governmental oversight of the day-to-day management of
the Internet over the next three years,” Reding said in a statement obtained by

Reding said the agreement takes ICANN one step “towards full private sector
management of the Internet,” and noted that the EU believes ICANN is the
best party positioned to determine Internet governance issues.

“The European Commission will follow closely ICANN’s transition to full
independence in the next three years,” Reding added.

“With our advice, we
will contribute to this transition to ensure that it takes place
transparently, reflecting the interests of industry and civil society

While the new deal should satisfy ICANN’s desire for more freedom to govern
the Web, it could be a concern for some U.S. representatives who may feel the deal puts ICANN one step closer to leaving the purview of the U.S.

For example, at a recent meeting between ICANN and the U.S. Senate, U.S.
Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) said
ICANN should remain under the watchful eye of the U.S.

Upton said ICANN
needs to be closely monitored and that the U.S. government is the best
watchdog for this task.

Critics from other countries distrust the U.S.’s influence and feel that
ICANN should be put under the auspices of the United Nations.

The agreement is also the second contract renewal in as many months between
ICANN and the DOC.

In August, the parties renewed a
pact for ICANN to continue managing IP addresses, protocol identifiers, and
managing generic (gTLD) and country code (ccTLD) Top-Level Domain name
systems and root servers.

The five-year deal ensures that ICANN will continue to
preside over the Domain Name System, a kind of Internet postal service
that lets Web-connected computers find each other and pass along e-mail
messages and Web pages.

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