The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the U.S.
Department of Commerce couldn’t be cozier.
ICANN and the DoC this week inked a five-year contract,
renewing a deal in which the nonprofit group had managed technical details
of the Internet since 1998.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it consists of five
ICANN will continue to conduct its Internet Assigned Numbers Authority
(IANA) tasks, which include allocating IP address space,
assigning protocol identifiers, and managing generic (gTLD) and country code
(ccTLD) Top-Level Domain name systems and root servers.
Most importantly, ICANN will continue to preside over the hallowed Domain
Name System, which helps users easily navigate the Web.
The deal underscores the DoC’s faith in ICANN, showing that the government
trusts the California-based group to make the right decisions with regard to
doling out Internet real estate vis-à-vis domain names.
The DoC’s endorsement is also a double-edged sword, lending more firepower
to critics who say ICANN is adding a political charge to what many people
and groups want to remain a loosely ruled, democratic business.
To be sure, ICANN has weathered strong criticisms by groups and pundits who
believe the group has gotten a little too much power in governing the
As recently as May, ICANN’s board of directors voted 9 to 5
against a new .xxx TLD for the Internet after the DoC protested the creation
of the pornography domain name.
ICANN had already delayed its
decision on .xxx after DoC sent an open letter to ICANN Chairman Vint Cerf
asking for a delay on .xxx.
ICANN asserted its rule as Internet manager in 1998 after it secured personnel,
intellectual property and computer facilities for the IANA functions from
the University of Southern California (USC).
USC held the resources under a previous contract with the U.S. government’s
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
The DoC later tabbed
ICANN to continue conducting the IANA functions.