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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 August 2006, 16:44 GMT 17:44 UK
Net's ruling body renews US links
Network cables, BBC
Icann looks after many of the net's basic functions
The US looks set to maintain its role as ultimate supervisor of the net's addressing systems until 2011.

The US Department of Commerce has signed a five-year deal with administrative body Icann that renews the body's role overseeing net domains.

Icann oversees the growing range of generic domain names such as .com as well as country codes such as .uk.

Icann's role and its link with the US have come under scrutiny during wrangles over a porn-specific domain.

Contract clause

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) was formed in 1998 as the net started to become a more global phenomenon. It took on many of the basic net functions formerly run by the US government.

Icann administers the net's master address books that help computers turn the names people use and understand, such as google.com, into a numerical form that computers can use.

In the last year Icann's role has become more contentious as more organisations have demanded a say in the way it makes its decisions.

Icann has rejected a proposal to create a porn-only domain, .xxx, and some suspect that politics played a role in the decision.

In July 2006, an official from the US Department of Commerce said it was still "committed" to turning Icann into a private organisation. Some suspected this might have happened on 30 September 2006 when Icann's current contract to run the net's addressing systems expired.

Any moves towards Icann becoming independent may not now take place until 2011.

However, clauses in the contract say that the agreement between the two must be renewed every year. Pressure from other organisations may mean that the ties between Icann and the US are cut before 2011.

A spokesman for Icann said discussions between Icann and the US over the net body's status were "ongoing".

November sees the first meeting of the Internet Governance Forum which grew out of international attempts to have more of a say in how the net is overseen.

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