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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 July 2006, 07:31 GMT 08:31 UK
US 'may give up' some net control
By Rebecca Morelle
BBC News

Computer (BBC)
Icann manages domain names such as .com

The US has indicated that it may give up some control of net domain names.

The US government currently oversees the net's domain name system through the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann).

But at a hearing on Wednesday a government official said the US was "committed" to the transition to private domain name control".

However, a policy statement issued last year asserted the US would not give up overseeing domain names like .com.

These root domain names include .com, .net and .org.

We remain committed to the private sector management of the domain name system
US government

Icann, a California-based not-for profit company, was given the task of coordinating and managing the domain name system in 1998.

This includes the allocation of internet protocol numbers, the unique number given to every online device, as well as the assignment of domain names and deciding whether root-level names such as .com, .net or .org, can be added to the internet.

Currently the US Commerce Department oversees Icann, and any major changes to the domain name system need to be submitted for approval to the US Commerce Department.

But the deadline for the full privatisation of Icann is 30 September 2006, although the US department has the option to delay the hand-over, and the meeting on Wednesday formed part of the public consultation to determine whether the company is ready to stand alone.

Sea-change

John Kneuer, a representative of the US Commerce Department, told the meeting: "We remain committed to the private sector management of the domain name system."

This seemed to mark a sea-change from a statement issued in June 2005 by the government that asserted the US intended to retain its control of top-level root domain names to preserve the security and stability of the net domain name system.

This caused consternation within the international community when it was announced; with some countries stating they were concerned the US had too much control and suggesting that net oversight should shift to the United Nations or another international organisation.

Ultimately, we would like to see a private sector solution
Emily Taylor, Nominet

And Icann hit controversy again in May 2006, when it rejected a plan for a new .xxx domain name, for sexually explicit sites, a move that some condemned as politically motivated.

Almost 700 people from around the world submitted written evidence to the hearing.

A number of the submissions stated: "No single Government should have a pre-eminent role in internet governance."

While Margarita Valdes, president of the Latin American and Caribbean Top Level Domain Organization, wrote: "The US government needs to lessen its perceived and actual influence on day-to-day operations of Icann and its role with the domain name system."

Transition time-line

But others at the meeting said that while the aim should remain the full privatisation of Icann, the company was not yet ready to become fully sustainable.

Emily Taylor, director of legal and policy at Nominet, the UK internet name registry for domain names ending in .uk, spoke at the hearing.

She told the BBC News website: "I think, from our perspective, Icann has done some good work, particularly in reforming the operation of the root.

"But [the transition] is all a question of timing. We are reasonably relaxed about the timeframe. We think the current system works well, and we do not really have an operational problem with the US government's involvement.

"But, ultimately, we would like to see a private sector solution. That was the original vision when Icann was set up in 1998.

"What was very positive from our point of view was that there was a renewed commitment from the Department of Commerce to transition to privatisation."

The US government have said they will take the information from the meeting and the written submissions into account for their final verdict on Icann's status.


SEE ALSO
US challenged over .xxx decision
22 May 06 |  Technology
The rights and wrongs of .xxx
22 May 06 |  Technology
Unease over how the net is run
03 Apr 06 |  Technology
Deal done on .com domain future
01 Mar 06 |  Technology
Deal places limits on .com fees
31 Jan 06 |  Technology
US net body challenged over .com
29 Nov 05 |  Technology

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