The U.S. Department of Commerce will maintain stewardship of the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers, Icann, the administrator of Internet domain names, for at least another year.
Oversight of Icann was scheduled to be transferred to a group of international stakeholders by Sept. 30, but in a blog post Monday the Commerce Department said it had renewed its contract with for another year, with the option to extend the contract a further three years.
Icann, headquartered in Marina del Rey, was established by the department in 1998 to administer top-level Internet domains, such as dot-com, dot-edu and dot-org. The nonprofit licenses and auctions domain suffixes to registrars, such as Verisign Inc. of Reston, Va., owner of the right to license the dot-com and dot-net names, which in turn licenses to Web hosting companies such as Network Solutions and GoDaddy.
The Commerce Department has always maintained its intention to hand over stewardship of the organization to a community of private Internet stakeholders, to be made up of large Internet businesses, domain registrars and civil society groups. Those plans accelerated after the Guardian published documents taken by Edward Snowden that showed U.S. government was spying on Internet traffic, revelations which called into question the government’s ability to fairly guide Icann.
The announcement today came after the department determined that the private stakeholders weren’t ready to take control.
The delay is minor, said Jon Nevett, co-founder of Bellevue, Wash. Internet domain registry company Donuts Inc. and member of the Icann transition working group. The group is still taking public comment on its proposals and is working out an accountability process for Icann.
“I think the big issue, the long pole in the tent, is this accountability issue,” said Nevett. “How do we make sure the community has a means or mechanism, outside of the U.S. government stepping in, to make sure that Icann is on the right path?”
The working group is considering veto powers, an independent review process and the power to remove wayward Icann board members if necessary, he said.
Present delays aside, Nevett expected those plans to be ready by early next year.
“We want to get it done right and relatively quickly, but it’s more important to get it done right,” he said.
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