US Govt starts to hand over domain names responsibility

The US Department of Commerce yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), beginning the process of transferring its responsibility for Internet domain names, such as .com, .net and .org, to the not-for-profit organisation.

The memorandum sets the stage for the US Government to transfer management of the Internet domain name system to ICANN, a Los Angeles-based organisation formed in October. Until now, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and the private company, Network Solutions, have handled the allocation of domain names and IP addresses under a contract with the US Government.

The Department of Commerce will work with ICANN to design, develop and test the mechanisms, methods and procedures for managing the domain name system, according to the memorandum, posted on the Department's Web site. The goal is to develop these policies without disrupting the operation of the Internet, the memorandum said, and to establish a domain name system that can be used by the private sector.

In the memorandum, the government and ICANN agreed to establish rules for:

-- Allocating IP (Internet protocol) number blocks; -- Overseeing operation of the authoritative root server system; -- Overseeing policy for adding new top-level domains to the root system; -- Coordinating assignment of other Internet technical parameters as needed to maintain universal connectivity on the Internet;-- Other activities that the two parties deem necessary to coordinate domain names system management.

Another agreement will have to be signed before the US Government completely relinquishes its authority over the Internet, Becky Burr, associate administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, reportedly told the Los Angeles Times yesterday. Burr said she expects that to happen no later than October 1, 2000.

The memorandum of understanding can be found on the Web at http://www.ntia.doc.gov/

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