US invites comments on ICANN contract

A branch of the U.S. Commerce Department is accepting comments on the fate of ICANN, the controversial organization that supervises Internet domain names.

A branch of the US Commerce Department is accepting comments on the fate of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the organisation that supervises Internet domain names.

The deadline for comments is Friday, according to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which began soliciting input June 7.

The US government pledged in 1997 to privatisze ICANN, a non-profit organisation based in California, and invite more international participation in its policy making. The comments will be incorporated into a public meeting on ICANN's transition on July 26.

ICANN has been criticised for falling under the control of the US government. The Commerce Department has had agreements with ICANN since 1998 concerning its transition. The latest agreement expires on September 30.

ICANN's position in both the administration of the Internet and location within the US has made it a target for criticism.

Companies that manage country-code Top Level Domain have charged that ICANN has not been transparent enough in its governance practices. Those disputes have only recently been resolved, with seven registries making arrangements to work with ICANN over the last two months.

The US, while pledging cooperation, has also asserted the large role it will continue to play, citing the need for stability and security in light of Internet commerce.

In July 2005, the U.S. said it would not take action that would have the potential to adversely impact the effective and efficient operation of the DNS and would therefore maintain its historic role in authorising changes or modifications to the authoritative root zone file.

ICANN's jurisdiction includes oversight of the 13 root servers worldwide that match top level domain names with numeric addresses needed to serve Web pages. It also has the power to approve new top level domains, such as ".tel" approved in May, and technical policy making crucial to the functioning of the Internet.

Opinions posted on NTIA's website appear to be part of a semicoordinated campaign of form-letter writing, with writers listing home countries of Togo, Nigeria, Jordan, Brazil, Morocco and Haiti, among others. Most favour the creation of an organisation distanced from the US government.

"The best institution would be a nonprofit foundation controlled by nonprofit, nongovernmental institutions with an interest in the free flow of information," Thomas Doehne, of California, wrote.

"As the Us reviews its contract with ICANN, it should work cooperatively with all stakeholders to complete the transition to a Domain Name System independent of U.S. governmental control," Laurent Mellinger, of France, wrote.

Comments can be emailed to DNSTransition@ntia.doc.gov. The department is immediately publishing the comments on its website at http://www.ntia.doc.gov/.

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