Hearing looks at Internet name privatization plan
By Joel Rothstein
The U.S. Commerce Department will hold a Wednesday hearing on the
government's September deadline to give up control over Internet
domain names, a schedule that some high-tech industry advocates say
should be delayed.
The U.S. government controls the naming system for ".com" and all web
addresses through the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and
Numbers (ICANN), a California-based not-for-profit company that
decides what names can and cannot be registered.
Some foreign governments and critics have been concerned that the U.S.
government has too much control over what has become a global
commerce, communications and social engine. The transition is
currently slated to take place by September 30, but the U.S. Commerce
Department has the option to extend its control.
The European Commission was highly critical of what it called
"political interference" by U.S. officials last May in rejecting a
proposed .xxx Internet domain for pornography websites -- a system
supporters said would help confine and filter such sites.
The Commerce Department scheduled the Wednesday hearing to consider
"the progress of this transition" to the private sector, according to
a department statement.
Most companies and individuals register domain names such as the
ubiquitous ".com" and ".net" addresses through private sector
companies such as VeriSign Inc.
Less well known is that VeriSign operates the ".com" registry under a
contract granted from ICANN, which cannot make changes to the domain
name system without the approval of the U.S. Commerce Department.
While countries outside the United States rely on ICANN to maintain
the domain name system (DNS) through what are known as "root servers,"
they could decide to set up their own root servers and operate under
their own rules.
"The incentive (for the U.S. to privatize ICANN) is to keep the
Internet on one DNS to avoid multiple systems -- much like the
multiple phone systems we have around the world," according to Steve
DelBianco, director of The NetChoice Coalition, a Washington policy
Although DelBianco supports privatization in the long run, he suggests
that the United States maintain control for two more years to ensure
that ICANN is ready to operate as an independent entity.
"ICANN needs to be as strong as it can be to resist foreign
governments," he said.
Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.
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