US loosens grip on ICANN

Natalie Apostolou
02 Oct 2009

The Obama Administration has loosened its grip on the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the sometimes-controversial body that manages the internet address system.

Under a new arrangement, the US Department of Commerce has replaced regular government reviews of the body with oversight by a broader-based group of stakeholders from around the world.

ICANN, a private company set up by the department 11 years ago, has frequently come under fire from foreign governments because of its direct US government oversight.

A new deal signed this week with the Commerce Department will create international panels to review the work of ICANN in key areas, aimed at bringing greater accountability.

The review panels will include representatives of other governments, although the US government will remain on ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee.

ICANN chief executive Rod Beckstrom said the agreement represents “an exciting new stage in ICANN's development as a truly international entity.”

He added “all the reporting is to the world; that's the real change.”

European Commissioner for Information Society and Media Viviane Reding, who has called for ICANN to become “fully independent,” welcomed the new agreement.

“Internet users worldwide can now anticipate that ICANN's decisions on domain names and addresses will be more independent and more accountable, taking into account everyone's interests," she said in a statement.

The European Union welcomed what it called “a significant positive move towards a new and more open 'working environment' for ICANN.”

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