In a climate of international mistrust over how the US government handles Internet data, the US Department of Commerce on Monday said that it would delay by at least a year its plan to cede authority over the global address system for the Web.
The Internet domain name system assigns suffixes like .com and .org, along with strings of numbers that serve as their Internet domain addresses.
Since 1998, the department has contracted with an international nonprofit group, called the Internet Corp for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), to administer the system, although it planned eventually to transfer its oversight to private management.
That planned transition took on heightened significance in 2013 after revelations by Edward Snowden, a former government contractor, that the US National Security Agency had been spying on Internet traffic passing through the US.
Although the spying programs were not linked to the administration of domain name addresses, the revelations spurred calls for the US to transfer control to an international group.
The department subsequently said it would turn over stewardship of the system this fall to an international group whose structure was to be worked out between the interested parties, such as private companies, large Internet users, purchasers of domain names and civil society groups.
The department said the new governing body could not be a government-led or intergovernmental organization.
It also stipulated that the new group must maintain the structure and stability of the domain name system, along with “the openness of the Internet.”
However, in a blog post on Monday, a department official said that the plan to move to international management needed more work.
As a result, he said, the department would renew its contract with ICANN for at least a year — with an option to renew for an additional three years.
“It has become increasingly apparent over the last few months that the community needs time to complete its work, have the plan reviewed by the US government and then implement it if it is approved,” US Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Lawrence Strickling wrote in the post.
“This one-year extension will provide the community with the time it needs to finish its work,” he added.
An ICANN spokesman said the contract extension was expected.
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