Change coming to Web administrator ICANN this week

AFP , WASHINGTON

Tue, Sep 29, 2009 - Page 7

Changes appear to be in store this week for the low profile but powerful body that administers the Web.

The Internet Corp for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is the California-based non-profit that manages the Domain Name System and Internet Protocol addresses that form the technical backbone of the Web.

Since 1998, ICANN has operated under an agreement with the US Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

That pact expires tomorrow and a new arrangement is expected to be announced possibly as early as today.

The expiry of the pact comes at a critically important time with ICANN poised to expand the number of generic top-level domains (gTLDs) such as .com, .net and .org — a controversial move that would greatly increase the number of available addresses.

US officials and ICANN members have been tight-lipped about what is in store for the private sector corporation, whose structure has been a bone of contention between the US and Europe and other countries.

The Economist magazine said a new agreement to be unveiled this week would set up oversight panels that include representatives of foreign governments to conduct regular reviews of ICANN’s work. It said the panels will oversee four areas: competition among generic domains, handling of data on registrants, network security and transparency, and accountability and the public interest — the only panel on which the US will retain a permanent seat.

Unlike previous pacts, the four-page document, called an “affirmation of commitments,” has no fixed term, The Economist said.