What Next, George?
When and if ICANN presents that plan to the government, however, it could find itself in the middle of a whole new political game.
Final authority for Internet management now rests in the hands of President George W. Bush and his advisers, a twist that seemed a long way off when Magaziner selected ICANN to carry out his vision of private Internet governance in 1998.
So far, several sources said, the new White House has yet to focus on the issue. When it does, ICANN may have a tough time making an initial good impression on its new overseers.
ICANN, whose board is elected by membership groups representing international technical, business and Internet users constituencies, has been under fire from all directions since its inception. Republicans on Capitol Hill questioned whether the Democrats were giving away a national resource; Internet users and civil libertarians have repeatedly accused ICANN of ignoring its democratic charter in favor of powerful trademark and corporate interests. Now, the group is being criticized for how it selected the first commercial domains to join dot-com, dot-net and dot-org.
During a hearing last Thursday before the House Commerce Committees telecommunications panel, some lawmakers accused ICANN, along with losing applicants for the new generic top-level domain names (gTLDs), of having used a rushed and arbitrary process to pick the new domains.
"Legitimate questions have been raised by several of our witnesses about the fairness of the application and selection process," the panels chairman, Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., said during the hearing.
But Upton and others said they did not think the Commerce Department should block these new domains from being introduced into the root. Instead, they said, ICANN should work to improve the process for adding new top-level domains in the future. While defending the process as fair, Cerf acknowledged that the system needed to be streamlined.