ICANN Faces Further Fire

The Internet governance entity may have dodged a bullet from the United Nations, but it still faces a fight for its life when its deal with the U.S. Commerce Department expires next year.

A new set of forces are at work that may lead to the same major changes to ICANN, a key Internet governance entity, that its opponents just failed to bring about.

The United States brushed back an attempt on the part of several nations this week at a U.N. forum to weaken its sizable control over ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

ICANN, based in California, is responsible for distributing Internet domains and other Web addresses.

Rather than have the United States lose its grip, the Bush administration and the nations concerned have agreed to create an "Internet Governance Forum" that will meet in Athens in 2006.

The forums goal is to encourage global discussions of Internet governance.

/zimages/1/28571.gifWho should control ICANN? Read political columnist Chris Nolans commentary here.

Relieved? Not really, said Paul Twomey, ICANNs CEO. Thats because an even bigger battle looms.

In about 18 months, the agreement between several private companies and the U.S. Department of Commerce that forms the basis for ICANN comes to an end, and big changes may be in store, he said.

There are several possible outcomes, all of which ICANN president Paul Twomey said are "on the table." The Department Commerce could drop out of the agreement and ICANN could become a private business. Theres also the possibility of allowing international government oversight, he added.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read about conflicting viewpoints on the ICANN conflict from academics and analysts.

"Everythings on the table," Twomey said during a telephone call with about a dozen journalists. "I cant forecast what the answers are to be. My job is to start the process."

One thing is for sure, the group is now more open than ever to including input from governments other than the United States. Twomey added, "That much was made perfectly clear to us in Tunisia," where a U.N. summit on the Internet took place this week.

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