Government Keeps Control of ICANN

The U.S. Commerce Department said on Friday it would retain oversight for three more years of the company that manages Internet domain names, renewing an agreement that was scheduled to expire this weekend.

The government said it signed a new agreement with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which controls addresses such as ".com" and country domain names such as ".cn" for China.

The U.S. government has previously said it plans to eventually turn over complete control of ICANN, a nonprofit group, to the private sector. The new agreement calls for a review in 2008 of ICANN's progress toward becoming more accountable, the Commerce Department said.

"We are committed to working with ICANN to ensure that they have the established transparency and accountability mechanisms necessary to be a stable, lasting and independent institution," said John Kneur, acting assistant secretary for communications.

The current three-year agreement between the U.S. government and ICANN was scheduled to expire on September 30.

ICANN officials said they were pleased with the plan.

"This is a major step forward for the Internet community," said Paul Levins, an ICANN vice president. "This is about the U.S. government saying that ICANN should be very clearly put on a path toward autonomy."

For example, under the new agreement, ICANN will no longer have to file reports with the Commerce Department every six months, Levins said.

"We as an organization will no longer have our work prescribed by the Department of Commerce," he said, adding it was a key step in weaning ICANN from U.S. government oversight.

The Commerce Department said it consulted with more than 700 companies, trade groups, foreign governments and individuals before deciding to renew the agreement.

Some critics say the U.S. government has too much control over ICANN, which has evolved into a crucial engine for global commerce, communications and culture.

The government posted its new three-year agreement on the Internet at

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