The US has agreed to relinquish some oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the global group that oversees elements of the Internet's architecture. The move should give other countries a more prominent internet role and ease concerns that the US has undue influence over its evolution.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has reached a new agreement with the US Department of Commerce allowing the non-profit greater independence, while giving more countries oversight of the organisation.
The new agreement, called an Affirmation of Commitments, sets up reviews of ICANN's performance every three years, with members of ICANN advisory committees, the Department of Commerce (DOC), independent experts and others serving on the review teams.
The DOC will continue to be involved in ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee, but the new agreement recognizes ICANN as a global "private-sector led organisation."
The new agreement is a "huge moment not just for ICANN but for the Internet," said Paul Levins, vice president at ICANN. "This really vital resource was being overseen by one government."
The US government will have "one seat at the table" for the three-year reviews, ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom said in a video on the organisation's site.
"What it really means is we're going global," he said. "All the reviews and all the work done will be submitted for public comment to the world. But there's no separate or unique or separate reporting to the United States government. All the reporting is to the world; that's the real change."
The new agreement was announced Wednesday, the same day that an 11-year series of memorandums of understanding between ICANN and the DOC expired.
The new agreement won praise from critics who have complained that the US government has had too much control over ICANN, which manages the Internet's DNS (domain name system). The new agreement should allow ICANN to become more open and accountable to users worldwide, said Viviane Reding, the European Union's commissioner for information society and media.
The new agreement ends "unilateral" review of ICANN by the DOC and sets up independent review panels, she said in a statement.
"I welcome the US administration's decision to adapt ICANN's key role in internet governance to the reality of the 21st century and of a globalised world," Reding said in her statement. "If effectively and transparently implemented, this reform can find broad acceptance among civil society, businesses and governments alike."