The body that manages the internet domain name system is looking at becoming more independent from the US government next year and accepting more global input.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is already starting to look at how it might function after its current memorandum of understanding with the US Department of Commerce expires in September 2009.
ICANN has suggested it should become independent of Commerce Department oversight when the current Joint Project Agreement (JPA) with the agency expires. The agency's memorandum of understanding with ICANN has been in place since 1998, but in recent years, representatives of some other countries have questioned why the US government should have primary oversight of the organisation.
ICANN has made significant improvements in accountability, transparency and other issues since the Commerce Department renewed the agreement in September 2006, said Paul Levins, ICANN's executive officer and vice president of corporate affairs. ICANN's goal after the Commerce Department agreement ends, he said, is to expand a global governance model that allows input from a broad range of internet communities.
"What we're trying to do is ensure that the accountablities that the organisation has now, the responsibilities to all the stakeholders, are locked in place forever," Levins said last week. "We want to try to lock in the existing model over the long term."
Some people have suggested the JPA should remain in place to provide accountability. "The fact that ICANN is making progress toward meeting its responsibilities does not imply that the JPA is no longer needed," Thomas Lenard, president and senior fellow at conservative think tank iGrowthGlobal, wrote in comments about the agreement.
"Indeed, it may demonstrate the value of the JPA. The JPA and the continuing tie to the Department of Commerce may account for ICANN's good performance."
Questions about ICANN's future have come up during a mid-term review of the Commerce Department agreement. The public was invited to comment on the agreement and the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration hosted a public hearing on the agreement in late February.