Department of Commerce renews ICANN's authority

As expected, the US Department of Commerce (DOC) has extended for one year the contracts under which the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) manages the Internet's global addressing system. The contracts were set to expire at the end of September. The decision to extend the contracts - the third such extension of an agreement originally struck in 1998 - comes despite considerable criticism of ICANN over the past year from various internet constituencies, Congress and even a member of its own board of directors (see ICANN passes toned-down Blueprint for Reform).

Undersecretary Nancy Victory, who heads the DOC's National Telecommunications and Information Administration which handles ICANN issues, said that the ICANN "experiment" needs more time to succeed. She also said that while she is pleased with ICANN's reform efforts thus far, she is not yet fully satisfied.

Now that it is clear that ICANN's power has survived the contract renewal process, the question is whether Undersecretary Victory will take advantage of this moment of influence to pressure ICANN to undertake significant institutional reform. The General Accounting Office - the federal accounting office overseeing regulatory agencies - gave a very poor report card to both the DOC and ICANN in a recent report. It will be worth watching to see if the DOC addresses the General Accounting Office's concerns or continues to ignore critical issues in internet governance.

Douglas Wood and Linda Goldstein, Hall Dickler Kent Goldstein & Wood LLP, New York

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