New U.S. policy turns 'Net governance over to private sector
Non-profit entity will take over domain name registration by October 2000
The 15-member, non-profit group will draw members from the Internet community, including Internet engineers, businesses, and government worldwide, said Becky Burr, associate administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Office of International Affairs, at a Washington, D.C., press conference today that was broadcast over the Internet.
Domain names are alphabetic representations ending with generic top-level domain designations, such as .com or .gov, of underlying Internet addresses. The domain name system has been operated by Network Solutions Inc. (NSI) through a U.S. government contract. U.S. government control of the domain name registry has been bothersome to other nations, which long have advocated a need for more global input.
And though they have long backed competing plans for top-level domain governance, both NSI and the Internet Society (the parent organization of the Internet Engineering Task Force) have voiced support of the plan, which the Commerce Department released today in its U.S. White Paper on Internet Governance.
The competing organizations seem to agree with the White Paper, in part, because it provides less detail than an earlier "Green Paper," released by the Commerce Department last January. NSI Senior Vice President Don Telage says that much of the "explicit" language in the Green Paper has "been removed and become implicit."
One area that seems less "explicit" is the actual structure of the group that is to govern top-level domains. The Green Paper had proposed a 15-member board of directors, "consisting of three representatives of regional number registries, two members designated by the Internet Architecture Board, two members representing domain name registries and domain name registrars, seven members representing Internet users," and a CEO. Today's plan says simply that the board of directors should "be balanced to equitably represent" the interests of IP number registries, domain name registries, and such.
"We are looking for a globally and functionally representative organization," Burr said.
The U.S. government will "facilitate" the start of the group, but Burr said, "we are relying on the public sector" to take the lead. "It is a public sector effort."
As such, the non-profit group will make decisions on the number of domain names offered and when more should be added. The U.S. government had originally proposed only five new generic top-level domain names be allowed when it released its Green Paper on Internet Governance last January. That paper drew ire from the Internet community and other nations for being too heavy-handed and not allowing enough global representation.
Some 650 people or groups worldwide commented on the proposed policy. The consensus of those comments, calling for more international, privatized governance was incorporated into the final version, Ira Magaziner, U.S. presidential advisor, said last week at a conference at Harvard University.
The new non-profit entity will be headquartered in the U.S. because of the country's expertise and history regarding domain name registration, according to the policy statement issued today.
--Nancy Weil is a correspondent with the IDG News Service. SunWorld's Robert McMillan contributed to this report.
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