Internet domain handoff takes major step forward

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A major step was taken Thursday in the U.S. government’s plan to hand off oversight of the Internet

domain name system.


A nonprofit international group approved a plan and forwarded it to the Obama administration

Thursday for review and approval.


The group, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), has historically been

contracted out to manage the behind-the-scenes workings of the Internet that pair up numerical IP

addresses with their familiar Web addresses.


A few years ago, the group was tasked with transitioning fully from U.S. government oversight to an

international multistakeholder model.


The Commerce Department will have to sign off on the transition plan before it is allowed to go forward.

But the Obama administration and Congress have been “watching closely,” said Steve Crocker, who leads

ICANN’s board of directors.


“This proposal does not come as a surprise that requires a fresh start or a cold start and we fully expect

that this will be viewed as 100 percent consistent with the criteria that was set out in advance and that

which has been tracked all the way throughout the process,” Crocker said.


ICANN officials said Thursday the plan should meet the U.S. government’s priorities to protect the open

Internet and to prevent any other government from gaining control. It also includes security and

accountability measures, they said, and if the plan is implemented, Internet users should see no real



Some Republicans have remained wary of the transition and Congress has blocked government funds

from being used to finish the handoff for the past several years. Last year’s spending blocked the funds

from being used until at least October.


In the past, the GOP expressed fear that the U.S. government’s handoff could allow other nations —

specifically those that have a poor track record on Internet freedom — to gain more leverage over the



Some of those worries have been allayed by a number of accountability measures implemented by the

non-profit group handling the transition. And the Commerce Department has repeatedly said it would

reject any proposal that does not maintain the open Internet or allows for other governments to gain



Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and some others have continued to resist the transition, however. He has said

Congress should have to vote before the administration signs off, but he has not succeeded in requiring

that. Recently, he has accused the outgoing president of ICANN of having conflicts of interest.


The control that is being handed off relates to some of the technical functions that help users seamlessly

search the Internet.


The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration has had

oversight of the Internet’s domain name system, and it has historically contracted that role out to