Will America loosen its control over Cyberspace?  ICANN’s latest mandate is due to expire on September 30th.  The day before a new accord is planned to come into effect, whereby America will pass some of its authority over ICANN to the “internet community” of businesses, individual users and governments, according to a report by the Economist. 

The new agreement sets up oversight panels that include representatives of foreign governments to conduct regular reviews of ICANN’s work in four areas:  competition among generic domains (such as .com and .net), the handling of data on registrants, the security of the network and transparency, accountability and the public interest – the only panel where America will retain a permanent seat.  But there are no penalties if ICANN fails to heed its new overseers short of termination of the accord.

The changes at ICANN come at a time when the number of addresses is to allow the creation of many more domains.  There are currently 21 generic ones in addition to the 280 country codes.  ICANN also intends to authorize domain names in other scripts, which will allow entire web addresses to be written in languages such as Chinese and Arabic.  The new arrangement will not satisfy China, Russia and Iran that want America to relinquish control entirely.  However ICANN runs itself, it cannot alter the basic piping of the internet without America’s approval under another agreement that last until 2011 which is unlikely to change.

On September 30th, 2009 ICANN reaffirmed its commitment in a statement of “AFFIRMATION OF COMMITMENTS BY THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE AND THE INTERNET CORPORATION FOR ASSIGNED NAMES AND NUMBERS.”

BIIA Newsletter October – 2009 Issue