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article imageU.S. Government Loosens Grip on Internet

By Chris Dade     Sep 30, 2009 in Internet
The U.S. government has loosened its grip on the Internet after it granted autonomous status to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann), a non-profit organization it created in 1998.
As the Guardian reports the U.S. government's influence over the Internet through Icann, the organization which oversees web addresses that include .com, .net and .org, has been the cause of much concern in many other parts of the world.
China has reportedly pressed for a change in the way that the Internet is controlled and European officials have also questioned the propriety of the U.S. overseeing what is now the primary means of global communication.
One frequent area of criticism says the New York Times is that non-English Internet addresses are very slow in being rolled out. The Guardian confirms that Rod Beckstrom, chief executive of Icann, has already said that web addresses in alphabets other than Latin, for example Chinese or Arabic, are due to be introduced.
The U.S. government is not planning to completely cut its ties with Icann but now the decisions of the organization will be scrutinized by advisory panels whose members will be drawn from governments around the world, as well as the private sector. As if to emphasize the fact that Icann is now virtually independent the U.S. Commerce Department will have only one guaranteed seat on the advisory panels that are to be established.
Icann has agreed to keep its headquarters in the U.S., it is based in Marina Del Rey, California, and a contract remains in place until 2011 which ensures that the Commerce Department in Washington continues to have oversight of what the New York Times describes as "the nuts-and-bolts of domain name administration".
Nevertheless the agreement ending U.S. governmental control of most other aspects of the running of the Internet, the BBC confirms that the agreement relating to the new structure for oversight commences October 1, has been broadly welcomed.
Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for information society and media has expressed her happiness at the decision of the U.S. authorities, saying:I welcome the US administration's decision to adapt Icann's key role in Internet governance to the reality of the 21st century. If effectively and transparently implemented, this reform can find broad acceptance among civil society, businesses and governments alike
Within the information technology industry itself , there has also been an enthusiastic response to the move. Google CEO Eric Schmidt said:Google and its users depend every day on a vibrant and expanding Internet; we endorse this affirmation and applaud the maturing of Icann's role in the provision of Internet stability
As well as declaring it to be "a beautifully historic day" and noting that the Internet is on its way from "being 100 percent American to being 100 percent global", Icann Chief Executive Rod Beckstrom said:The U.S. government is saying, ‘O.K., you have become a multistakeholder body. Congratulations. Now on to the next set of challenges
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