The investigative arm of the US Congress has cleared the organisation overseeing Internet domain names of having an illegal relationship with the US government.
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The move comes as the Internet Corporation for AssignedNamesand Numbers (ICann) meets in Japan this week to consider implementing a series of new "top level domains" alongside .com, .org, and .net.
The investigation of ICann by the General Accounting Office (GAO) followed complaints from Internet grass roots groups that the corporation was acting beyond its powers.
ICann was set up with US government approval to replace the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, which operated from the University of Southern California. But critics have claimed the precise relationship between ICann's leaders and its relationship with the Department of Commerce has a murky history.
Now, the GAO report has broadly concluded that ICann's relationship with the US government has a secure legal foundation, leaving ICann with an increasing role over administration of issues such as Internet domain names.
Ester Dyson, chairwoman of ICann's board of directors, said she welcomed the GAO's report: "It's nice to see some independent, authoritative validation of ICann's sound legal footing. The challenge for all those involved in the ICann process is to build on that foundation."