Internet watchdog ICANN pledges fundamental reform

The directors of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the body that oversees technical matters...

The directors of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the body that oversees technical matters related to the Internet, has voted for a fundamental reorganisation of its structures.

"The vote was 18 to zero by the board - there wasn't any controversy," said ICANN president and chef executive M. Stuart Lynn. "The board feels very strongly that this is the right way to go. It's a major step forward."

ICANN was created in 1998 by the US to oversee the domain name system and operates under an agreement with the US Department of Commerce, which is due to expire on 30 September.

The organisation has been under increasing political pressure from the US government to streamline its operating procedures if it wants the Commerce Department to extend the agreement.

The reform blueprint calls for ICANN to reduce the number of board members from 18 to 15 and to replace elections for some board members with selections by a nominating committee.

"Everyone on the board feels very strongly that we need a geographically and culturally diverse ICANN," Lynn said.

ICANN would also seek to make its procedures and proposed policies more transparent and open to public discussion. "We need a serious way of encouraging the [Internet] community to get involved," Lynn said.

Lynn stressed that ICANN was not reforming itself simply to appease Washington, though the reform blueprint does call for more active governmental participation in ICANN.

The proposed reforms would include dissolving the Protocol Supporting Organization (PSO) and replacing it with a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), while also establishing a Country-code Names Supporting Organization (CNSO). The name of the Domain Name Supporting Organization would be changed to the Generic Name Supporting Organization (GNSO).

In an effort to boost its funding, ICANN-accredited registrars and registries would be required to pay ICANN a per-name fee, estimated at $0.25 (£0.16) per domain name.

Lynn, who will retire from ICANN in March, warned that the reform process would take time. New board members would not begin to be appointed until at least the end of March or April of next year, Lynn said.

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