The United States will likely need to retain its historical oversight authority over the Internet's naming and addressing system for a little longer, a delay that will keep the U.S. government from moving ahead with a plan to give up some of its legacy powers over the Web.
The extension could last through next July or even longer, said Larry Strickling, head of the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, before a congressional panel Wednesday.
The addressing system works by letting Internet users reach Web sites with addresses such as "Google.com" rather than complicated strings of numbers. For years, the United States nominally oversaw this system but contracted much of the day-to-day operations to an international organization known as ICANN. The United States has plans to give ICANN official responsibility for managing the addressing system. But now those plans will be pushed back until at least mid-next year.
The United States' old contract with ICANN expires on Sept. 30, but will need to be extended to give ICANN a chance to finalize a proposal for handling the new responsibility, Strickling said. The proposal is expected to be delivered to U.S. officials by this November — a move that will kickstart a lengthy review process by Washington.
The transition has been at times controversial, with critics saying it would give foreign governments such as China or Russia an opportunity to manipulate the future of the Web. But those concerns were largely addressed last month when the House passed the DOTCOM Act, which imposes accountability requirements on the transition process. ICANN president Fadi Chehadé said Wednesday that governments have not asked for new or expanded powers.
"Governments do not have a seat on our board," said Chehadé. "They do not have a voting mechanism. We hope this will be maintained."