The U.S. Commerce Department has extended its oversight of the organization that administers the Internet’s domain-name system for a year to give international stakeholders more time to formulate a governance proposal.
Commerce’s contract with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or Icann, was due to expire Sept. 30. The department has been planning to transfer Icann oversight to an unspecified group of international stakeholders.
But a Commerce official said in a blog post Monday that the contract is being extended for a year, with options to extend it for another three years, so stakeholders can complete their work, have the plan reviewed by the U.S. government and then implement it, if it is approved.
“This is an important step,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, Michigan Republican, and Reps. Greg Walden of Oregoon and John Shimkus of Illinois said in a statement. “The administration is recognizing, as it should, that it is more important to get this issue right than it is to simply get it done.”
Calls for the U.S. to transfer control of ICANN to an international group have been fueled by Edward Snowden’s revelations that the National Security Agency spied on Internet traffic passing through the United States.
But as the Wall Street Journal reports, critics of the proposed change in oversight “have expressed concerns that it may open the door to influence by foreign governments that aren’t committed to Western principles of free expression, and may want to impose different rules for administering the Internet in different parts of the world.”
ICANN Senior Adviser Theresa Swinehart said in a statement that the agency is “pleased” by the contract extension. While there has been progress in devising a new governance structure, she said, “additional time is necessary for the global community to complete its work and for Icann to implement the community’s proposals.”