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ICANN's overlordship of the internet confirmed again by US gov

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ICANN has had its powers over internet domain names, IP addresses and protocol numbers renewed by the US Department of Commerce.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced late last night that it has continued ICANN's contract to run the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) for the next three to seven years.

Crucially, the deal refreshes ICANN's nominal powers to add and remove top-level domains (TLD) from the internet's Domain Name System at a time when hundreds of companies are clamouring to have almost 2,000 new dot-word generic TLDs approved and delegated. These new gTLDs are web address extensions like .com and .org that could soon include all manner of words from .android to .tickets.

California-based non-profit ICANN has managed IANA since it was formed in 1998, and the renewal was not unexpected. It is not known how many organisations, beyond ICANN, put in a bid.

The domain name overseer's first attempt to keep the contract was thrown out for not meeting the US government's expectations. In March NTIA cancelled its Request For Proposals (RFP) to manage IANA, stating that it “received no proposals that met the requirements requested by the global community”. This sent ICANN back to the drawing board to come up with another plan.

The newly signed contract has not yet been published, but it is expected to include provisions that increase ICANN's accountability, such as auditing, structural separation and conflict-of-interest checks.

NTIA said in a statement:

Based on input from the global community, NTIA added new requirements. Those include a clear separation between the policy development associated with the IANA services, and implementation by the IANA functions contractor; a robust company-wide conflict of interest policy; a heightened respect for local national law; and a series of consultation and reporting requirements to increase transparency and accountability.

The conflict-of-interest checks were added after ICANN's former chairman Peter Dengate Thrush moved to new gTLD portfolio applicant Top Level Domain Holdings - shortly after he pushed through approval of the new gTLD programme last June.

The contract comes into effect on the first day of October, coincidentally the same day that ICANN's newly named CEO Fadi Chehadé takes over management of the organisation.

Chehadé's predecessor Rod Beckstrom, who left the job yesterday, tweeted last night that his “last act as ‪ICANN‬ CEO” was signing the contract in Istanbul on Sunday.

Akram Atallah, who has taken over from Beckstrom on an interim basis until October, said in a statement: “This is the longest IANA functions contract we’ve ever had, running for a period of three years with two two-year renewal options.”

ICANN revealed last month that it had received 1,930 applications for new gTLDs, but with a question mark hanging over IANA, it wasn't certain that it would actually have the ability to approve them for delegation to the internet's Domain Name System (DNS) root servers.

While IANA holds the political power to add new gTLDs, in practice each major change to the root must also be rubber-stamped by the NTIA and implemented by Verisign, which as the DNS root zone maintainer is tasked with writing and distributing the official "map" of the internet. ®

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