ICANN critics may create rival Internet admin group

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the nonprofit group that runs the Internet's Domain Name System, might be challenged next year for some of its administrative power by a group of dissatisfied top-level domain (TLD) holders who feel ICANN holds too much sway.

Rob Courtney, a policy analyst at the Washington-based Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), a nonprofit public policy group, said rumblings of a possible challenge to ICANN were raised yesterday at a four-day session being held by ICANN in Shanghai to consider changes to its bylaws and structure.

Courtney is attending the meetings on behalf of the CDT, which has criticized ICANN's recently proposed reforms as not going far enough to bring needed changes. In June, the ICANN board unanimously approved the proposed reform blueprint.

The idea, Courtney said, is that a number of TLD holders may want to take over some of the Internet's administrative work now done by ICANN under a contract with the U.S. Department of Commerce. The so-called Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) maintains administrative contacts for the Internet, updates name servers and completes other administrative tasks, he said.

Under an idea being floated at the ICANN meetings, some TLD holders are thinking of making their own bid for the next IANA contract, which expires at the end of March.

"I think it's potentially very significant," Courtney said of the concept. "ICANN has always done those functions and set the policies. Those things have always been paired since ICANN's creation in 1998. This would split that. It would require a real rethinking of how ICANN operates."

So far, Courtney stressed, it's just an idea, but it could jell into a firm proposal before ICANN's meetings conclude on Thursday. "None of the TLDs have come up with the detailed proposals needed yet to do such a thing," he said.

"The new proposal for the IANA function kind of posits a new world," Courtney said. "This is a new idea that has not been put forward before in practical terms."

A spokesman for ICANN could not be reached for comment today.

Tomorrow in Shanghai, ICANN will hold a public forum to collect opinions about its proposed reforms and other issues related to the group. Comments are expected from many parties, including regional internet registries, TLD holders and others.

On Thursday, the ICANN board will meet to vote on the proposed reforms and changes. The group will then meet in Amsterdam in December to decide how to implement the coming changes.

ICANN has been criticized often for its authority and operations in recent years. The reform efforts are intended to address some of those concerns, though critics say more changes are needed.

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