ICAAN Severs Some Ties With U.S. Commerce Department

The U.S. Commerce Department signed a four-page "affirmation of commitments" relaxing its control over ICANN, effective Oct. 1. However, the U.S. Commerce Department will still play an active role in ICANN's decisions as a member of the Governmental Advisory Committee.

Specifically, the agreement between ICANN and the U.S. Commerce Department would create a "multistakeholder, private-sector-led, bottom-up policy development model," according to The Wall Street Journal. Over the past 11 years, the organization has signed a Joint Project Agreement (JPA) with the U.S. Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which gave the U.S. government the authority to review the Internet organization.

Essentially, the new agreement turns the review process over to the larger global "Internet community," according to the BBC, while independent review panels, comprised of foreign government and international committees, would oversee ICANN's work in security, competition and accountability.

The agreement has been a long time in the making after ICANN requested that the partnership with the U.S. Commerce Department be dissolved and that it retain autonomy to independently govern the Internet worldwide. Prior to the agreement, the U.S. Commerce Department had much more authority over ICANN.

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The new terms of Internet dominion come in response to criticism from the European Commission that the U.S. could wield too much power over the Internet, affecting hundreds of millions of people around the globe. Among other things, critics have cited ICANN's slowness to roll out Internet addresses in languages other than English.

European Union Society Commissioner Viviane Reding in May had called for President Barack Obama to cut ties with ICANN. In June, some of the world's leading regional Internet registries also called for ICANN and the U.S. Department of Commerce to eliminate their partnership.

ICANN is a nonprofit corporation established by the U.S. government to oversee Internet domain names, IP addresses and other critical functions of the Web.