EU wants ICANN to sever ties with US Government

4 May 2009

The European Union (EU) wants the global organisation responsible for the designation of .com and .net domains, as well as national domains, to sever its ties with the US Government and instead take on the form of a ‘G12 for internet governance’.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned names and Numbers (ICANN) is a private not-for-profit corporation established in California. So far, ICANN has been operating under an agreement with the US Department of Commerce. However, this agreement expires on 30 September this year.

The EU’s Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding (pictured) today outlined a new governance model for the internet icon: launch video.

This would include a fully private and accountable ICANN, accompanied by an independent judicial body, as well as a ‘G12 for Internet Governance’ – a multilateral forum for governments to discuss general internet governance policy and security issues.

“I trust that President Obama will have the courage, the wisdom and the respect for the global nature of the internet to pave the way in September for a new, more accountable, more transparent, more democratic and more multilateral form of internet governance,” Reding said.

“The time to act is now. And Europe will be ready to support President Obama in his efforts.”

Reding stressed that “a moment of truth will come on 30 September this year, when the current agreement between ICANN and the US Government expires. This opens the door for the full privatisation of ICANN, and it also raises the question of to whom ICANN should be accountable, as from 1 October.”

ICANN deals with some of most sensitive issues related to internet governance, such as top-level domains or management of the internet address system that ensures that millions of computers can connect to each other.

ICANN was established in 1998 in California, under an agreement with the US Government.

“Accountability of ICANN is a must,” said Reding. “The Clinton administration’s decision to progressively privatise the internet’s domain name and addressing system is the right one.

“In the long run, it is not defendable that the government department of only one country has oversight of an internet function that is used by hundreds of millions of people in countries all over the world.”

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years