U.S. to Keep Tight Control of ICANN

Michael Hayes
WASHINGTON — A senior U.S. State Department official has said that ICANN, the Marina Del Rey, Calif.-based organization that governs the Internet, should remain under U.S. control for the foreseeable future.

"It won't happen on my watch," Ambassador David Gross of the State Department's Bureau of Economic Affairs said.

Gross, who has coordinated international communications and information policy for the State Department since 2001, joined several other policy pundits at a Washington event where the panel advocated continued governance of the Internet by the U.S.

Officially it is the Department of Commerce that controls ICANN, but the memorandum of understanding, which controls that relationship is set to expire Sept. 30. Many international observers and critics of U.S. policy had hoped that date would mark the birth of an independent ICANN.

In May, the debate over Internet control came to a head when the European Commission accused U.S. officials of exerting undue political influence over ICANN to kill .XXX, the proposed top-level domain for adult entertainment online.

Since that time, a chorus of foreign governments, Internet critics and international organizations has called for the U.S. to cede control of the Internet by taking the leash off of ICANN.

Through ICANN, the U.S. government maintains effective control over how top-level domains are administered, including those specific to countries such as ".cn" for China, for example.

"I don't think the U.S. government will relinquish control of ICANN if there is a risk that the process could get subsumed by a UN-type organization," David McGuire, a spokesman for the Center for Democracy & Technology, said.

In the past, ICANN has pointed to its international leadership as evidence of its worldwide perspective. But observers agree that the future of the organization will be up to the U.S. government.

The U.S. Senate is expected to hold hearings on the matter next week.