ICANN keeps control over IANA Internet root

ICANN has been in control of the Internet root since 1999, and will maintain that position for up to seven more years

The U.S. NTIA has awarded ICANN the mandate to manage the assignment of IP addresses and the management of top-level domains until September 2015, the government agency announced on Monday.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration issued a request for proposals to manage the functions of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) in March, and has decided that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) can continue managing the Internet root.

The IANA functions are key technical services that are critical to the continued operations of the Internet's underlying address book, the Domain Name System (DNS), that connects IP addresses to website URLs, the NTIA said. ICANN has managed IANA functions including the assignments of country code and generic top-level domains (TLDs) and the management of the DNS Root Zone, the top-level DNS zone of the Internet, since 1999.

The DNS Root zone is arguably the most important part of the Internet. Having a commercial U.S. company, appointed by the U.S. government, controlling such a vital part of the Internet has long drawn criticism and demands to open up the process and to let a more international body control the IANA functions. Non-U.S. companies are not allowed to compete for the contract, which the European Commission expressed discomfort with at the time the new request for proposal went out.

The new IANA contract covers Oct. 1 through September 2015, the NTIA said, and includes options to extend it to a total period of seven years.

This is the longest IANA functions contract ICANN has ever had, the organization said in a press statement, and it sees it as an affirmation of support for the organization.

The new contract requirements include a clear separation between the policy development associated with the IANA services, and implementation by the IANA functions contractor, the NTIA said. Besides that, 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 are required.

The new contract requirements were introduced to respect the so-called global multi-stakeholder policy process, which brings together businesses, civil society and governments to participate in dialogue and the decision making process, the NTIA said. The NTIA believes that model is the most effective way to address Internet issues, and helps to further internationalize the IANA functions.

Besides ICANN, the Wounded Warrior Veterans Directory, USA Webhost, an IT company called Material Integration Inc. and the Network Speciality Group bid for the contract.

Loek covers all things tech for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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