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1st Step Taken in Transfer of Internet Name System

November 26, 1998|KAREN KAPLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Clinton administration on Wednesday signed an agreement to begin the process of transferring control of the Internet's crucial domain name system to a nonprofit corporation based in Los Angeles.

The Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, will work with the Commerce Department to "design and implement and test" a domain name system that can be operated by the private sector, said Becky Burr, associate administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Another agreement will have to be signed before the U.S. government relinquishes its authority over the global computer network. Burr said she expects that to happen no later than Oct. 1, 2000.

In the next six months, ICANN will develop a system that allows companies to register domain names on the Internet in competition with Network Solutions, the Herndon, Va., firm that for years has enjoyed a government-sanctioned monopoly.

ICANN will also create membership guidelines, conflict-of-interest policies and a system to allow outsiders to review its decisions.

The memorandum of understanding signed Wednesday closes the first contentious chapter of a long-running process to turn the Internet, originally a government-funded research project, into a self-governing global computer network. ICANN is expected to eventually take over for the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, a Marina del Rey-based group that has worked under a government contract for decades and ensures that each Internet address has a unique identifying number.

Some protested that ICANN was controlled by a small group of engineers who weren't open to consensus. In response, ICANN amended its bylaws and began holding public meetings.

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