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Icann Heading to a Fork in the Road

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As the expiration of ICANN's agreement with the U.S. Commerce Department approaches, stakeholders are weighing in on the fate of the organization. European Union officials have come out in support of a restructuring of the organization that would transfer oversight from the U.S. government to a group of representatives from 12 countries. Another proposal, released by the Technology Policy Institute, supports ICANN remaining U.S.-based but says oversight should be transferred to private-sector registries.

"Accountability is a perennial issue with ICANN. People complain about it all the time," says Technology Policy Institute president Thomas Lenard. "Except for the pretty loose ties to the U.S. government, ICANN really is only accountable to itself."

However, critics of the new proposal say it runs the risk of removing other important stakeholders from the process, including Internet service providers and Web site owners. NetChoice executive director Steve DelBianco said the proposal would be similar to the Federal Communications Commission giving broadcast stations the power to decide who gets access to wireless spectrum.

"We're not seeking privatization — we're already private," says ICANN vice president Paul Levins. He says the current model has "worked tolerably well. It's successful."

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