The U.S. still oversees the Internet’s domain names — for now

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The Department of Commerce will not be handing over control of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority to an international consortium at the end of September: The department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration extended its contract with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers until September 2016.

In a Monday blog post, NTIA Administrator Lawrence Strickling wrote it’s become increasingly apparent that the work required for the handover will take more time than originally thought. The United States has been planning to transfer its oversight of Web domains for the past few years, formally announcing in March 2014 that it will relinquish its position with ICANN, allowing a global coalition of Internet technical groups to take over in its place.

Strickling said NTIA informed Congress in May that its public comment period, government evaluation and implementation was not going to meet the Sept. 30, 2015, deadline, giving it no choice but extend the contract by a year.

A big portion of that plan will be working on transitioning NTIA from root zone management — the process of assigning the operators of top-level domains, such as .uk and .com, and maintaining their technical and administrative details.

Currently, the NTIA works with ICANN and Reston, Virginia-based VeriSign to manage and maintain the Internet’s domain name system. If NTIA does not complete the requisite work, it has the ability to re-sign with ICANN for another three years.

Congress has been skittish about the IANA transition over the past few months. At a Senate Commerce Committee hearing in February, committee members expressed concern that relinquishing ICANN oversight opens the door for lax accountability standards and gives authoritarian regimes the chance to censor the Internet.

Strickling has been calling for calm for the past year. At an American Enterprise Institute event last July, he told everyone to relax.

“Contrary to some initial concerns that we were giving away the Internet, the response from the global Internet community has been overwhelmingly supportive,” he said at the event. “The discussions to date demonstrate that the community is taking this transition very seriously and is determined to develop a transition plan that will ensure that the Internet [domain name system] continues to support a growing and innovative Internet.”

According to a notice in the Federal Register, NTIA is still taking public comments on the transition. The comment period is open until Sept. 12.

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Commerce Department, Departments, ICANN, National Telecommunications and Information Administration
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