US officials are taking steps to relinquish control of the Internet address system.
Over in the States, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) within the Commerce Department has announced that it has asked the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to start the process of transitioning oversight of the Internet's domain name system (DNS) to a non-governmental entity.
Specifically, NTIA has a contract to run the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) within ICANN until 2015. IANA is responsible for the global coordination of the DNS Root, IP addressing, and other Internet protocol resources. Taking control of the IANA away from the US completes a DNS privatisation effort that dates back to 1997.
"The timing is right to start the transition process," Lawrence Strickling, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information, said in a statement. "We look forward to ICANN convening stakeholders across the global Internet community to craft an appropriate transition plan."
NTIA has asked ICANN to come up with a proposal that will ensure a smooth transition. That plan, according to NTIA, must have broad community support, and address four specific principles, including a promise to maintain the openness of the Internet and the security of the DNS.
"NTIA will not accept a proposal that replaces the NTIA role with a government-led or an inter-governmental organisation solution," the agency said.
For now, things will remain the same; NTIA's contract expires on 30 September 2015.
The news comes amidst the rollout of hundreds of new generic top-level domains. Seven of them launched in January, and dozens more are expected each month.
Not everyone is a fan of the proposed gTLDs, though. Late last week in the US, Senator Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat and chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, took issue with the proposed .sucks domain, which three companies are vying to control.