Internet governing body ICANN meets in Dublin

ICANN in squabbles over whether it is ready to operate independently of US oversight

The global internet governing body ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), which oversees technical standards, domain names and internet addressing, kicks off its 54th public meeting on Monday morning in Dublin amidst global squabbles over whether it is ready to operate independently of US government oversight.

In an historic move, US president Barack Obama has given ICANN the green light to create the structures needed to move its core addressing and domain name functions out from under US government management – where they have been since the internet was created – to the control of the international internet community.

The issue is at the top of the agenda for the Dublin meeting. ICANN president and chief executive Fadi Chehadé said in an interview that he hopes Dublin will be the venue for hammering out most of the structures for the move.

“I believe frankly, we are down to technicalities and that we will come together in Dublin to [resolve] that,” he said.

Fully accountable

But others feel substantial issues remain. Two senior US lawmakers, Senate commerce committee chairman John Thune and senator Brian Schatz, the leading democrat on the Senate's internet subcommittee, sent a letter last week to ICANN's board, warning that it must find a way to remain fully accountable to the worldwide internet community after the handover. European groups have similarly indicated to ICANN that they want the body to offer clear indications of how the handover and oversight process will work, ensuring transparency and credibility.

ICANN public meetings are well known for showcasing such debate and turmoil, and draw a wide range of ardent stakeholders interested in the internet’s functions.

Anyone is welcome to attend the meetings at the Convention Centre and get involved more formally with committees or the many organisations – ranging from business groups to non-governmental organisations to technologists to political lobbies – that constitute ICANN’s wider, voting internet community. Agreements and changes within the organisation come from consensus voting by this broad community.

Other headline items on the agenda of the meeting, running until Thursday evening, will be a consideration of whether domain name owners should have to have their personal contact details on a publicly searchable database.

Karlin Lillington

Karlin Lillington

Karlin Lillington, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about technology