ICANN cleared – Can charge fees to cover costs

The Clinton administration acted legally and properly in transferring control of the Internet’s domain-name system to a nonprofit last year, according to a report issued by the General Accounting Office, the Standard reported June 7.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, has been attacked by critics since its founding as illegitimate.

“It’s nice to see some independent, authoritative validation of ICANN’s sound legal footing,” Esther Dyson, chair of ICANN’s board, told the Standard. “The challenge for all those involved in the ICANN process is to build on that foundation.”

According to the accounting office, the Clinton administration had legal authority to delegate oversight duties to the nonprofit. The report also found that ICANN was an independent creation of the private sector and that the government had little influence over creating the nonprofit or choosing its initial board of directors.

The largest controversy surrounding ICANN began when the group proposed a $1 fee for companies registering domain names. Some in Congress and in the Internet community called the fee an illegal tax, and the nonprofit backed off from the plan.

The General Accounting Office found that ICANN does have the authority to levy user fees, however, as long as those fees are only used to cover costs and not to make a profit.

One potential problem remains for the nonprofit. Elections are scheduled for five members of the group’s 19-member board this fall. Any person 16 or older with an e-mail or postal address can register to vote, but as of last week fewer than 30,000 people worldwide had done so.

The General Accounting Office conducted an inquiry after an unnamed senator inserted a request for a report into an appropriations bill last fall.

For full story, go to The Standard.

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