From the Southern Illinoisan, Carbondale, Illinois, USA, Saturday, June 6, 1998
Government backing away from managing the Internet
Washington (AP)--The Clinton administration unveiled plans Friday to end government management of the Internet and hand over the toughest decisions about the future of the computer network to a new international board.
"We don't think the Internet community wants the U.S. government to be staying in here forever, and the U.S. government does not want to be here forever," said Becky Burr, an associate administrator at the Commerce Department.
The government's final plan comes less than four months before the current system expires, but Burr promised to "take whatever appropriate steps we need to make sure the stability of the Internet is not compromised."
Experts say if all goes well, people should hardly notice.
Unlike an earlier proposal, the plan released Friday turns over many of the most controversial decisions on the Internet's future management to a yet-to-be-formed international board of 15 members.
The Commerce Department said it wants the often-fractious Internet community to come together to decide how the board will be created, how it will manage the World Wide Web's addresses and how it will resolve trademark disputes. But government officials had scant details about how they expect such cooperation to coalesce.
The biggest change that the world's Internet users might see, possibly within months if the new board were to agree, is a handful of new suffixes for Web addresses, such as "shop" and "rec," along with such familiar suffixes as "com," "net," "org," and "gov."
But the government, which formerly suggested adding five new suffixes, backed off any specific recommendation Friday.
"The decision of when new (suffixes) will be added, or if they will be added, we'll defer to the new board," said Burr, who is associate director of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
The government also said people who want to register their own Web site addresses will likely find that process cheaper and easier, as new companies are allowed to compete for that business.
Most other changes, if the plan is successful, will be transparent.
A smooth changeover is crucial as the Internet has become a vital conduit worldwide for information and commerce. Some estimates say as many as 62 million people use the network and its more than 2 million Web addresses.
Under the current system, registration of many of the Internet's Web addresses is the responsibility of Network Solutions Inc., a company in Herndon, Va., run under an exclusive five-year federal contract with the National Science Foundation that expires at the end of September.