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Diane Publishing Books
Internet Domain Names: Background and Policy Issues
Leonard G. Kruger (au)
Navigating the Internet requires using addresses and corresponding names that identify the location of individual computers. The Domain Name System (DNS) is the distributed set of databases residing in computers around the world that contain address numbers mapped tocorresponding domain names, making it possible to send and receive messages and to access information from computers anywhere on the Internet. The DNS is managed and operated by a not-for-profit public benefit corp. called the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Because the Internet evolved from a network infrastructure created by the Dept. of Defense (DOD), the U.S. government originally owned and operated (primarily through private contractors) the key components of network architecture that enable the domain name system to function. A 1998 Memorandum ofUnderstanding (MOU) between ICANN and the Dept. of Commerce (DOC) initiated a process intended to transition technical DNS coordination and management functions to a private sector not-for-profit entity. While the DOC has played no role in the internal governance or day-to-day operations of the DNS, ICANN remained accountable to the U.S. government through the MOU, which was superseded in 2006 by a Joint Project Agreement (JPA). On Sept. 30,2009, the JPA between ICANN and DOC expired and was replaced by an Affirmation of Commitments (AoC), which provides for review panels to periodically assess ICANN processes and activities. Many of the technical, operational, and management decisions regarding the DNS can have significant impacts on Internet-related policy issues such as intellectual property, privacy, ecommerce, and cybersecurity. Congress and the Admin. continue to assess the appropriate federal role with respect to ICANN and the DNS, and examine to what extent ICANN is positioned to ensure Internet stability and security, competition, private and bottom-up policymaking and coordination, and fair representation of the global Internet community. A related issue is whether the U.S. governmentís unique authority over the DNS root zone should continue indefinitely. Contents of this report: Background and History; ICANN Basics; Issues in the 111th Congress: ICANNís Relationship with the U.S. Government; Affirmation of Commitments; DOC Agreements with IANA and VeriSign; ICANN and the International Community; Adding New Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs); ICANN and Cybersecurity; Privacy and the WHOIS Database; Concluding Observations. Figures.
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