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Control of Internet Is at Issue

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The U.S. Commerce Department's Joint Project Agreement (JPA) with ICANN is set to expire on Sept. 30. As that date approaches, Commerce is under increasing pressure from Europe, China, and ICANN itself to terminate the agreement, while U.S. corporations and legislators are lobbying to extend the JPA.

Members of the House committee that oversees the department say they want to make U.S. ties to ICANN permanent. However, European Union officials have suggested that oversight of the organization be turned over to a "G-12 for the Internet" version of the G-7 and G-20 groups of nations. ICANN officials have sought to appease U.S. interests by pointing out that even though the JPA will end, the United States has a separate contract with ICANN that lasts until 2011, potentially preserving U.S. interests.

There also has been some discussion that ICANN would not accept a new contract with the Commerce Department, but new ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom has so far refused to comment on what might happen after the JPA expires. Despite those issues, VeriSign, Technet, and other domain industry organizations have said that ICANN should permit at least a one-year extension of the JPA until accountability issues and other concerns can be properly addressed.

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