WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A controversial Obama administration plan to cede oversight of the non-profit that manages the Internet’s infrastructure is on track to gain government approval by next year’s presidential elections, the organization’s chief said in an interview.
Some Republican lawmakers have raised concerns about the plan to hand over the stewardship of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to a global multi-stakeholder body, worried that it may allow other countries to capture control.
But ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé said such opposition was fading and that some opponents would come around once they see the accountability mechanisms and other assurances put in place.
“I think they see now that this is actually a good thing for the Internet. The fragmentation of the Internet is bad for everyone,” he said.
“I’m never comfortable, but I am optimistic and I believe that all interests are now aligned... Everybody sees that this makes sense.”
Since 1998, the United States, which gave birth to the Internet, has contracted out, through the Commerce Department, the management of the master database for top-level domain names like .com and .net and their corresponding numeric addresses to ICANN.
The Commerce Department has long expected to phase out its oversight and planned to do it at the end of the current ICANN contract in September, though the timing may slip slightly and may require an extension.
ICANN members are working to draft a proposal for how the group would operate as an independent body run by stakeholders from across the world, including academics and business and government representatives.
Chehadé, who plans to leave ICANN in March, said the community should produce the proposal by the end of the year for the U.S. government, including the administration and Congress, to review. He said the review process, according to government estimates, would take 60 to 90 days.
Chehadé said he remained optimistic that those steps could be concluded before the U.S presidential election in November 2016, which may result in a Republican hostile to an ICANN power shift controlling the White House.
Once the review process was completed, ICANN members would work to implement the plan. It remains unclear how long that process would take.
The White House on Tuesday issued a veto threat to a bill proposed in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives that would restrict the Commerce Department’s ability to use its funding to relinquish ICANN oversight.
Reporting by Alina Selyukh; Editing by Christian Plumb