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Administration puts off Internet domain transition for a year

The Commerce Department announced it would extend its contract with ICANN, putting off the government’s transition away from oversight over the Internet domain name system for at least another year. 

Larry Strickling, the administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), said it has become apparent over the last few months that everything could not get finished before the current contract expires at the end of September. 

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“After factoring in time for public comment, U.S. Government evaluation and implementation of the proposals, the community estimated it could take until at least September 2016 to complete this process,” he wrote in a blog post Monday afternoon. 

The extension had been long expected and the government said it has the option to extend it for another three years if needed. The group leading the transition still needs to complete a plan, the government needs to approve it and it has to be implemented. 

“By extending the United States’ role in these functions, we are creating an environment for ongoing dialogue and decision making instead of a rush to meet artificial deadlines,” a group of House Republicans said. “We appreciate the administration’s efforts and look forward to working with them, and the global Internet community, to get this done right.” 

House Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (Mich.), Rep. Greg Walden (Ore.) and Rep. John Shimkus (Ill.), who released the statement, have pushed legislation that would give Congress time to review the final plan before it is implemented. The bill passed the House but has become hung up in the Senate. 

Republicans were initially skeptical that the transition could give other governments the opportunity to gain more leverage over the Internet, but legislation has quieted most of those concerns. In the Senate, Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has pushed to strengthen the bill and placed a hold on it. 

The Commerce Department’s NTIA has had oversight of the Internet’s domain name system, which matches up IP addresses with easily searchable domain names. The government has historically contracted that role out to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a nonprofit group. 

When the government decided to go ahead with a long-established plan to transition away from government oversight, it tasked ICANN with leading the move. ICANN officials have said a final plan could come later this year and a final transition could happen in 2016.