Internet Domain Names: Background and Policy Issues
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 to corresponding domain names, making it possible to send and receive messages and to access information from computers anywhere on the Internet. 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, Internet freedom, e-commerce, and cybersecurity. With the expiration of the ICANN-DOC Joint Project Agreement on September 30, 2009, the announcement of the new AoC, the renewal of the IANA contract, and the rollout of the new generic top level domain (gTLD) program, the 113th Congress and the Administration are likely to continue assessing 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. Controversies over the new gTLDs and the addition of the .xxx domain have led some governments to criticize the ICANN policymaking process and to suggest various ways to increase governmental influence over that process. How these and other issues are ultimately addressed and resolved could have profound impacts on the continuing evolution of ICANN, the DNS, and the Internet.
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