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Commerce mulls domain comments

While the DOC weighs comments about its controversial domain "green paper," portions of it could be put into action quickly, an official says.

Portions of the Commerce Department's domain name proposal could put into action as early as next month, a Commerce Department official said today.

Yesterday, the period to comment on the so-called green paper Dueling domains ended and Commerce Department officials are beginning the process of reading the more than 650 responses, said Becky Burr, senior Internet policy adviser for the DOC.

The DOC's goal is to strike a balance between carefully considering the comments and going through them as quickly as possible, she said.

It is ready to put into action the few parts of the plan that were not controversial. "We are still optimistic we will begin implementing at least portions of it in April," Burr said. For instance, she said, "almost all of the comments welcomed establishing a private, not-for-profit entity to administer domain names and address policy."

The January 30 report proposes transferring power over the domain name system from the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) to a private, not-for-profit corporation with a 15-member board that includes representation from the private and public sectors as well as the international community.

The plan proposes that the U.S. government immediately start gradually transferring power over the domain name system from the IANA to the nonprofit board. The board, in turn, would oversee the proposed registries of domain names. Currently, Network Solutions, which is under a government contract to register the top-level domains such as ".com," ".org," and ".net," falls under IANA. IANA, in all likelihood, would play a major role in the new board.

But other areas of the plan are much more controversial, with sharp divisions forming about certain aspects of the plan. And the Commerce Department will have to look more carefully at those issues, Burr said.

"We're looking to do this on the basis of consensus," she said. "That complicates the problem but makes the process consistent with the Internet tradition."

One of the biggest hurdles appears to be how to assuage the international community. Many people weighed in with comments accusing the U.S. government of grabbing power that should be shared more internationally. The proposal does include plans to include the international community.

Burr said the Commerce Department will be able to better determine timing on the majority of the plan some time next week.

The plan does not have to be approved by any governing body and those wishing to challenge it probably will have to do so in court.