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Internet

Raising funds for Net names body

A private-sector consortium launches a drive to fund the nonprofit organization that will take over the Net's domain naming system.

As the U.S. government prepares to withdraw from the business of administering Internet addresses, a private-sector consortium has launched a drive to fund the nonprofit organization that will take over the government's responsibilities.

The Global Internet Project, an international consortium of Internet companies, today announced a fundraising drive to sponsor the nonprofit in its initial stages. The drive has raised $135,000 so far, according to the GIP's member MCI Communications' representative and Internet pioneer Vint Cerf.

"We are cautiously optimistic that we will get a half million dollars in pledges, which we think is enough to get the nonprofit off the ground," Cerf said.

The Internet address system--currently run by the U.S. government through contracts with the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority and private corporation Network Solutions--has been successful so far, said Cerf in a conference call this afternoon. But because the Internet has grown from a research tool to a medium for worldwide commerce and communications, it is time for the U.S. government to end its current role, he said, a point that the government has been making for more than a year.

The government has said that it will end its involvement in the Internet naming system by the end of this month. Controversy has loomed over the transfer of power, with various factions vying for power and arguing for the best solution. Cerf said he was confident the new structure would be in place by that time.

In June the Clinton administration released a white paper calling for the transfer of the domain name system to the private sector. In the paper, it called for the vast Net community to come together to reach consensus on forming a nonprofit board to run the system.

While consensus seems farfetched, many in the Net community say they have come up with a plan, although it is not clear what the next step will be or how it will be taken.

It also is not clear who would fund it or how it would be funded.

The GIP, however, is soliciting members and nonmembers alike for donations of up to $50,000 per organization. The money raised so far was from members MCI, IBM, and GTE Internetworking; and from nonmembers Ascend Communications and Cisco Systems, both networking hardware providers.

GIP chairman and IBM representative John Patrick stressed that the GIP's role is only to advance the launch of the new nonprofit organization, and not to exert any control over it.

"GIP is a public policy group," Patrick said. "We are not trying to mandate or control or dictate or even analyze the technology issues being talked about, but to raise awareness on the importance of this issue. We also recognize that to get a nonprofit in place is going to require some start-up money."

And start-up money is all the GIP plans to raise. Once the new organization is in place, it will fund its own operations in a way that has not been ironed out yet, Cerf said. One likely source of funding would be a cut of the fee people pay to reserve domain names, according to Cerf.