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Internet Oversight Body OKs Overhaul

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers approved a plan to reform the way board members are selected.

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) -- Over objections that it is marginalizing individuals and noncommercial users, the Internet's key oversight body approved a major overhaul Friday aimed at improving efficiency but also ending direct elections for its directors.

Under the unanimously adopted reform plan, all board members of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers will be appointed by committees representing various Internet constituencies with technical, business, government and community involvement.

Currently, five of the board's 19 members are directly elected by the public, by geographical region. The board once said it would eventually fill as many as nine seats through such elections.

The ICANN was selected in 1998 by the U.S. government to oversee the Internet's domain-name system. Though relatively few Internet users are even aware of the group, its decisions affect how people find Web sites and send e-mail.

Stuart Lynn, chief executive and president of the ICANN, said the changes were necessary to ensure board members have the knowledge and experience necessary to understand the technical issues before the organization.

"I am absolutely delighted and energized that the board adopted the blueprint for reforms to make the ICANN more efficient," Lynn said after the four-hour board meeting, held in Romania's capital.

But some critics argued that such efficiency could come at the expense of democracy and could strip Internet users of a voice in how the ICANN is run. The proposal was approved 18-0.

Karl Auerbach, an at-large board member elected on a platform critical of ICANN, did not attend the meetings and did not vote.

Lynn said the board "recognizes that not everyone is going to be happy ... but we need to move on."

An ICANN reform committee now must come up with an implementation plan before the next public meeting, to be held Oct. 27-31 in Shanghai, China. The reform plan also seeks to give the operators of country-code domains -- such as ".fr" for France -- more influence. It also attempts to ensure adequate funding by doubling to 25 cents per domain name the fees that registration companies pay to the ICANN.

The board also voted to establish an ombudsman to field criticisms.

In addition, it approved a "safety net" for reactivating domain names inadvertently allowed to expire. Porn sites, in particular, have been aggressive about grabbing the domain names of churches, schools and other organizations that forget to renew.

Now, those groups would have a 30-day grace period, extended from five days.

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