Internet Overseer Accused of Bias Ahead of Web Suffix Overhaul

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The impartiality of the group in charge of Internet addresses came into question Monday ahead of a plan to expand Web site domain suffixes.

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Not-for-profit group the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees the Internet’s naming structure, agreed in June to increase global top-level domain names -- a decision that critics said has no benefit to the billions of people who use the Internet.

“We predict that this expansion may force the globe’s 500 largest companies to spend an additional $2 billion, or $400,000 annually,” Josh Bourne, of the Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse, told The (London) Times. "This figure takes into account the acquiring and maintaining of domain names and making sure their brands are not hijacked by others.”

Weeks after voting to approve the decision to expand Internet domain names from January 2012, ICANN chairman Peter Dengate Thrush stepped down and was appointed as the executive chairman of Top Level Domain Holdings -- a company whose sole purpose is to profit from the Internet’s new suffixes.

The US Justice Department and the European Commission have expressed concerns over ICANN’s decisions and suggested “improvements” to how the body works, including “the need to ensure that members of ICANN’s board of directors do not have any conflicts of interest that could threaten independent and objective decision-making.”

Dengate Thrush said that his move was “not in breach of any rule,” arguing, “I don’t leave ICANN knowing any secrets. It’s not as if I know how the guidebook works and no one else does. The whole thing was developed transparently.”

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The $185,000 cost of new domain names covers ICANN’s costs and aims to deter cybersquatting -- where people can register a domain name in the hope that large corporations will buy them for huge fees.

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