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United States Department of Commerce Executes Contract for Technical Management of the Internet with ICANN

The United States Department of Commerce has executed a new contract with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to continue to perform the IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) function.

The IANA function includes Internet Protocol (IP) address space allocation, protocol identifier assignment, generic (gTLD) and country code (ccTLD) Top-Level Domain name system management, as well as root server system management functions.

"In executing this contract the Department of Commerce has confirmed that ICANN is uniquely positioned to perform this function," said Dr. Paul Twomey, President and CEO of ICANN.

The new contract for the IANA function is a five-year agreement, consisting of a series of one-year options. ICANN has held the contracts for this function since 1998.

"It means that ICANN remains the organisation responsible for a range of functions that are vital to the daily operation of the Domain Name System (DNS) and hence the Internet," Dr. Twomey said.

The DNS helps users find their way around the Internet. Every computer on the Internet has a unique address called its "IP address" (Internet Protocol address). Because IP addresses (which are strings of numbers) are hard to remember, the DNS allows a familiar string of letters (the "domain name") to be used instead. So rather than typing "," users can type

"This is also a tribute to the staff who worked so hard to perform this important task. On behalf of the ICANN Board, I congratulate them on a great effort," Dr. Twomey said.

Media Contacts:


Andrew Robertson, Edelman (London)
Ph: +44 7921 588 770

Tanzanica King, ICANN (USA)
Ph: +1 310 301 5804


The U.S. Department of Commerce (DoC), National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) initiated this agreement to maintain the continuity and stability of services related to certain interdependent Internet technical management functions, known collectively as the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA).

These functions used to be performed on behalf of the United States Government under a contract between the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the University of Southern California (USC), as part of a research project known as the Terranode Network Technology (TNT).

As the TNT project neared completion and the DARPA/USC contract neared expiration in 1999, the Government recognised the need for the continued performance of the IANA functions as vital to the stability and correct functioning of the Internet.

On December 24, 1998, USC entered into a transition agreement with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) under which ICANN secured directly from USC, all necessary resources, including key personnel, intellectual property, and computer facility access critical to the continued performance of the IANA functions. Having assumed these key resources (as well as other responsibilities associated with privatisation of the Internet domain name system), ICANN was uniquely positioned to undertake performance of these functions. On February 8, 2000, March 21, 2001, and then on March 13, 2003, the DoC entered into an agreement with ICANN to perform the IANA functions. In connection with its work under these agreements, ICANN has developed and maintained close, constructive working relationships with a variety of interested parties, including Internet standards development organisations and technical bodies.

About ICANN:

ICANN is a non-profit organisation responsible for coordinating the Internet's systems of unique identifiers, including the systems of domain names and numeric addresses that are used to reach computers on the Internet. ICANN's mission is to ensure the stable and secure operation of these unique identifier systems, which are vital to the Internet' operation. In addition, ICANN coordinates policy development related to these technical functions through its effective bottom-up consensus model.

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Domain Name System
Internationalized Domain Name ,IDN,"IDNs are domain names that include characters used in the local representation of languages that are not written with the twenty-six letters of the basic Latin alphabet ""a-z"". An IDN can contain Latin letters with diacritical marks, as required by many European languages, or may consist of characters from non-Latin scripts such as Arabic or Chinese. Many languages also use other types of digits than the European ""0-9"". The basic Latin alphabet together with the European-Arabic digits are, for the purpose of domain names, termed ""ASCII characters"" (ASCII = American Standard Code for Information Interchange). These are also included in the broader range of ""Unicode characters"" that provides the basis for IDNs. The ""hostname rule"" requires that all domain names of the type under consideration here are stored in the DNS using only the ASCII characters listed above, with the one further addition of the hyphen ""-"". The Unicode form of an IDN therefore requires special encoding before it is entered into the DNS. The following terminology is used when distinguishing between these forms: A domain name consists of a series of ""labels"" (separated by ""dots""). The ASCII form of an IDN label is termed an ""A-label"". All operations defined in the DNS protocol use A-labels exclusively. The Unicode form, which a user expects to be displayed, is termed a ""U-label"". The difference may be illustrated with the Hindi word for ""test"" — परीका — appearing here as a U-label would (in the Devanagari script). A special form of ""ASCII compatible encoding"" (abbreviated ACE) is applied to this to produce the corresponding A-label: xn--11b5bs1di. A domain name that only includes ASCII letters, digits, and hyphens is termed an ""LDH label"". Although the definitions of A-labels and LDH-labels overlap, a name consisting exclusively of LDH labels, such as"""" is not an IDN."