WASHINGTON - The US government announced Friday it was giving up its key role overseeing the Internet's technical operations, handing over those functions to "the global multi-stakeholder community."
The move "marks the final phase of the privatization" of the management of the Internet domain name system, said a statement from the US Commerce Department.
The US agency called for "global stakeholders to develop a proposal" for a transition to a new plan with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, a non-profit group that took over some of the functions in 1997 under an agreement with the US government.
The decision comes with Washington under pressure following revelations about vast surveillance programs operated by the secretive National Security Agency to collect intelligence and other data through a variety of methods.
ICANN leaders said during a conference call that the move by the US was a sign that the organisation has matured and that it was in the works long before leaked documents showed massive online snooping by intelligence agents.
"Every president, every board of ICANN since its inception has been working toward this day," ICANN president and chief executive Fadi Chehade said during a conference call.
No immediate impact
The end of the US oversight role has no immediate impact for Internet users, and ICANN will continue to administer the network's key technical functions.
The change affects US government oversight of "root zone" of databases underlying the Internet which makes Washington a steward of that system, even though the functions are contracted out to ICANN and the infrastructure company Verisign.