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February 9, 2014

THE HILL: Tech industry fears shadow campaign to seize global control of Internet.

Fearing a power grab for control of the Internet, members of the tech industry are pleading with Congress to pay attention to the domain name expansion that is underway at a little-known nonprofit.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), led by its CEO Fadi Chehade, last year began rolling out thousands of alternatives to the traditional .com ending used by most websites. New endings using the Latin alphabet, such as .clothing and .singles, became available in January, and hundreds of others are on the way.

ICANN says it is focused on making the Internet more broadly available and has prioritized creating domain names in languages such as Chinese, Arabic and Cyrillic.

But critics say the nonprofit betrayed broader ambitions last year when it endorsed a statement calling for the globalization of ICANN and other domain name technical work that is currently managed by the United States.

By signing the statement, Chehade put “a target on ICANN’s back,” said Steve DelBianco, executive director of NetChoice.

“ICANN is not at the center of Internet governance,” said DelBianco, whose group represents companies such as Facebook, Yahoo and eBay.

The statement, which was issued with nine other Internet infrastructure organizations, suggested that the domain work of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) be handed over to ICANN. Those duties are now contracted out by the Commerce Department.

Some in the tech industry saw the statement as a direct challenge to the U.S. role in Internet governance, which is already being called into question after the revelations about global snooping at the National Security Agency (NSA).

More blowback.