As of October 1, 2009, ICANN will no longer be under the control of the U.S. Government. The Joint Project Agreement (JPA) with the U.S., which is the agreement that ICANN has operated under since its inception, expires today and a new agreement, The Affirmation of Commitments, will take its place.
The Affirmation of Commitments, which replaces the JPA and was signed today by the National Telecommunications Information Administration, essentially allows ICANN to operate freely and independently in the global community rather than remaining under U.S. control. Previous agreements between ICANN and the U.S. Government held 3-year expiration dates, however, the Affirmation of Commitments has no time limit. This essentially releases ICANN from all direct U.S. oversight, though the U.S. Government will remain involved through the Government Advisory Committee (GAC), who’s role was reaffirmed in the new agreement.
The new Affirmation of Commitments allows ICANN to remain a private, not-for-profit organization and also “declares ICANN is independent and is not controlled by any one entity.” Additionally, “it commits ICANN to reviews performed by the community – a further recognition that the multi-stakeholder model is robust enough to review itself.”
“ICANN was created to help move the domain name system that holds all the names and all the addresses together on the internet globally.” said Rod Beckstrom, Chief Executive Officer of ICANN. “And it was meant to transfer that responsibility from the U.S. government into the private sector, into a multi-stakeholder nonprofit organization. And the JPA was set up to assist that transfer and to make sure that transfer was successful.”
According to ICANN, the new Affirmation of Commitments completes a transition that started 11 years ago with the Memorandum of Understanding  between ICANN and the U.S. Government.
In 1998, ICANN was created, with assistance from the U.S. government, for “coordination of the Internet’s unique identifiers by the private sector through a not-for-profit organization where policies were developed from the bottom up.” At that time, a Memorandum of Understanding, along with the Joint Project Agreement (JPA) was put in place to help the organization reach its goals and eventually transfer the responsibility from the U.S. government into the private sector. According to the ICANN website “the Affirmation of Commitments places beyond doubt that the ICANN model is best equipped to coordinate this vital resource and places reviews of ICANN’s performance in the hands of the community.”
While this move was not unexpected, as the close ties between ICANN and the U.S. Government have been criticized by the International community, it appears to be welcomed by the International Internet community.
“It’s a beautifully historic day.” said Rod Beckstrom, as quoted by the BBC.