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US to reduce its oversight of a key internet governor, but don't expect big changes

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The US government has been gradually reducing its influence over the internet ever since it offloaded domain management responsibilities to ICANN back in the late 1990s, and today it took an important (if mostly symbolic) step toward severing those connections for good. The Department of Commerce has asked ICANN to work on a transition plan that will end American monitoring of the firm, letting it run independently. The only major stipulations are that the resulting system is free of government control, maintains cooperative governance and fosters an open internet. The transition was always going to be in the cards at some point, but the proposal request is a gesture toward an international community worried that a surveillance-happy US has too much say over what happens online.

Don't be too quick to celebrate, though. A big policy change is unlikely, at least in the short term -- the Commerce Department has only had limited practical control. Also, ICANN itself only has so much reach. While it does watch over domain names and network addresses, it can't completely block sites or open them up to spies. At the moment, the shift is more about fulfilling promises and reassuring global partners than anything else.

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