The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) opened a weeklong meeting today, where it will address critical issues like new generic top-level domains, internationalized domain names, and the organization's efforts to become more accountable and transparent. The international public meeting, the second of three ICANN has planned for this year, will also include discussions about a major expansion of available IP addresses, and about the process for accrediting registrars. Taking advantage of the meeting's venue in San Juan, Puerto Rico, the agenda also includes the first General Assembly of the Latin American and Caribbean Regional At Large Organisation, formed in March. "We're very pleased to be in Puerto Rico," Paul Twomey, ICANN's president and CEO, said during a news conference at the Caribe Hilton hotel, adding that the meeting's agenda is full of significant issues and efforts. ICANN oversees the Internet's address system and as such carries the critical responsibility of ensuring the overall security and stability of the Internet. A key effort ICANN is involved with is improving the transparency of its operations and the accountability of its decisions -- areas critics regularly complain about. "We must ensure we're in the leading edge of transparency and accountability," Twomey said. ICANN commissioned an independent study about its transparency and accountability in December from London's One World Trust, which reported its findings in March. It concluded that ICANN is a very transparent organization but that it could improve certain areas, including better explaining how it uses input from stakeholders when making decisions. ICANN has been taking steps to address the findings and earlier this month issued a response to the report. On Saturday, ICANN released online a set of draft principles and frameworks for accountability to discuss at the San Juan meeting. ICANN wants to make it easier for people to find the vast amount of information on its Web site, Twomey said. It also wants to be faster in posting information online about its meetings and initiatives, he added. However, the transparency and accountability issue will likely remain on the table until ICANN removes its special ties to the U.S. government. The organization was established in 1998 to progressively absorb Internet management functions that until then had been handled by the U.S. government. But since its inception, ICANN has been criticized for lacking transparency in its decision-making process and for responding disproportionately to U.S. interests. In September, the memorandum of understanding between the U.S. Department of Commerce and ICANN was renewed for three additional years, a disappointment for those who had hoped for ICANN's full autonomy. Also on this week's agenda is the Internationalized Domain Names (IDN) initiative, which aims to revamp the Domain Name System so that it can support domain names in a broad range of languages and alphabets that can't be represented via the ASCII character set. "You'd think this would be simple. It has turned out to be really hard, technically," said Vint Cerf, ICANN's chairman. Another initiative up for discussion is the drafting of a policy to introduce new generic top-level domains to add to the well-known ones like .com and .net. But, like the IDN effort, the project has run into technical challenges. The meeting will also feature a tutorial on the Internet Protocol Version 6 effort to significantly expand the amount of IP addresses available, because of the expected shortage under the current IPv4, Cerf said. The San Juan meeting, ICANN's 29th International Public Meeting, ends Friday and will feature more than 30 sessions and workshops.
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