MCI WorldCom, Cisco bail ICANN out of debt

MCI WorldCom and Cisco Systems have agreed to lend $US650,000 to the nonprofit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) that is helping to overhaul some of the internet's key management functions, rescuing it for the time being from financial dire straits.

ICANN disclosed recently that it had run out of cash and racked up debts of about $US1 million. The group is most well known for its effort to usher in a new system for registering internet domain names, which has turned into an excruciating and drawn out process.

ICANN received loans of $500,000 from MCI WorldCom and $150,000 from Cisco, according to a statement from ICANN on Friday.

"These loans are part of an international effort to provide temporary financial support for ICANN until our permanent funding is put in place later this year. Discussions with other companies in the US and elsewhere are currently in progress," Mike Roberts, ICANN's interim president and chief executive, said in the statement.

The money will help ICANN meet its target of $2 million it needs to pay its expenses until permanent funding is secured, ICANN interim chairman Esther Dyson said in the statement. "The directors and management of ICANN greatly appreciate the new funding support we have received," she added.

ICANN was formed by the US government in November to help farm out responsibility for various internet maintenance jobs which at the time were handled by government contractors. Besides overhauling the system for registering the .com, .org and .net internet addresses, ICANN is charged with reorganising the allocation of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, the management of the internet's root servers, and the assignment of protocol parameters.

To get itself started, ICANN raised more than $400,000 from networking and internet companies including MCI WorldCom, Cisco, America Online and Ascend Communications, which has since been acquired by Lucent Technologies. The funds were supposed to keep ICANN running until it secured a regular source of funding, such as from an annual fee it planned to charge registrars of internet addresses.

Delays in the birth of the new, competitive registration system -- which has been held up by technical difficulties and by squabbling between ICANN and the current government contractor, Network Solutions Inc -- meant those fees weren't forthcoming. In addition, ICANN has experienced larger-than-expected operating costs.

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