In coming months the US government will taper off funding of an organization that oversees the allocation of key Internet resources.
The action is part of the government's broad move to distance itself from the operational affairs of the Internet, according to Ira Magaziner, senior advisor to US President Bill Clinton.
Magaziner could not predict when the government would completely pinch off funding of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), but emphasized that the White House wants to assure a "smooth transition" to the IANA's new private sector-based funding scheme.
Until recently IANA, the top authority that manages the allocation of Internet domain names and Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, was fully funded by the US Department of Defense.
The White House will also allow the creation of a membership-based entity, called ARIN (Americas Registry for Internet Numbers), that will handle allocation of Internet Protocol (IP) addresses in the Americas, according to Magaziner.
"As the Internet grows and becomes more global and becomes more privately oriented, I think it's important that it evolve towards a private-oriented system," Magaziner said. "The formation of ARIN is a step along the way to get the US government out of it."
Magaziner's comments come amid a reshuffling of the methods for distributing Internet domain names and IP addresses. As the Internet in recent years has grown from its academic roots and spread quickly around the globe, calls for restructuring how key resources are handled have grown particularly loud. Many have criticised the government backing of IANA.
Under IANA's current plans it will be financed primarily by ARIN, the regional IP address registries in Europe and Asia, and private organisations. These last are expected to arise from a still unsettled plan to restructure the domain name system, according to John Postel director of IANA.
The current annual amount provided by the government is US$500,000, he said.
In the meantime, the US government is now sharing the funding of IANA between the U.S. Department of Defense, NASA and the Department of Energy, according to Magaziner.