Internet Caretaker ICANN To Escape U.S. Control

Internet Caretaker ICANN To Escape U.S. Control

San Francisco (AFP) — The head of the private agency entrusted with running the Internet has said that the group is on course to break free of U.S. oversight late next year.

Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) chief Fadi Chehade expressed his confidence in the move during a press briefing at the opening of the nonprofit organization’s meeting this week in Los Angeles.

“ICANN is in a very solid, confident place today,” Chehade said of its readiness for a ‘post U.S.-government role’ in charge of the Internet addressing system.

The timeline for the shift is months rather than years, according to Chehade.

While cautioning that there was no strict deadline, he said that substantial progress has been made toward ICANN being answerable to a diverse, global group of “stakeholders” and not the just the U.S. government, as has long been the case.

The U.S. government in March of this year announced that it is open to not renewing a contract with ICANN that expires in about 11 months, provided a new oversight system is in place that represents the spectrum of interests and can be counted on to keep the Internet addressing structure reliable.

ICANN plans to hand a proposal fitting the bill to the U.S. Department of Commerce next year.

“If the U.S. government is satisfied, they would not renew the contract,” Chehade said.

“There are many people in the community who would like to see we not renew the contract past 2015.”

If U.S. officials are unhappy with the proposal, the contract could be renewed for a short period to allow time for it to be revised.

– Grabs for control –

As the U.S. steps back from overseeing ICANN, states and corporations are grabbing for the reins.

ICANN has gone from being behind the scenes tending to the task of managing website addresses to being center stage in a play for power on the Internet.

“Governments want to exert control over the sweeping transnational power of the Internet that is effecting their policies, politics, social fabric, and/or their economic conditions,” Chehade told AFP just days before the group gathered in Los Angeles to tackle an array of hot issues.

“The other groups are large corporations concerned about security issues,” he continued while discussing forces striving for influence over the organization.

“Therefore, they are stepping in with force to figure out how to reduce potential harm to customers and to their businesses.”

Governance of the Internet will be a high-profile topic at the ICANN 51 meeting that will continue through October 16 in Los Angeles.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker addressed the gathering on Monday, affirming support for ICANN being accountable to the “global multistakeholder community” and not to any single organization.

“Let me be clear about this,” Pritzker said.

“The United States will not allow the global Internet to be co-opted by any person, entity or nation seeking to substitute their parochial world view for the collective wisdom of this community.”

The ICANN 51 agenda includes tackling whether identities of those running websites should be public or whether privacy should be safeguarded and operators true names revealed only with proper court orders.

Another hot topic is the historic roll-out of a vast array of new domain names that has seen controversy over website address endings such as .wine or .gay.

“There is quite a bit of thematic focus on the top-level domain space,” Chehade said, referring to online neighborhoods making debuts.

“ICANN is not in the content policing business; this is not what we do,” he added when asked about potential for some domain operators to allow inappropriate material.

“We just want to make sure the company that gets the domain can deliver on what they say and do it with reliability.”

AFP Photo/Roslan Rahman

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Amazon Loss Widens Despite Climbing Sales

Amazon Loss Widens Despite Climbing Sales

By Glenn Chapman

San Francisco (AFP) — Internet retail titan Amazon reported a money-losing quarter despite impressive growth in sales, sending shares plummeting by more than 10 percent.

The Seattle-based firm said that it had a net loss of $126 million in the quarter that ended June 30, widening the deficit from $7 million in the same period a year earlier.

Sales, meanwhile, climbed to $19.34 billion in a 23 percent rise from the second quarter of last year.

Amazon shares plunged more than 10 percent to $322.20 in after-market trades that followed release of the earnings figures.

The loss came as Amazon poured money into a new Fire smartphone, original programming for its Prime subscription service, drone package delivery, and more.

“We continue working hard on making the Amazon customer experience better and better,” Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos said in the earnings release.

He rattled off a list of recent Amazon product or service introductions that included improved delivery operations in the US and Europe; a streaming music service, and Kindle Unlimited all-you-can-read book subscriptions.

– Earnings deja vu –

“I feel like this is ‘Groundhog Day’ over and over again,” Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru said, comparing Amazon earnings to a Bill Murray comedy film about a man perpetually reliving the same day.

“I don’t know how much longer it can keep going.”

Mulpuru was skeptical of the argument that Amazon is investing heavily for the future, noting that Google and Apple pour money into innovation but manage to make profit along the way.

“Apple created the iPad; Google has Fiber, Glass, and driverless cars and they are still pulling profit,” Mulpuru said.

“So what is Amazon’s excuse?”

The analyst suspected that Amazon was actually investing in shipping systems, dynamic pricing algorithms, and cutting prices to grab market share in moves “effectively decimating a lot of retailers.”

Investors betting on Amazon gaining a near monopoly and then jacking prices will likely be disappointed, the analyst reasoned.

Regulators would likely weigh in under those circumstances, and major retail players such as Wal-mart won’t go quietly into that good night, Mulpuru said.

– Millions for original shows –

Amazon forecast that its sales would continue to grow impressively this quarter, climbing from 15 percent to 26 percent to as high as $21.5 billion when compared with the prior year.

The online retailer expected its operating loss to widen, possible to as much as $810 million in contrast to a $25 million operating loss logged in the third quarter of last year.

Amazon will spend more than $100 million this quarter on original shows, putting those promised into production and cranking out pilot episodes for new projects, chief financial officer Tom Szkutak said during an earnings call.

“We will be ramping up the spend on video content significantly,” Szkutak said, noting that Amazon likes what it has seen so far regarding its foray into original programming.

“We’ve greenlighted a number of pilots and will be in heavy production during the third quarter.”

Ranks of subscribers to a Amazon Prime service that includes streaming video has “grown nicely” and the company is extremely pleased with response it has seen to recently launched Kindle Unlimited e-book subscriptions, according to the chief financial officer.

Amazon said it is also investing in expanding geographically in China, Spain, India and elsewhere.

“We are encouraged by the sheer magnitude of opportunities we have and are investing in those opportunities.”

Amazon’s broad strategy is to reach more people and connect with them at more points in their lives, according to Daymon Worldwide vice president of consumer strategy Virginia Morris.

“It is much more about being everything for every consumer, and the profitability will come,” Morris said.

Fire smartphones tightly woven to Amazon services and shopping began arriving in buyers’ hands on Thursday.

Szkutak said that Amazon was confident Fire would hold its own as a viable contender in the fiercely competitive smartphone market as well as promote books, games, videos, and other money-making offerings from the company.

AFP Photo / David Ryder

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