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Clinton advisor defends Net privatisation

WASHINGTON-With full recognition that the government is stepping into a minefield of controversy, President Clinton's top policy adviser on technological issues today said the administration has taken the wisest course in its plan to privatize management of key portions of the Internet.

WASHINGTON-With full recognition that the government is stepping into a minefield of controversy, President Clinton's top policy adviser on technological issues today said the administration has taken the wisest course in its plan to privatize management of key portions of the Internet.

In terms of laying out a blueprint for completely relinquishing the government's role in overseeing the Internet, "we have come to the position of putting out this paper quite reluctantly, and we have been criticized, perhaps appropriately, for holding back too long," said Ira Magaziner, senior domestic policy adviser to President Clinton and the chief architect of the administration's recent paper outlining a plan to transfer oversight of the Internet to the private sector.

Magaziner, speaking at the Internet Executive Summit here, said the government's main goals in shedding federal responsibility for the Internet include preserving stability for the Internet, promoting competition in the oversight of the Internet's domain name registration system, encouraging private sector participation in the shaping of key Internet functions and ensuring international parity in determining critical Internet issues.

"It's very difficult for people in government to think about giving up control of something," Magaziner said, although the federal government "by its nature is too slow and too bureaucratic" to hold reins on the Internet.

"Therefore, you need something that is more private sector-oriented" to run the Internet's key functions, Magaziner said.

After issuing its recent discussion draft on how to privatize the domain name registration systems and other aspects of the Internet, the administration has 30 days to receive feedback from interested parties. It then will craft a policy that hopefully will balance the objectives of all Internet stakeholders, Magaziner said.

In seeking industry feedback, the administration recognizes that it is not, nor should it be, the final authority on the future disposition of the Internet, Magaziner said.

"To be clear, this is just a proposal that we've thrown out, and we have no clear conviction" that it spells out the only correct course for the government to relinquish its authority over the Internet, he explained.

In any event, the government is prepared to continue its oversight role over the Internet during a transition period to private rule, although the administration has targeted Oct. 1, 2000, as the date on which it hopes to have completely washed its hands of its role as Internet chaperone.