Consumer-rights guru proposes limits to ICANN

New 13-point plan seeks to curb Internet group's authority, calls the right to a Net domain the same as the right to have 'a street address, a telephone number or a person's name'.

US consumer rights advocate Ralph Nader has launched a new round of attacks against ICANN, the non-profit group that manages Internet addresses, with a proposal outlining the way ICANN's power should be controlled.

Nader believes the group's authority should be based on a multilateral government charter that clearly defines and limits the organisation's authority. He has previously criticised the beleaguered organisation for catering to corporate interests and overextending its authority.

ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, was established last year to phase out the government's involvement in the domain name system and to end the monopoly held by Network Solutions, by opening up the registration of such popular domains as ".com" and ".net" to additional companies.

Nader's 13-point proposal -- posted on his Consumer Project on Technology Web site -- argues that the right to have a domain on the Internet "should be considered the same as the right to have a street address, a telephone number or a person's name". Nader wants ICANN's budget and internal documents to be made available to the public. He also proposes that national governments be given more control over policies related to the use of top-level country domains.

Additionally, Nader's "Framework for ICANN and DNS Management" asks that ICANN's charter protect the public's rights to parody, criticism and free speech.

Nader, besides the proposal posted on his site, is asking the public to comment on his ideas.

The activist is best known in the US for his campaigns against unsafe vehicles. More recently he has organised debate around high-tech issues such as Microsoft's domination of the software market.