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NSF & Congress

Hearing Summary: NSF Acting Deputy Director Bordogna Testifies on NSF Role in Internet Domain Name System

September 25, 1997

NSF Acting Deputy Director Dr. Joseph Bordogna discussed NSF's role in fostering growth of the Internet, including NSF's role in domain name registration at a hearing on the Internet Domain Name System before the House Subcommittee on Basic Research on September 25, 1997.

Dr. Bordogna explained that "NSF has launched an ambitious set of research and education activities--Knowledge and Distributed Intelligence or KDI--[that aim] to improve our ability to collect, represent, transmit and apply information." The KDI initiative represents "the future direction for most NSF investments in networking for science, engineering and education, Bordogna added, and "that is why NSF has been slowly withdrawing support of technologies and concepts related to the original Internet."

Bordogna also told the subcommittee that NSF sees little role for itself given the rapid commercialization of the Internet. "NSF is not the proper place to put the oversight," he said. "We get increasingly worried about our ability to oversee something which is not really in our statutory mission."

Assistant Commerce Secretary Larry Irving told the subcommittee a draft plan for overhauling the Internet address system that will rely heavily on the private sector will be available by early November. "There's no present or future inclination of anybody in the government to continue the role of governance or direction," he said. "We want to give it to the private sector."

An interagency task force studying the problem will issue a comprehensive plan within about a month, Irving said. Irving also said that while the NSF cooperative agreement with Network Solutions, Inc. for domain name registration ends March 31, 1998, it was his opinion that it should be extended for up to six months.

Bordogna was not as certain whether the cooperative agreement would be extended. "The NSF is not going to walk away from its responsibility of oversight,". However, Bordogna emphasized that the National Science Foundation would like to "transfer oversight to another governmental entity."

Subcommittee Vice-Chairman Chip Pickering said that the hearings were called to clear up questions about exactly when the NSF will let its contracts with Network Solutions and the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) expire and how the administration plans to prevent chaos.

"We need a transition plan first, and then have contracts expire in a deliberate step-by-step process that facilitates the transitioning of the domain names system to the private sector," Pickering said. Pickering also echoed the view of Irving and Bordogna that the private sector should govern the Internet in the future. "We want to see private and competitive solutions," he said.

See also: Testimony from Dr. Bordogna.