ICANN chief to leave office early, may miss key transition

The ICANN leader who kicked off the Internet organization's move away from U.S. government control will leave his post early, possibly before the transition is finished.

Fadi Chehadé, who became president and CEO of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in September 2012, will step down in March 2016, ICANN announced on Thursday. He is leaving for a new career in the private sector, outside of the domain name industry, the group said. Chehadé's term was to have lasted until June 2017.

Chehadé's biggest job at the helm of ICANN, which coordinates the Internet's DNS (Domain Name System) and Internet Protocol addresses, has been to shepherd its transition away from U.S. control. ICANN operates under a contract from the U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which is scheduled to expire in September.

The U.S. government shepherded the development of the Internet, but the administration of names and addresses on the network has been run in partnership with ICANN, a private nonprofit, since the late 1990s. In March 2014, the NTIA and ICANN announced they would dissolve the partnership in favor of a more international governance model. Defining that new model has led to extensive debate, and it's widely expected that the transition won't be complete by the September expiration date. Chehadé recently was quoted saying he expects the process to be finished by year's end.

Chehadé will be available after next March to advise ICANN's board and work on the transition to a new leader, the group said.

The move away from U.S. oversight will continue, said Lawrence Strickling, U.S. assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information.

"A successful transition does not depend on the leadership of a single individual, but rather the engagement of the global multistakeholder community working collaboratively to ensure that the Internet remains open, secure, and resilient," Strickling said in a prepared statement.

In addition to the stewardship transition, Chehadé has overseen the introduction of new top-level domains, another hot topic of debate. Born in Lebanon, he was an executive at several companies including software vendors Vocado and CoreObjects Software before joining ICANN.

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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