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U.S. Government to Stop Controlling Web Addresses

The United States will give up its role overseeing the system of Web addresses and domain names that form the basic plumbing of the Internet, turning it over in 2015 to an international group whose structure and administration will be determined over the next year, government officials said on Friday.

Since the dawn of the Internet, the United States has been responsible for assigning the numbers that form Internet addresses, the .com, .gov and .org labels that correspond to those numbers, and for the vast database that links the two and makes sure Internet traffic goes to the right place.

The function has been subcontracted since 1998 to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or Icann, an international nonprofit organization, with the expectation that the United States would eventually step back from its role.

But that transition has taken on a new urgency in the last year because of revelations that the United States intelligence community, particularly the National Security Agency, has been intercepting Internet traffic as part of its global spying efforts.

While other countries have called for the United States to turn over the keys to the system, many businesses around the world, dependent on the smooth functioning of the Internet for their livelihood, have expressed concern about what form the new organization will take.

“We don’t want to break the Internet,” said Laura DeNardis, a professor at American University and the author of “The Global War for Internet Governance,” a recent book on the subject.

For consumers who use the Internet to stream movies or send email, nothing will change, if everything goes according to plan.

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