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Interview: ICANN willing to get China more involved in Internet management

By George Bao (Xinhua)

17:15, February 16, 2013

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) -- "China has a huge role to play in the global Internet. Without China and without complete Chinese participation in ICANN, ICANN frankly does not have a global legitimacy," Fadi Chehade, the newly appointed ICANN president, told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.

Chehade is travelling to Asia on Friday for the first time as the CEO of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a nonprofit private organization in charge of contentious policies surrounding Internet addresses.

Chehade told Xinhua in his office in Los Angeles before he leaves for China that he will first visit China in his Asian trip to make preparations for the ICANN international conference to be held in Beijing in April, the first time ICANN decides to hold its annual conference in China.

Chehade, who replaced former U.S. cyber security chief Rod Beckstrom as ICANN's chief executive, said "we are going to China first so we can engage with the Chinese community and ensure that our programs and our services meet their needs."

ICANN is also in charge of assigning the numeric Internet Protocol addresses used to identify computers, smartphones and other Internet-connected devices.

Although ICANN has board members from around the world, it is headquartered in Los Angeles and gets its authority from the U.S. government, which funded much of the Internet's early development.

Because of this, some developing countries have concerns over whether the United States has dominance in the field and whether all the other countries have the fair share.

He said there is only "one world, one Internet" and it is important to have a unified platform for all countries in the world.

According to Chehade, the Internet is like air, which has no borders. It is vital economically, politically and socially, and it should remain transparent that no one should have control over it. "We should leave it open and let people use it responsibly," he stressed.

Chehade said his purpose is to run ICANN with transparency and let each country in the world share the Internet resources equally.

Chehade said one of his chief tasks will be guiding the largest expansion of the Internet address system since its creation in the 1980s. The change affects how people find Web sites or send emails.

According to Chehade, there are only 23 domain name suffixes now, with .com the most common. But beginning this year, there will be .love, .goole and .music, and that has opened up a new area for people in the world to explore.

"When the program is implemented, people do not have to worry about the useup of IP addresses and domain names. It is almost unlimited, and at least for the next 10 years people do not have to worry," said Chehade.

Also for the first time, ICANN will unfold a new generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) program and the emerging TLDs in Chinese and other languages with non-Latin characters.

He said that program has been tested last year and ICANN has received 41 applications for the generic TLD domain names from China, of which 20 are in Chinese characters.

Chehade expects tens of thousands of new domain names with Chinese and other languages to be processed once the program is fully unfolded sometime this year.

He said it takes time to process those gTLD applications, but he has decided to give priority to the Chinese and other languages to show his commitment to let the other languages have a share.

"I am certain that the Chinese applicants will be very ready to move as fast as possible and hopefully they are the first to be out," said the president.

"I've also been announcing that ICANN is going to be shifting a lot of its U.S. centric operations to operations that are distributed around the world, including Asia. So we will be moving part of our core operational functions from Los Angeles to Asia soon, some will be in China, some will be in Singapore and other places," said the president.

"I think it is important that we share its readiness to become closer to the people we are serving, as closer as possible, and Asia has many people we have to serve," Chehade added.

He said he will hire professionals from China to work for the ICANN office in China and also will invite Chinese professionals to come to the U.S. to see how ICANN operates.

Addressing the concerns that the United States may have the power to shut down the Internet if necessary, Chehade said it has never happened before, and in his opinion it will never happen in the future because it is not in the best interest of the people in the world.

"In whose interest it would be if someone intends to do this?" Chehade asked. "It is a very dangerous precedent for anyone to ever think of exercising this."

"It takes away what the Internet is about. I think all of us want to remain open, want to remain fair, to remain multilingual and want to remain it a truthful resource for everybody in the world," said Chehade.

He said ICANN will also make sure the Internet will not be used by the bad people and Internet security is one of his major concerns.

Chehade said ICANN will launch the world's first and most important trademark clearinghouse in March to make preparations for the major change in the way Internet and email addresses are structured and assigned.

ICANN will also check applicants who apply for gTLDs to make sure they are financially healthy and have potential for future development.

Chehade was born in Lebanon and of Egyptian descent. He speaks English, Arabic, French and Italian. He lives in Los Angeles and became a U.S. citizen in 1986.

Chehade moved to the U.S. in 1980 at age 18. Smuggled out of Beirut, he arrived in Los Angeles with 482 U.D. dollars and worked two restaurant jobs there before attending Polytechnic Institute of New York on a scholarship. After graduating with a computer science degree in 1985, he got a master's in engineering management from Stanford University a year later.

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