The Department of Commerce has given its approval to a plan to privatize the Internet’s domain name system. The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) determined that the proposal submitted by the global Internet multistakeholder community meets the criteria NTIA outlined in March 2014 when it announced its intention to complete the privatization of the Internet’s domain name system.

As part of this 18-year privatization effort, in 2014, NTIA said it would transition the U.S. government’s stewardship role of technical functions related to the Internet’s domain name system (DNS), commonly known as the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions, to the Internet’s global multistakeholder community.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, said the proposal would meet the needs and expectations of the global customers and partners of IANA functions, while also maintaining the openness of the Internet.

“Today’s announcement marks an important milestone in the U.S. government’s 18-year effort to privatize the Internet’s domain name system,” Secretary Pritzker said. “This transition ensures that the Internet continues to flourish as a platform for innovation, economic growth and free expression.”

The domain name system helps users navigate the web more easily by connecting names consumers associate with websites with numerical addresses.

Secretary Pritzker stressed that the proposal met a key condition – that it does not replace the role of NTIA with a “government or intergovernmental solution.”

The United States has long controlled the domain name system through a contract it has with a nonprofit, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). In 2014, the Obama administration initiated steps to transfer control to an international group of stakeholders. Critics of the move say it may backfire by handing over control of the Internet to unfriendly elements.