The US has agreed to consult with other governments over top-level domain names in a major shift in the US policy on control of the internet, EU officials confirmed on Wednesday.
Yesterday, at the WSIS (World Summit on the Information Society) in Tunis, the US signed up to a set of principles of internet governance proposed by the EU, according to European officials.
Under the deal, struck late on Tuesday night, all parties agreed that "no government should have the last word on another country's top level domain", said Martin Selmayr, a spokesman for EU Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding, who attended the meeting.
This marks a "major step towards internationalisation" of internet governance, he said.
A US government official confirmed that the US was "happy with the deal".
The current system where ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) is responsible for day-to-day management decisions concerning the internet will remain in place, Selmayr said.
Under the changes, however, if ICANN made a decision affecting a non-US country's TLD (top level domain), it would make a proposal to its controlling body, the US DoC (Department of Commerce). The DoC would then have to consult with the country involved, Selmayr said. Under the current structure, there is no consultation with other countries.
The details of how the procedure would work will be worked out in the first half of next year, he added.
The EU has been leading attempts to increase influence of non-US governments over the internet and the summit's decision represents a considerable victory over the US which wanted to maintain the status quo.
EU governments have complained that, under the current system, disputes concerning TLDs have to be settled in the US under US law, putting other countries and non-US firms at a disadvantage.
The summit attendees also agreed to set up an international forum next year to look at general issues of internet architecture, addressing questions such as spam and child protection. The first meeting will take place in Greece next year under the aegis of the UN secretary-general Kofi Annan.