A proposal to create hundreds of new internet domain names as alternatives to ".com" has suffered a setback as a key U.S. government agency warned that the plan might not benefit consumers or promote competition, reports the Associated Press. The internet’s key oversight body, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, had planned to start accepting bids for new internet suffixes early next year in what would be the first major overhaul of a decades-old addressing system. But in a letter sent to ICANN last week, a top Commerce Department official, Meredith Baker, said it wasn’t clear "whether the potential consumer benefits outweigh the potential costs." Baker heads the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The NTIA letter argues that before introducing new domain names, ICANN needs to ensure that the plan would not jeopardize the stability and security of the internet addressing system. And it says ICANN needs to examine whether companies operating the new domain name registries would have too much market power, including the power to raise domain name prices, and whether there should be more competition in the renewal of domain names. In June, ICANN approved new guidelines to make it easier for organizations to propose and obtain new suffixes that could cover locations such as ".nyc" and ".berlin" or industries such as ".bank." The organization now is crafting the specifics and had invited outside groups, including NTIA, to comment. It’s unclear, though, whether the NTIA’s criticisms would derail ICANN’s plan, given the upcoming change in administration…

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