The US Department of Commerce (DOC) has renewed its contract with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to manage technical functions for the internet's domain name system.

The move means the US will remain ultimately in charge of the internet's addressing system until 2011.

The contract extension is for the technical management of the domain name system (DNS), but it is not an extension of the controversial memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the DOC and ICANN that outlines a transition of the management of the domain name system to the private sector. That expires September 30, and the DOC has not taken action on it, a DOC spokesman said.

Internet users from outside the US, including members of the United Nation's Working Group on Internet Governance, have criticised the MOU, saying the relationship puts ICANN under control of the US government.

For now, the DOC has simply extended the contract for ICANN to manage the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions until 2011. The contract extends ICANN's management of internet protocol address space allocation, protocol identifier assignment, the generic and country-code top-level domain name systems, and root server system functions, ICANN said.

The nonprofit ICANN has managed those functions since 2000 under a contract with the US government. The new contract consists of a series of one-year options.

In February, the DOC issued a request for information on whether other entities were qualified to manage the IANA functions. The department concluded ICANN was "uniquely qualified to perform the technical functions that are critical to the security and stability of the internet," the DOC said.