Commerce chief faces 5 Internet emergencies

If former Washington State Gov. Gary Locke (D) is confirmed as the new U.S. Commerce Secretary, he'll face several Internet policy issues that require immediate attention and decisive action in 2009.

Locke's advocates say he's up to the task. The Business Software Alliance on Wednesday hailed Locke as having knowledge and experience in the most important issues facing U.S. high-tech companies.

"Governor Locke showed a strong understanding of information technology's role in our economy and society," BSA says. "Locke also has a strong record in advancing free and fair trade, with an especially strong knowledge of China and other emerging economies."

One challenge for Locke is appointing a forward-thinking, tech-savvy leader for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which is the arm of Commerce that handles most Internet infrastructure-related issues.

NTIA oversees issues related to the Domain Name System, which matches domain names with corresponding IP addresses. NTIA also has contractual relationships with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the non-profit organization that coordinates DNS-related issues, and VeriSign, which operates DNS root servers and the popular .com and .net domains.

"The most important thing for transition is for the new leadership to get a handle of the core functions of NTIA, which include authorizing changes to the DNS authoritative root and overseeing the entire NTIA, ICANN, VeriSign triangle," says John Kneuer, a former NTIA administrator for President George W. Bush who operates a public policy advisory group in Washington D.C.