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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The U.S. government is relinquishing its control of the Internet's address system in a shift that may raise questions about the future direction of online innovation and communications.

The decision announced Friday begins a long-planned transition affecting the stewardship of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN. That's a not-for-profit agency launched in 1998 by the U.S. Commerce Department to govern the system that assigns website addresses and directs Internet traffic.

Although other countries have had a say in how the Internet is run, the U.S. government retained veto power over ICANN.

The Commerce Department hopes to end its ICANN oversight by the time its contract expires in September 2015.

Proposals for a new ICANN stewardship will be accepted beginning next week at a conference in Singapore.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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