The U.S. Commerce Department announced today that it would hand over the authority to govern the Internet to a global body yet to be determined.

Up until now the U.S. government has been the only contracted authority with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

The move comes amid complaints that the U.S. government used its governance of the Internet to enable spying by the National Security Agency.

From The Washington Post:

“The timing is right to start the transition process,” said Lawrence E. Strickling, assistant secretary of commerce for communications and information. “We look forward to ICANN convening stakeholders across the global Internet community to craft an appropriate transition plan.”

The practical consequences of the decision were not immediately clear, but it could alleviate rising global complaints that the United States essentially controls the Web and takes advantage of its oversight role to help spy on the rest of the world.

U.S. officials set strict conditions and an indeterminate timeline for the transition from federal government authority, saying that a new oversight body must be created and win the trust of crucial stakeholders around the world, officials said. An international meeting to discuss the future of Internet is scheduled for March 24, in Singapore.

The announcement essentially ruled out the possibility that the United Nations would take over the U.S. role, something many nations have advocated and U.S. officials have long opposed.