A private equity firm will not gain control of dot-org, the digital real estate that is home to millions of nonprofits, nongovernmental organizations and community groups.

The board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which oversees the internet naming system, has decided to veto the sale of the rights to dot-org to Ethos Capital, which had offered more than $1 billion.

Maarten Botterman, chairman of ICANN, wrote in a blog post that after weighing all considerations, rejecting Ethos’ proposed bid was “reasonable, and the right thing to do.”

The planned sale has stirred fierce opposition. Dot-org is known as the cyber neighborhood for nonprofits with civic missions like the Red Cross (redcross.org), Human Rights Watch (hrw.org) and NPR (npr.org).

To many, handing control of dot-org to a private-equity firm seemed almost heresy. The growing ranks of foes included internet pioneers, nonprofit leaders and the California attorney general.

The opponents raised several concerns including the risk of steep price increases, underinvestment and censorship. Ethos Capital tried to address those worries by pledging to set up a “stewardship council” of outside experts and making “public interest commitments” to restrain price increases and not censor web content.

But critics remained unconvinced. They did not believe that a private-equity firm, driven by the need to deliver rich returns for investors, would act in the best interests of what they regard as the domain of online civic society.

New York Times