The Internet may have its roots in the United States, but over the past two decades it has expanded exponentially around the world to the benefit of billions. Still, despite the Internet’s global profile, the US Government – the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) specifically –maintains stewardship over some narrow but important technical functions within the Domain Name System known as the IANA functions (IANA being the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority). These functions coordinate the domain names, their numerical equivalents known as IP addresses, and a system of protocol parameters that allows the various networks and servers on the Internet to talk with each other and exchange information. NTIA has long contracted with ICANN to manage the IANA functions but that’s about to change.
Last March, NTIA announced its intent to transition its oversight of the IANA functions to the global multistakeholder community; this marked the final phase of the privatization of the DNS as has been the plan since ICANN was created in 1998. http://www.ntia.doc.gov/press-release/2014/ntia-announces-intent-transition-key-internet-domain-name-functions
NTIA asked ICANN to facilitate the process for developing a transition proposal that had to meet several specific guidelines. It has to have broad community support and meet the following four principles:
- Support and enhance the multistakeholder model;
- Maintain the security, stability and resiliency of the Internet Domain Name System (DNS);
- Meet the needs and expectations of the global customers and partners of the IANA services; and
- Maintain the openness of the Internet.
NTIA also specified that it would not accept a proposal that replaces its role with a government-led or intergovernmental organization solution.
At its 49th Public Meeting in Singapore just a few weeks after NTIA’s announcement, ICANN brought the community together and launched a multistakeholder process to develop the proposal.
This process lead to the creation of the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (ICG) to coordinate the development of a transition proposal. Made up of 30 members with diverse interests and backgrounds, the group was tasked with soliciting transition proposals, including from the three communities with direct operational or service relationships with IANA – the names, the numbers and the protocol parameters communities – and assembling a consensus transition proposal to submit to NTIA. ICANN’s current contract with NTIA expires in September 2015 and the goal is have a transition proposal in place by then.
ICANN has also launched, a second process on accountability that is interrelated with the IANA Stewardship Transition process. Its purpose is to examine, from an organizational perspective, if and how ICANN’s accountability mechanisms should be strengthened to address the absence of US Government oversight. https://www.icann.org/stewardship-accountability
The process established a cross-community working group, a staple of ICANN’s policy-developing process, to identify the accountability mechanisms that must be in place, or at least committed to, before the IANA Stewardship Transition can take place. NTIA has said it wants the accountability proposals to accompany delivery of the transition proposal.
The task the Community has undertaken is daunting. It has involved several face-to-face meetings in different locations around the world, but many more virtual meetings and constant emails to exchange ideas and achieve consensus towards moving the proposals along. The dozens of community members involved directly with development of the proposals recognize the importance of their mission – finally transitioning the Internet to the multistakeholder community to whom it belongs and, in a sense, granting it its full independence.
It is through such a process that the Internet Community will ensure the continuation of single, open and secure Internet, serving diverse peoples and underpinning economic growth and innovation.
Keep up to date at https://www.icann.org/stewardship/coordination-group
ICANN is a not-for-profit public-benefit corporation with participants from all over the world dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable. It promotes competition and develops policy on the Internet’s unique identifiers. Through its coordination role of the Internet’s naming system, it does have an important impact on the expansion and evolution of the Internet.