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IANA Stewardship Transition
In March of 2014, the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) of the USA Department of Commerce, surprised the word and announced that they were ready to transition key Internet domain functions, for which they held responsibility. In the announcement, they asked “the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to convene global stakeholders to develop a proposal to transition the current role played by NTIA in the coordination of the Internet’s domain name system (DNS). ”
One of the NTIA responsibilities involves administering changes to the “authoritative root zone file – the database containing the lists of names and addresses of all top-level domains.” In other words, they have formal responsibility for the final administrative step before a domain name, such as .gay, is added to the main database that allows for users to reference it in their web searches, email and apps. The decision to transition the responsibilities is the last step in the privatization of the DNS that was initiated in 1997 during the Clinton Administration.
This was a day that ICANN had been waiting for, for over a decade. At first ICANN interpreted this action to mean they would just become responsible for the DNS and other IANA functions, without the oversight of NTIA. Freedom at last. However, this was not quite the US Government intended. It rather intended for them to ” to convene the multistakeholder process to develop the transition plan.” The US Government required that any plan be in concordance with a set of principles:
- Support and enhance the multistakeholder model;
- Maintain the security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet DNS;
- Meet the needs and expectation of the global customers and partners of the IANA services; and,
- Maintain the openness of the Internet.
It has taken a few months, but after extensive discussion among global stakeholders, the group that is going to coordinate the production of the plan is about to finalize its charter so that we can get on with the work. While producing a viable plan will be a major test of multistakeholder decision making processes, even getting the coordination group established has required a lot of discussion and consensus building among groups of stakeholders who have very different perspective on the issue.
After a 4 month bottom-up multistakeholder process, the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (ICG) has posted the final draft of their charter for review. The comment period ends on 15 August 2014. The charter lists the following tasks:
- Liaise among the stakeholder groups, including the “operation communities (i.e., those with direct operations or service relationship with IANA; namely names, numbers, protocol parameters).”
- Soliciting proposal
- Soliciting other input
- Asses the outputs for compatibility and interoperability
- Assemble the outputs into a complete proposal for the transiton
- Act as a conduit for information sharing and public communication
The ICG commits itself to “conduct itself transparently, consult with a broad range of stakeholders, and ensure that its proposal support the security and stability of the IANA functions”. The process will go on for approximately a year.
In the meantime, within ICANN, the Generic Name Supporting Organization (GNSO -responsible for gTLDs such as .com or .gay), the country code Name supporting Organization (ccNSO – responsible for ccTLDs like .us or .ca), the Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC – advise the Board on matters letated to the security and integrity on the Internet’s name and address allocation system), and the At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC – responsible for representing the interests of global Internet users) have been developing the charter of the ICANN Cross-community Working Group (CWG) that will represent the names operational community, i.e. will be one of the 3 major contributors to the ICG’s work. This CWG is being created with the intention of doing a wide outreach for members of the community to participate in making sure that all issues are dealt with properly. Once the chartering organizations within ICANN approve the charter of the CWG, there will be a wide spread call for participation in the process. I will post that announcement in the blog when it comes out.
The IANA transition is a critical milestone in the history of the Internet and of ICANN. If all goes well, part of the responsibility for maintaining an open Internet will be transferred from the US government to the multistakeholder community through an appropriate mechanism. One of the major issues to be reviewed in the context of this transition are the accountability mechanisms within ICANN. A separate, parallel review process is currently being initiated to review and repair as needed, the accountability mechanisms at ICANN. The next blog entry will cover this effort.