IANA Transition: Myth, Misconception and Expectation

On Friday, March 14 the U.S. Government announced its intention to transition its stewardship responsibilities of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) Functions to the global multistakeholder community—a key component of the Internet ecosystem. The IANA Functions are the Internet’s technical identifiers, specifically, the top-level domain names of the Domain Name System, IP addresses, and protocol parameter registries.

However, it is still not very clear and uncertain what would happen over such a turbulent period. Firstly, it should figure out what the stewardship has ever been played by NTIA and what is the specification of the oversight. How would we know the new oversight mechanism when we are not even sure of the existing one? Secondly, it is not logical to have ICANN to oversee itself if IANA is a function within ICANN. Thirdly, what would be the way forward? Should that be a so-called “Chinese Wall” to let IANA relatively independent of ICANN when more solid accountability system is build up in or surrounding ICANN?

The global Internet community is now hotly debating the IANA transition from NTIA. I’m fully convinced that the transition should begin with clarification of the NTIA’s oversight role that it’s been playing. ccNSO has made a insightful statement with valuable details. However, it would be more helpful to group up the roles into 2 parts, namely, clerical function and stewardship. In the case that IANA is going to stay within ICANN, which seems gathering support from the community, the clerical role can well be fit into the boxes of direct users of IANA function, from IETF, RIRs to TLD registries (directly rather than through any SO). In such case, the so-called DNSA proposal might not be a very bad one. TLD registries need certain channel, like NROs for RIRs, to make sure IANA follow the normal rules and procedures for any change at zone file. Supporting Organizations (either gNSO or ccNSO) can hardly play such clerical role. It is not logical for a SO to support as well as oversee ICANN. With respect to  the stewardship role, it might be a constitutional moment. The new external and independent accountability for ICANN might be much similar to a global “constitutional court”, where ICANN’s policy decisions can be finally appealed, in addition to the existing territorial jurisdiction in California court, provided that ICANN is still a non-profit organization registered in CA.

In response to the critics and speculations, ICANN CEO made the following statement, which answers some questions but raises more. http://blog.icann.org/2014/03/important-corrections-to-general-inaccuracies-and-misconceptions-regarding-u-s-announcement-and-iana-functions/

  1. The announcement is NOT a final decision to surrender control of the Internet.On Friday, the U.S. government asked the global community to develop a proposal for transferring its stewardship of the IANA Functions. The government was not announcing a new law, rather initiating an inclusive, global discussion. The government also set clear boundaries for that discussion, including a very clear statement that it will not release control of these functions to any government-led or inter-governmental organization solution.Instead, ICANN will lead a transparent dialogue among governments, the private sector, and civil society to determine the transition process and establish a governing body that is globally accountable. This process ensures each of the Internet’s diverse stakeholders has a voice in its governance.In addition, the U.S. government has made it clear that the transition proposal must address the following four 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
    • Maintain the openness of the Internet

    In other words, any proposal that affects the openness of the Internet and its multistakeholder governance will be rejected.

  2. The announcement is NOT a response to disclosures by Edward Snowden about the National Security Agency and its policies.One media report claims ICANN lobbied the U.S.Government to relinquish its oversight “using the Snowden leaks as a lever.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. The government first envisioned this transfer when it began contracting with ICANN in 1998. For the past 16 years, ICANN has protected the open Internet with increasing operational excellence – itself accountable to the global community. The March 14 announcement was the final step down a path paved years ago.
  3. The announcement will NOT lead to a division of the Internet into smaller, less technically resilient pieces.”A digital Iron Curtain” will not be imposed resulting from this announcement. An opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal claims that by stepping back, the United States will divide “425,000 global routes of the Internet into less technically resilient pieces.” In fact, the exact opposite is true.The March 14 announcement is an important step toward preserving and protecting the open Internet. U.S. oversight will not be usurped by authoritarian governments eager to censor free speech – or by any other inter-governmental institution. Instead, a globally accountable, multistakeholder governing body will ensure the Internet continues to promote the free exchange of ideas, propel innovation and drive economic development.
  4. The announcement transfers stewardship of an administrative and clerical function. ICANN does NOT serve a policing function in the Internet ecosystem.Let me be clear, ICANN coordinates one technical component of the Internet ecosystem – the names, numbers and protocol parameters of the Internet. ICANN does not control content on the Internet. ICANN has no role relating to Internet content and cannot enact Internet censorship.These technical components of the Internet have been working well for nearly two decades underneath a multistakeholder process with the U.S. government holding a stewardship role. In reality, ICANN has successfully administered the IANA Functions with increasing autonomy for the past 16 years and this announcement will not alter its commitment to the security and stability of the Internet’s Domain Name System.
  5. The announcement will NOT affect the billions who use the Internet every day.Some have speculated through the media that the U.S. announcement will “put the open Internet at risk” for everyday users. This concern is not rooted in reality. The transition of stewardship will not affect the functionality of the Internet.  The coordination of the IANA functions will continue unchanged. The announcement reinforces the principles that the Internet belongs to everyone and is responsible to everyone.Instead of politicizing the debate over the U.S. Government’s decision to transition stewardship of the Internet’s technical functions, let’s move forward with the discussion we need to have – how to engage in the necessary discussion to develop an effective transition process, one that continues to ensure an open Internet that belongs to everyone.



Comments are closed.