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IANA Transition Proposals: Major Steps Towards Success, but Still Room for Improvement

September 11, 2015 , , ,

This post discusses Public Knowledge’s comments regarding the Proposal to Transition the Stewardship of the IANA Functions and the Enhancing ICANN Accountability 2nd Draft Report. The first proposal comment deadline was September 8th. The second proposal comment deadline is September 12th.

This week marks the end of an important public comment period regarding the transfer of key Internet domain name functions from the purview of the U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to the global multistakeholder community.

Two draft proposals put forth for public comment represent months of hard work on behalf of the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (ICG) and the Cross Community Working Group on Enhancing ICANN Accountability (CCWG-Accountability). The proposals outline the procedural details of the IANA transition, and in parallel, ensure that accountability mechanisms are set in place for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), before and after the transfer occurs. This is essential in order to empower the multistakeholder community, generate greater trust between the community and ICANN, and to create checks and balances among relevant actors.

Public Knowledge strongly supports the efforts that have gone into the development of both proposals and we commend the working groups for their persistence and dedication to this process. While we believe that the draft proposals represent a positive step towards achieving a successful transition, we have some concerns regarding a few of the proposed elements being introduced in this process.

Proposal to Transition the Stewardship of the IANA Functions

The Proposal to Transition the Stewardship of the IANA Functions represents the consolidated version of three draft proposals from the names, numbers, and protocol parameters communities. Our comments focused on the fulfillment of specific NTIA criteria for the transition, such as the requirement to (1) maintain the openness of the Internet, (2) ensure that the transition does not replace NTIA’s role with a government or intergovernmental organization, and (3) support and enhance of the multistakeholder model. We believe that this proposal makes many strides in achieving this criteria and we are satisfied with its efforts to do so.

In regards to the Post-Transition IANA (PTI) – the newly proposed, separate legal entity overseeing the IANA functions – we caution against the potential of any one particular group to acquire an abundance of influence in this model, specifically within the PTI Board. We believe that it is essential for the PTI to remain as independent and accountable as possible, and we stress the importance of making a clear link between the ICANN accountability mechanisms and the ICG proposal.

Cross Community Working Group on Enhancing ICANN Accountability 2nd Draft Report

The 2nd Draft Report on Enhancing ICANN Accountability focuses on essential accountability mechanisms that need to be set in place before the IANA transition can occur. These details have been enumerated and developed under Work Stream 1. Our comments include a call to carefully consider the voting allocations proposed within the Sole Member Model and the need to give a greater voice to technical organizations responsible for the security and stability of the Internet, rather than governmental organizations. This would prevent an imbalance of power and would meet the NTIA’s requirement to avoid the replacement of their role by a government or intergovernmental organization. 

We also support the proposed community powers to remove individual ICANN Board members and the option to recall the entire ICANN Board of Directors, as an additional check on the Board. However, we’re concerned that the minimum criteria to initiate these processes has not been adequately identified. We encourage the intention to develop these standards under Work Stream 2, but believe that a basic outline of minimum standards should accompany this proposal to set community and professional expectations at this time. Finally, we support the inclusion of a commitment to human rights within ICANN’s Bylaws and look forward to contributing to its further development under Work Stream 2.

What’s Next

As a next step, the goal of the respective working groups is to incorporate these comments into the proposals and finalize them by mid-October, in time for the next ICANN meeting in Dublin. Once this is accomplished, it is expected that the final proposals will be sent to the NTIA for their approval, via the ICANN board, by late October or early November (in line with the extended September 2016 deadline for the transition).

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons user Jamj2000