Update: Throughout 2016, Public Knowledge continued to reinforce its support for a timely IANA transition and welcomed the NTIA's decision to advance the process. In the weeks leading up to the expiration of the NTIA’s contract with ICANN, we partnered with other public interest groups to urge members of Congress to move forward with the transition, expressing that a failure to do so would have worldwide implications for human rights and undermine U.S. interests and values.
The two-year multistakeholder process culminated on October 1, 2016, when ICANN’s contract with the U.S. Government came to an end and the stewardship of IANA functions successfully transitioned to the global internet community. Efforts to enhance ICANN’s accountability continue under Work Stream 2. Information on the group’s progress and additional background information can be found here.
What is the IANA Transition?
The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) is transitioning from the purview of the U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), under the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), to a new oversight mechanism by a global, multistakeholder community. IANA functions are key technical Internet functions such as the Domain Name System and numbering resources, which direct computers to websites. Examples of domain names are .com, .net, and .org, and are designed to make the Internet easily accessible to people. The process is broken down into two categories, which we discuss below.
IANA Stewardship Transition Process: Where We Stand
Part of the IANA Stewardship Transition Process is the Cross Community Working Group (CWG-Stewardship). One of their main goals is to develop an IANA stewardship transition proposal on naming related functions. This includes producing a consolidated transition proposal for the elements of the IANA Functions relating to the Domain Name System (DNS).
In March 2015, the CWG-Stewardship managed to narrow down their list of seven post-transition structural models to two alternative structures, based on input from their first draft proposal, released in December 2014. According to an overview of their second draft proposal, the group has since agreed to focus on a structure that strengthens the separation between the policy development (for policies then implemented through the IANA Functions) and the operational aspects performed by the IANA Functions Operator.
In May 2016, Public Knowledge joined other civil society and public interest groups in reinforcing our support for the timely transition of IANA functions. The following month, NTIA released a report assessing the state of the IANA transition. The report recommended approving and advancing the transition on its scheduled date (September 30, 2016), and offered next steps towards the completion of the process, as well as suggestions for improvements post-transition.
See our official comments on the IANA Stewardship Transition proposal here.
Enhancing ICANN Accountability Process: Where We Stand
In the fall of 2015, the Cross Community Working Group on Enhancing ICANN Accountability (CCWG-Accountability) did an inventory of accountability issues that need to be reformed at ICANN. Their work can be divided into two work streams:
- Work Stream 1 covers accountability reforms that must be set in place before the stewardship can occur. This is to ensure that ICANN remains accountable in the absence of its contractual relationship with the U.S. Government. The work includes getting affirmation of commitments and incorporating them into existing accountability measures, such as ICANN bylaws, as well as fostering community empowerment to give members of the multistakeholder community more rights with respect to the consideration and development of the ICANN budget and the ICANN board, including the board’s oversight of the IANA operations and the ability to appoint and remove members.
- Work Stream 2 covers other topics that will be settled after the IANA transition takes place. The working group has specifically requested feedback from the global community on the issues they feel should be discussed in the post-transition phase. Currently, this track is discussing the ICANN information disclosure policy, whistleblower policy, as well as how to enhance ICANN diversity.
See our official comments on the Enhancing ICANN Accountability proposal here.
What is the role of civil society?
Civil society plays a central role in ensuring that the transition of IANA functions occurs in a transparent manner and with sufficient accountability mechanisms in place. Overall, there has been a greater call and emphasis for the working groups to liaise with civil society and garner greater participation and input. Opportunities for civil society and the general public to provide feedback and increase their participation include meetings, webinars, and the submission of public comments. Despite the complexity of the topics and the timeframe of the process, working group leaders have provided many resources on the transition and emphasized that it is not too late to join the process and to provide input.