Will Multistakeholderism Prevail By September 2015?

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Update: Since the publication of this blog post, the deadline to submit comments for the ICANN Accountability proposal has been extended. Due to the late availability of the translated materials, the deadline has been moved from June 3rd to June 12th. Learn more from ICANN here.

On Wednesday, May 13th, there will be two Congressional hearings on the IANA transition. The first, “Stakeholder Perspectives on ICANN: The .Sucks Domain and Essential Steps to Guarantee Trust and Accountability in the Internet’s Operation,” can be viewed here at 10am EST. The second, “Stakeholder Perspectives on the IANA Transition,” can be viewed here at 2pm EST.

There is a crucial process under way with the goal of strengthening the multistakeholder model of Internet governance: 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.

Over the last couple of months, discussions have continued within the two working groups responsible for overseeing the progress of the IANA transition and the parallel ICANN accountability process to ensure appropriate accountability mechanisms are set in place throughout the transition. The Geneva Internet Platform, an initiative by the DiploFoundation, provides an excellent, comprehensive summary of the work so far.

The deadline for the transition of the oversight of key Internet technical functions such as the Domain Name System (DNS) is quickly approaching on September 30, 2015. For the process to remain on time, a final consolidated proposal from each working group will need to be submitted to the NTIA, through the ICANN board, by June 2015. The two working groups concentrating their efforts around the transition have two proposals currently open for public comments:

New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute (OTI) recently published its first paper in a series on the IANA transition, entitled “Controlling Internet Infrastructure: The “IANA Transition” and Why it Matters for the Future of the Internet, Part I,” which explores the opportunities and challenges of this major event in the evolution of the Internet. In the report, the authors describe the symbolic significance of the IANA transition as “[…]a formal recognition by the United States that the Internet, which the United States government helped usher into existence 30 years ago, is now truly a global public trust.”  

Since the formation of ICANN in the late 1990’s, the U.S. Government and Internet stakeholders envisioned that the United States' stewardship role in the IANA functions would be temporary. Public Knowledge welcomes this transfer as a fulfillment of many years of U.S. promises to the international community.

Although there has been some talk to extend the September 30th deadline and offer the respective working groups more time to complete their work to set up a new system for oversight and proper accountability measures, the multistakeholder community is continuing to operate with this deadline in mind. A successful transition by the set deadline would be a big step forward in showing that the Internet is not only in the domain of national governments, but that users around the world also have an essential role in shaping its future.

This animated video explains the interrelation of two processes critical to the successful transition of the IANA Stewardship Functions - the IANA Stewardship Transition process and the Enhancing ICANN Accountability process.

Furthermore, the development of the Internet, driven by technical standards organizations, governments, private corporations, and civil society groups, has always been conducted through a multistakeholder process, and therefore, it is important that its governance continue to be reflective of this reality. A successful transition of IANA functions from the purview of the United States to the global community would demonstrate a vote of confirmation and trust on the multistakeholder model that the U.S. advocates internationally.

We will continue to keep you posted you on the IANA transition process. We have just launched an IANA Transition webpage, which will be regularly updated to include the latest information. Additionally, Public Knowledge provided an overview of the IANA transition earlier the year. For more history and background, you can also refer to our one pager on the subject or check our testimony to Congress.

 

Image credit: Flickr user The Booklight

Correction: The original publication stated that ICANN formed in the 1980's. It has been corrected to state that the formation occured in the 1990's.

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