U.S. Government Asks Important Questions Regarding Internet Governance Proposals

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Yesterday, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Lawrence E. Strickling delivered an important address at the State of the Net Conference.  The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) agrees with the questions Strickling posed regarding the Internet Assigned Names Authority (IANA) transition and the comments he made regarding Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) accountability.  Our view is that to achieve the ambitious goals the Assistant Secretary will require disciplined focus and attention.

With respect to the December 1, 2014 ICANN Cross Community Working Group proposal for the IANA transition, Strickling posed legitimate questions on the new proposed entities, potential politicization of root zone management, consideration of proposals submitted after December 1, and whether the proposed new structures create new accountability questions.  We would add that whatever proposal ultimately emerges must guard against forum shopping among possible new entities.

The Assistant Secretary also gets it right on the broad question of ICANN accountability.  He emphasized the need for stress testing, replacement of Board members when stakeholders lose confidence in one or more members, and how to improve current accountability tools such as reviews called for in the Affirmation of Commitments.  Again, these are all important elements in serious accountability reform.  Another important element, by no means the only one, is the ability to refer ICANN Board decisions to an independent review panel.

Mr. Strickland’s speech appropriately contained references to the impact of the 2014 Appropriation Act on NTIA’s ability to relinquish its stewardship of the IANA contract, meaning appropriated funds will not be used to terminate the contract before September 30, 2015.  This was helpful because the U.S. Congress is an important and legitimate player in how Internet governance will develop in the future.   SIIA therefore finds it constructive that Senator Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, and Senator Roy Blunt, R-MO, released a statement yesterday calling for the designation of the week of February 8 as “Internet Governance Awareness Week.”  The Senators also correctly stress the importance of the IANA transition proposal being designed “in conjunction with accountability and governance reforms of ICANN.”

SIIA through its participation in ICANN’s Business Constituency, Intellectual Property Constituency, and the Cross Community Working Group on ICANN accountability will continue to support the creation of an IANA proposal and ICANN accountability framework that will stand the test of time.  We need to get this right rather than fixate on target dates.

Carl Carl Schonander is Senior Vice President for Global Public Policy.