Proposal to Transfer Control of Internet Assigned Names Authority (IANA) Function to Multistakeholder Stewardship is Positive

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Today, there were two events devoted to Internet governance in Washington, D.C.  The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation organized “Passing the Torch: How will Internet Governance Change in a Post-American World.”  This event included as a panelist Chris Wilson from 21st Century Fox, an SIIA member.   Afterwards, the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee arranged a hearing on “Privatizing the Internet Assigned Number Authority,” which included an all-star cast of witnesses.

Why the upsurge in interest? 

The March 10
decision by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) board to transmit to the U.S. government a set of proposals to transfer to multistakeholder oversight the functioning of Internet’s address system, the Doman Name System (DNS) system is the reason.  SIIA welcomed that decision.  The proposals are serious, thorough and have been developed through a bottom-up process open to all.   SIIA took advantage of this inclusive process, in commenting on “Stress Test 18” ensuring that ICANN does not come under inter-governmental control.

The communities, including business, that developed the proposals worked hard.  Their work deserves expeditious review to confirm that the proposals meet the conditions
established by the U.S. government on March 14, 2014.  One thing that still needs to be done is for ICANN to put out for public comment by April 15 required amended bylaws.  The comment period is 30 days. Once ICANN finalizes the bylaws, they go to NTIA for review.   Aside from the bylaws, which we expect will be submitted to NTIA for review on time, the U.S. government has everything it needs to make a positive decision.

To be sure, even after the Department of Commerce relinquishes control over the IANA contract to a multistakeholder body, there will still be transition-related work.    “Work stream 2” accountability work needs to start soon.  Work stream 2 includes ICANN accountability measures that are important but that do not have to be in place prior to the transition.  And should the contract, for whatever reason, not be transferred this September to a multistakeholder entity, it is positive that the ICANN board has signaled that the agreed upon accountability reforms will be put in place in any event.

Today’s House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee
hearing reminds us again of ICANN’s critical role in facilitating the digital trade that underpins worldwide technological innovation.  The multistakeholder governance model is a major reason for ICANN’s success.  The IANA transition proposals make a major contribution to enhancing this unique governance arrangement.        

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