ICANN Bends to Community Pushback, Takes More Neutral IANA Transition Role

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By David McAuley  

June 10 — The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers executed an about-face June 6, taking a more neutral role on a number of important particulars in its suggested process for developing a proposal to transition the National Telecommunications and Information Agency's (NTIA) contractual oversight role over critical Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions.

Gone from the process ICANN originally floated is the idea that the chairs of its board of directors and Governmental Advisory Committee (currently Steve Crocker and Heather Dryden, respectively) would choose individuals to serve on the transition-process “steering group” from supporting organizations (SOs) and advisory committees (ACs), while the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), Internet Society (ISOC), Internet Architecture Board (IAB), and Number Resource Organization (NRO) would be free to select their own representatives.

Even the notion that the IETF, ISOC, IAB, and NRO were to be accorded the separate status of “affected parties” in the transition has been jettisoned, along with the title “steering group.” The group that will move the process forward will now be known as the “coordination group.”

‘Now Get Moving.'

These changes and others reflect ICANN's reaction to a chorus of over 1,000 community-based comments urging it in remarkably strong terms to rethink significant elements of its draft set of “principles and mechanisms” to guide the development process along that ICANN released for public comment April 8.

Now that community input has been acted on, time is of the essence, ICANN said, setting a July 2 deadline for members of the coordination group to be identified. Notwithstanding the deadline, ICANN encouraged constituencies making appointments to the group to be done with it by the end of the ICANN 50 public meeting, set for June 22-26 in London. The coordination group will meet in mid July, ICANN said. (In its original proposal, ICANN had hoped that the coordination group could meet during ICANN 50.)

Even while ICANN was finalizing the development process and encouraging constituencies to get a move on, Republicans in the House were trying to find ways to slow the process down.

NTIA Sets the Ball Rolling

In March, the NTIA, an agency of the Department of Commerce, announced an intent to transition stewardship over the IANA domain name functions to the global multistakeholder community, and asked ICANN to convene the global Internet community in an effort to develop a transition proposal.

ICANN immediately sought public input on how to structure the development process at its public meeting in Singapore in late March, and in April unveiled its proposal to the public.

What followed was an avalanche of comments, many taking aim at ICANN's role in the process and the undue deference it was allegedly paying to the Internet technical community (known as the “I*” community).

ICANN Responds

The changes announced by ICANN June 6 responded to much of the criticism.

Along with other changes, composition of the coordination group rose from 22 members to 27 members, largely in response to calls for representation of actual IANA customers like generic top-level domain registries and for businesses not normally active in the ICANN community. In addition, the ICANN Board and IANA will each have one liaison seat in the group.

Secretariat support for the coordination group was also adjusted. ICANN originally proposed to use its staff to fill that role, but changed the proposal to an independent secretariat that it will fund.

Moving Forward

The coordination group's sole role is to prepare a transition proposal meeting the criteria set by the NTIA in conformance with principles outlined by the community.

ICANN said that when the proposal is developed, its role will simply be to assess whether the proposal meets those criteria and to pass that assessment on to the NTIA together with the proposal.

To contact the reporter on this story: David McAuley in Washington at dmcauley@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Thomas O'Toole at totoole@bna.com