ICANN Accountability and IANA Stewardship update

This is a brief update on the state of play of the two intertwined processes I’ve written about on and off over the past eighteen months: the IANA stewardship transition and the ICANN accountability improvement process.

On the transition…

The long-titled IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (ICG) has pulled together the proposals from the three operational communities affected by the transition. Names, Numbers and Protocols have all set out how they see stewardship after the USA relinquishes its contract with ICANN.

For the domain name community the centrepiece is a proposed operational subsidiary of ICANN, to be called Post-Transition IANA or PTI, to operate the IANA functions. This would provide some bright-line separation and transparency around IANA operations separate from ICANN’s broader policy role. ICANN would be the steward of the domain name system on behalf of the Internet community.

In ICG’s view there were no fundamental inconsistencies between how these three proposals would mesh. There was a public comment opportunity that closed on 8 September seeking views from the community on these. The ICG will meet in Los Angeles from 17-18 September to work through the comments it received and see if the proposal is ready to go or not.

Whatever the ICG concludes, there is a hold up in sight: the Names community proposal is dependent on the ICANN accountability process. The ICG can’t transmit its finalised proposal without some clarity around where the accountability discussion will finish.

On accountability…

The aim of the work is to ensure that ICANN, as the main coordinator of Internet unique identifiers, is accountable to the global Internet community once the contract with the USA is gone. The working group running the process (the CCWG – I am a member) called for public comments on its second draft proposal in August, and these closed on 12 September.

The proposal set out a range of improvements to independent review and redress in the ICANN system, and suggested a range of powers that would allow the community, through ICANN’s supporting organisations and advisory committees, to hold the corporation to account in fulfilling its limited role. That’s the short summary of 180+ pages of report.

A lot of attention in and around the ICANN community, and more broadly in Internet governance circles, has been focused on the stewardship transition work. As that has come to a conclusion people’s attention is shifting to accountability. While the CCWG’s second draft proposal successfully resolved many of the concerns raised by the first draft, this higher scrutiny has led to some pretty important and challenging feedback on the second draft.

The CCWG is getting together in Los Angeles from 25-26 September to assess the feedback and work out whether it will be able to bring a final proposal to the ICANN meeting happening in Dublin in October - or whether more time is going to be needed to build consensus around a final proposal.

Why does this matter?

InternetNZ has played a role in both processes. We believe that multistakeholder operation of these Internet functions in the global environment can work, like it does here in New Zealand with the .nz domain. So we support the transition. Governments do not have to have the final say. The blend of governmental, technical community, business, academic and civil society perspectives – and the ability to deal with arguments on their merits – are the big positives of the multistakeholder model.

That said, we acknowledge that ending the contractual link between the USA and ICANN is a big deal, and that the community needs new tools to hold ICANN accountable in the new world that emerges after the contract.

Since ICANN’s work is important to us as the manager of .nz, it is our responsibility to add a Kiwi perspective to the transition, and to ensure it is workable for us as a customer of the IANA functions that ICANN operates.

Put simply: if IANA and ICANN break, the stability and the security of the global domain name system itself is at risk. People take the DNS for granted for so many uses – the simplest being finding websites or sending email. It is vital infrastructure that has to work, work well, and work all the time.

You can see submissions we’ve lodged on this work below along with previous blog posts. As always, if you have thoughts to share about the process, I’m keen to hear them.

Submission on the IANA stewardship transition

Blog post: Three key issues for ICANN's Accountability Working Group

Blog post: ICANN accountability, IANA stewardship - what's at stake?

Join the discussion

To broaden discussion on this area of our work among interested Internet community members, we are looking at setting up a dedicated email discussion list for members and others working on or interested in these issues. If you’d like to take part, let me know: jordan@internetnz.net.nz