ICANN's journey to global control - a recap and update

Jordan CarterA blog post from Jordan Carter, Chief Executive of InternetNZ
18 April 2016

This post gives you a quick update on the progress of the accountability and global stewardship changes at ICANN, currently undergoing United States government consideration.

It's been a few weeks since the end of the most recent ICANN meeting, and just on two months since my last blog post setting out the decisions that were pending in March.

The good news?

The Internet community organised through ICANN's various stakeholder groups and the broader transition coordination group rallied around and approved the various plans by consensus. On the final day of ICANN 55, on 10 March, the Board resolved to transmit the proposed changes to global stewardship of ICANN functions and improvements to ICANN accountability to the United States government.

By way of a recap:

* The stewardship transition is about ending the United States' contractual link with ICANN, and empowering the broad Internet community working through the multistakeholder process as the stewards of the domain name system. It establishes a new institutional framework for the IANA functions, new direct oversight by IANA's customers (domain name registries of most salience for InternetNZ), clear service levels developed, and processes for changing who operates the IANA functions if needed. The details are available here.

* The accountability improvements the community required before the transition could happen were about making sure that ICANN's accountability would be ensured without the direct Governmental contracts that could indirectly achieve that goal. They mark a maturing of the ICANN framework which has been in place for around 18 years at the time of writing. A conventional set of additions to the accountability framework have been agreed - a clearer mission, new community powers to remove directors, control budgets and operating plans, and control changes to the constitutional documents of ICANN. New appeal and redress procedures are there too, and a range of other topics are slated for future debate. The details are available here.

The bad news?

There isn't any. Seriously. The proposals were approved, and now it's a waiting game blended with an implementation task. See below.

What's next?

The responsible officials in the U.S. government, Sec Strickling and the team at the National Telecommunications and Information Authority (NTIA), are working with other U.S. agencies to assess the proposal.

A critical part of their assessment relies on the constitutional changes to ICANN implementing the two proposals (transition and accountability) being in place, and that has to happen before they finalise their assessment. They hope to do that in mid June, or around 90 days after the proposals were submitted.

You might think "well, that's pretty quick!" - and you'd be right. Since the close of the ICANN meeting, a bunch of lawyers from ICANN and the independent counsel the transition groups used have been hashing out the relevant changes to ICANN's articles of incorporation and bylaws. An oversight group I serve on has helped manage that process and resolve disagreements about how best to translate the proposals into formal governance language.

From April 20th or so there should be a 30 day public consultation on those draft rules changes. Assuming we got them right, the Board should approve them late May, and then the United States can finish its assessment and let the global Internet community know whether the transition goes ahead or not.

In the meantime, a huge amount of implementation work is going on, beyond the bylaws. It's a complex project with many moving parts that ICANN is deploying huge resources to get done right and on time. You can get a sense of this work from this timeline document.

I'll let you know when the bylaws are available to check out, and of course we'll be commenting on the decision the United States makes later this year.

New Zealand made a difference

Kiwis played an important role in this work. Keith Davidson was a member of the coordination group for the Stewardship Transition. I was a work group leader in the Accountability group, developing the new set of community powers set out in the proposal. Jay Daley played a critical role in the service level expectations work. Nicola Treloar, New Zealand's representative on ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee, made significant contributions in seeing the GAC not object to the transition in Marrakech (and elsewhere!).

Those contributions are, for those of us at InternetNZ, part of our global role, supporting the free and open Internet's ongoing development and representing New Zealand views, interests and perspectives in global Internet governance processes like this. It's a small share of the work we do, but makes a really constructive difference globally. It also makes sure we stay across what's going on globally, and can apply that information to all the work we do at home.

As ever, if you have any questions or thoughts about the above, please feel welcome to share them. We can always share more detail if you're interested!