IANA Transition Proposal Meets NTIA Criteria Necessary to Advance

Written by Matthew Shears

Another major milestone has been reached in the IANA transition with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announcing in a report that the community proposal meets the necessary requirements to move forward.  This report, along with the adoption on May 27th by the ICANN Board of the bylaw changes necessary to implement the Stewardship and Accountability proposals, should provide a significant level of comfort to those expressing concerns about the transition.

In the “IANA Stewardship Transition Proposal Assessment Report”, NTIA states that the work of the global multistakeholder community over the past 2 years “meets the criteria necessary to complete the long-promised privatization of the IANA functions.”  The review was undertaken to establish whether or not the community’s transition proposal met NTIA’s four principles set out in its announcement of March 2014 to transition key Domain Names System related functions to the global multistakeholder community: 1) support and enhance the multistakeholder model; 2) maintain the security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet DNS; 3) meet the needs and expectations of the global customers and partners of the IANA services; and 4) maintain the openness of the Internet.  In addition, NTIA stated that it would “not accept a proposal that replaces its role with a government-led or intergovernmental organization solution”.

NTIA’s assessment of the transition plan was meticulous and comprehensive.  It availed itself of the DNS Interagency Working Group of US Government agencies to develop a methodology to assess whether or not NTIA’s criteria were met across the names, numbers, and protocols components of the transition proposal; in each case the review found that they were. With regard to the criteria that the proposal should not replace the US Government role with a government-led or intergovernmental organization solution, the report clearly states that “the naming community firmly grounds its proposal in multistakeholder bodies, processes, and decision making” and that “the proposed structure of participation does not allow any opportunity for dominance by governments or any other single stakeholder community.”

Following a proposal by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that a structured evaluation could help assess the transition, NTIA also reviewed the transition proposal against the internal control framework of the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO), an entity that develops frameworks and guidance on risk management, internal control, and financial reporting.  This review focused in particular on organizational environment, risk assessment and monitoring and found that “the proposal and the entities responsible for IANA functions performance are in compliance with the principles.”

It’s clear the process should move forward without any unnecessary delays or interventions.

To assess the extent to which the accountability recommendations comply with good governance principles, NTIA turned to a panel of recognized governance experts (the report including the names and biographies of the panellists is available here). The panel found that “with respect to the broad categories of governance principles and as a whole, the CCWG Recommendations generally follow good governance principles.”   It also notes, importantly, that “while the Recommendations tilt toward a more ponderous and deliberate pace, they safeguard against paralysis and encourage the continued, stable operation of ICANN and the IANA functions.”  It concludes with an expression of confidence that “the Recommendations, should they be implemented, incorporate strong protections that will contribute to enhancing ICANN accountability.”

The NTIA assessment is a welcome recognition of the intense efforts of the community that developed the accountability recommendations. It’s clear the process should move forward without any unnecessary delays or interventions.  As we have noted before, we do not believe that a contract extension or soft launch would be beneficial to ICANN, the transition, or the US Government’s commitment to multistakeholder approaches to governance.  The NTIA’s comprehensive report confirms that the methodical – at times belaboured – approaches that the community undertook to address the challenges of replacing the clerical and stewardship roles of the US Government and enhancing ICANN’s accountability were ultimately the right ones.

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