ICANN Accountability Enhancements Key in Moving IANA Transition Forward

The results of the public consultation on the IANA transition proposal are in and the news is good. The majority of the 150 comments received by the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (ICG) were supportive of the transition proposal as a whole. As the ICG has declared, “it’s full steam ahead for the transition”. The ICG is working through the comments to assess if there are issues that require further clarification or work from the names, numbers, and protocols communities. CDT is supportive of the transition proposal as a whole, though we did raise a specific concern related to how the operating communities would cooperate were there to be a change of IANA functions operator in the future. The ICG plans on progressing the transition proposal as much as possible for the October ICANN meeting in Dublin.

The work of the ICG – and the success of the transition – is dependent upon the work on enhancing ICANN’s accountability. NTIA expects a two-part submission from the community: the transition proposal and recommendations for enhancing ICANN’s accountability. Yet, while the ICG moves forward on wrapping up the transition proposal, news on the accountability front is not as promising.

In early September, the ICANN Board informed the Cross Community Working Group on Accountability (CCWG) via conference call that while it is supportive of the WG’s efforts and agrees in large part with a number of the WG’s proposals, it had reservations about the scope of some of the proposed measures and in particular the mechanism by which community powers would be exercised. In its lengthy submission to the public consultation on the accountability recommendations by the CCWG, the Board effectively made an alternative proposal, one that weakens some of the community powers and rejects the proposal for a Sole Member Model mechanism for exercising community powers. It also dismisses the need for a second, post-transition work stream on accountability, suggesting that such work could be incorporated into existing review processes. Of course, the Board’s submission is but one of 91 (including CDT’s) received by the CCWG and, in true multistakeholder fashion, it should not be considered to trump any other submission.

The LA meeting and the way ahead

The CCWG is meeting face-to-face in Los Angeles over the next two days. It is our hope that the meeting will give due consideration to all of the comments received during the public consideration. In addition to the Board, other stakeholders raised a significant number of questions relating to key elements of the CCWG’s proposal. All of these concerns need to be considered and acted on appropriately, without the Board’s proposals taking on unwarranted preeminence. This is critical for the legitimacy of the multistakeholder process and the credibility of the CCWG. The Board must resist insisting on its proposed changes just as the CCWG must ensure that it works to incorporate suggestions from stakeholders that would strengthen its existing proposal.

Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information Larry Strickling, in his most recent blog post, makes useful points about the work of the CCWG going forward. In particular, he notes, “There is not enough detail in the current draft for NTIA to conduct a thorough analysis of how the plan meets our criteria.” This is a key point: the CCWG needs to flesh out the detail, including clarifying escalation paths for dispute resolution, so that there is a greater overall understanding as to how the proposal will work. He also notes, “The questions asked by stakeholders in the public comments demonstrate significant confusion and uncertainty as to exactly how portions of the plan would be operationalized and some apprehension as to whether all possible consequences of this proposal have been fully thought through.” Strickling is correct: while the consultation submissions largely show support for the intent of the CCWG’s accountability proposal and the community powers as a whole, there is a significant diversity of views and concerns on a number of key elements that will need to be addressed.

CDT trusts that those attending the meeting in Los Angeles will participate in a constructive and open-minded manner. It is important that stakeholders collaborate to work through the comments from the public consultation and identify areas where clarifications can be provided, as well as areas where the proposal can be improved, all while remaining clear in their common purpose: enhancing ICANN’s accountability for a post-transition world. Where the consultation submissions, including the Board’s, suggest reasonable improvements that will strengthen the proposal – in terms of its viability, implementability, effectiveness, resilience, and ability to satisfy NTIA’s criteria – they should be incorporated. The transition depends on these accountability enhancements – without the successful conclusion of the CCWG’s work, the transition will not go forward.

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