Speak Up on the IANA Transition and ICANN Accountability

Written by Matthew Shears

Two key public consultations central to the United States Government’s transition out of its stewardship role of the Domain Name System (DNS) have just been announced.   These processes are a crucial opportunity for stakeholders to have their say on important developments directly related to the governance of the DNS.  They also provide the chance to demonstrate – and improve – the accountability and the multistakeholder credentials of the institutions at the heart of the Internet ecosystem.

The first consultation is on the full IANA stewardship transition proposal, released last week by the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (ICG).   The proposal comprises three parts, one from each of the communities involved in or dependent upon the IANA functions:  the domain names community (ICANN), the number resources community (the Regional Internet Registries – RIRs) and the protocol parameters community (the Internet Engineering Task Force – IETF).   The full transition proposal can be viewed here.

The ICG has released its analysis of the three proposals and is now asking the community to look at the overall transition package and assess it according to a set of questions that range from whether or not the “operational community proposals work together in a single proposal?” to questions built around the NTIA’s criteria, such as “do you have any concerns that the proposal is replacing NTIA’s role with a government-led or inter-governmental organization solution? “

These are important questions and it is critical that the broader community review the transition package and contribute their perspectives.  Over the past 16 months, there have been many discussions (and Congressional hearings) about the IANA transition in general terms, but now is the time to evaluate the fully fleshed-out proposal.  While the processes for developing the names, numbers, and protocols transition proposals over the past months have been open and transparent, and public consultations on the individual proposals have already occurred, this is the first time that the transition package as a whole has been presented for review.  The deadline for comment on the overall transition proposal is September 8th.  The full details for responding to the pubic consultation are available here.

The second pubic consultation features the second draft proposal from the Working Group on Enhancing ICANN’s Accountability.  The linkages between the two consultations are important to the IANA transition: as the ICG points out in the full transition proposal, the names community’s transition proposal is dependent on the overall accountability enhancements for ICANN that the Accountability WG is proposing.  These enhancements, including empowering the community with respect to ICANN’s board and the improving existing review mechanisms, are part of a set of reforms that must be agreed to and implemented at the time of the transition.

CDT has participated in both the WG developing the names community proposal for the IANA transition and the WG focused on enhancing ICANN’s accountability, and has seen first-hand how those two proposals are inextricably linked.   The names community is proposing an ICANN affiliate model that effectively makes ICANN the steward, contracting party, and operator of the IANA functions all at once (at least initially).  The checks and balances provided by the accountability enhancements and community empowerment are absolutely essential to ensuring this concentration of power is not abused or captured and that the neutrality, transparency, and effectiveness of the IANA functions are guaranteed going forward. The hard-fought compromise on this affiliate model structure means that the Accountability WG’s proposed community empowerment and accountability enhancements are central to the transition.

CDT is largely comfortable with the Accountability WG’s proposal for improving ICANN’s accountability.  The community empowerment mechanism – the Sole Member Model – is less complicated and as effective as other mechanisms that have been considered by the WG to date.  Some issues remain, however.  One that bears looking at closely is the voting distribution in the Sole Member Model.  For example, does the proposed voting distribution empower some of the ICANN community Supporting Organizations (SOs) and the Advisory Committees (ACs) more than others, and does it in any way change the balance of powers, roles, and responsibilities of those SOs and ACs?

The deadline for comment on second draft of the accountability proposals is September 12, 2015.   Version 2 of the accountability proposal can be found here.

CDT encourages all interested parties, and particularly those who have not been able to participate in the transition and the accountability WGs, to review the proposals and speak up – these consultations are central to the future stability, security, and reliability of the DNS.

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