Stopping or Delaying the IANA Transition is a Terrible Idea

Written by Matthew Shears

In the run up to the long anticipated IANA transition on September 30, “internet give-away” rhetoric is obscuring the reality that stopping or delaying the IANA transition will undermine the interests of businesses, human rights organizations, the technical community, and the United States Government. Paradoxically, those who believe that there will be an “internet give-away” fail to realize that what they fear – empowered authoritarian regimes, imperiled free expression, and the eventual take-over of the internet by other governments or the UN – is most likely to occur by preventing the transition from happening.

The fastest way to encourage authoritarian regimes to assert themselves on the internet is for the transition to NOT go ahead.

Some actors have become exceptionally good at sowing fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the transition through meritless rhetoric.  No one wants to strengthen the hand of authoritarian regimes or weaken free expression. No one. This is especially true for the multistakeholder community that has worked together over the past two years to develop a robust and credible proposal to make the transition possible.  This is the same community, by the way, that has successfully helped manage the internet since ICANN’s establishment in 1998.

Let’s be very clear, the fastest way to encourage authoritarian regimes to assert themselves on the internet is for the transition to NOT go ahead.

For the past ten years, businesses, human rights organizations, the technical community, and the United States Government have been promoting the multistakeholder approach to internet policy and governance around the globe.  This approach underpins the governance model for much of the internet ecosystem, including ICANN, and encourages and supports an open internet and associated freedoms.   The IANA transition and ICANN accountability proposals were developed and agreed upon in a multistakeholder process – they are in many ways an unparalleled accomplishment in internet policy and governance.

Let’s not be distracted by sound bites and simple rhetoric.

Stopping or delaying the transition would undermine US government policy and the community’s approaches to internet policy around the globe, the upshot of which will be greater government controls, the loss of free expression and a weakening of multistakeholder internet policy globally.   Preventing the transition would undermine the communities and the structures of the internet ecosystem that responsibly manage the resiliency, stability and continuity of the DNS and the functioning of the internet.

CDT does not believe that the transition will empower authoritarian regimes nor imperil free expression.  Such claims are nonsense. We and other leading human rights organizations will continue to work towards a successful transition.  What is certain is that if the transition does not go ahead, the costs to businesses and the internet policy goals of the US Government will be significant.  Let’s not be distracted by sound bites and simple rhetoric.

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