The IANA Transition: The Work Ahead

Written by Matthew Shears

On 17 August, Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information Lawrence Strickling announced that the US government would be extending the IANA contract with ICANN through 30 September 2016. This long anticipated extension reflects the community’s need for additional time to accomplish a number of important tasks, in order to bring about the IANA stewardship transition. The extension does not mean that the community is not delivering on its commitments, but rather that the process of ensuring appropriate consultation, refining proposals, securing endorsement from the ICANN community, undergoing interagency review, etc., is going to take more time.

The extension is a welcome, practical, and necessary step that provides the community with a realistic timeframe going forward while ensuring the stability and continuity of the DNS. The extension reflects a “best case” timeline set out by the community in which it suggested that the accountability-related requirements for the transition would only likely be accomplished by July 2016 and that an extension to September 2016 would be prudent. The work that needs to be accomplished between now and then is considerable, as is shown in this timeline.

The extension is a welcome, practical, and necessary step that provides the community with a realistic timeframe going forward while ensuring the stability and continuity of the DNS.

By the time of the ICANN meeting in Dublin in mid-October, the transition and accountability proposals that are currently out for public comment need to be finalized. Any substantive issues raised in the consultations will need to be addressed by the community prior to the Dublin meeting. Assuming that these and other issues can be resolved, the names community will (hopefully) endorse the accountability proposal at the ICANN meeting and the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (ICG) will produce the final version of its transition proposal. Once the two proposals are ready, it is expected that the ICANN Board will forward them to NTIA, at the end of October or early November.

While the proposal package – both transition and accountability enhancements – undergoes scrutiny in the interagency and Congressional review processes, the community cannot afford to rest. The Cross Community Working Group (CCWG) Accountability proposal section on implementation and timing outlines the work that needs to be done and highlights the process that has been initiated for drafting the bylaws that will be required to be in place for the transition. Beyond this, however, there are no specific implementation plans in place. Given the limited timeframe within which to accomplish the work, a determination needs to be made quickly as to whether the existing transition and accountability working groups will be addressing implementation issues or if other working groups or mechanisms will need to be established.

Work will also have to start addressing those accountability enhancements that do not necessarily have to be in place for the transition, but that are important to the increased accountability of the ICANN post-transition.  These issues – also outlined towards the end of the CCWG Accountability proposal – include refining operational aspects of the proposals that need to be in place for the transition, looking at government participation in ICANN and jurisdiction, as well as community accountability, transparency, diversity, and human rights, among others. Issues such as government participation and jurisdiction are complex and politically charged, and will no doubt engender considerable debate.  The resulting proposal will also go through an iterative drafting process as well as rounds of public comment.

Throughout the next year the community will need a lot of resolve and stamina. The extension does not mean that there can be a let-up in effort – there is still much to be accomplished for the transition to occur by 30 September 2016.

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