Plotting the Future for ICANN
Last week, the U.S. Government renewed the deal under which the nonprofit, non-governmental Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) oversees the Internet's global addressing system. The three-year Joint Project Agreement calls for ICANN to work toward establishing the openness and accountability necessary to stand on its own as the sole operator of the Domain Name System (DNS). But for the next three years at least, the U.S. Government will continue to have the final say over changes ICANN makes to DNS. Although we're still reviewing the details of the agreement, this looks like the right decision. In recent years the U.S. Government's unique role in Internet governance has become a sore spot for members of the international community who feel that the United States exerts too much control over Internet communication. But while these concerns are valid, the realistic alternatives to the U.S. Government retaining its special role in ICANN are neither viable nor appealing. Very few people in the Internet community believe that ICANN is ready to stand on its own, without any governmental ties. Too many questions remain about the organization's ability to maintain a transparent, accountable and properly representative decision-making process. The other major alternative that's been presented is for the U.S. Government's role to be transferred to a multi-governmental body such as the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). This is troubling also. While U.S. Government involvement is suboptimal, we don't think the answer is more government. We detailed our concerns and recommendations in comments to the NTIA submitted earlier this year. The key now will be working actively to address the issues limiting ICANN from standing on its own. In the meantime the U.S. Government would do well to build on the admirable restraint it has shown as ICANN's steward by reducing to whatever extent possible its role in the Internet governance process.