Seeking Consensus on ICANN
On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to participate in a discussion hosted by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) regarding the future of Internet governance, and U.S. involvement in overseeing the global Domain Name System (DNS). At the heart of the discussion was the question of whether the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has progressed enough in its development to be released from its contractual bond to the U.S. Government. NTIA is expected to renew that contract in September. If the panelists agreed on anything, it was that simply hosting such a discussion was an extremely positive step for NTIA. Much of the Internet community, in international circles particularly, has grown increasingly dissatisfied with the U.S. government's special role in global Internet governance. It is in everyone's best interest to address those tensions. Just how to do that remains the biggest challenge. Asked point blank whether ICANN was ready to stand on its own without any government involvement, all but one member of my panel (myself included) gave a qualified "no." But everyone seemed to agree that full privatization should continue to be the ultimate goal. In our comments to NTIA, we expressed concern that if ICANN were to be released from its ties to the U.S. Government, it remains unclear what mechanisms would be in place to insure that the organization would not simply become subsumed by another government, or captured by corporate interests. We suggest that those questions need to be explored before the U.S. Government considers ending its special relationship with ICANN.