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Cybersecurity & Standards

Beyond NETmundial – Why Getting The IANA Transition Right is Essential

Beyond NETmundial: The Roadmap for Institutional Improvements to the Global Internet Governance Ecosystem  was launched on Monday at IGF Istanbul.  The book, published by the Internet Policy Observatory at the University of Pennsylvania, looks at a broad set of Internet governance-related institutional issues following the NETmundial meeting last April in Brazil.  Stakeholders came to the NETmundial meeting from around the globe, debated a range of Internet governance issues and adopted, by rough consensus, the NETmundial Multistakeholder Statement.  These outcomes include consideration of the evolution of the Internet ecosystem – with a particular focus on the IGF and the IANA transition.  (For more on CDT’s perspective on the NETmundial meeting, see here).

Emma and I authored a chapter on the IANA transition for Beyond NETmundial.  The NETmundial outcome document recognizes and commends the US government’s announcement of its intent to transition its role in the DNS and lists a set of recommendations for the evolution of ICANN.  Our chapter places the IANA transition in the framework of the broader global Internet governance discussions.  We review the way the US government’s role in the DNS has shaped the Internet governance discussion since the World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS) in 2003.  We outline why the transition is of central importance to the future of multistakeholder approaches to governance:

There are also broader Internet governance-related reasons for getting the IANA transition right. NTIA explicitly calls for the transition of “key Internet domain name functions to the global multistakeholder community” and has as one of its key principles the need for the transition proposal to “support and enhance the multistakeholder model.” The IANA transition process must be undertaken in the most inclusive and open manner – informed by the multistakeholder approach as described in the NETmundial principles for Internet governance – so as to validate and strengthen multistakeholder approaches to Internet governance.

We note the divergences of opinion in the broader community as to the adequacy of ICANN accountability mechanisms and the degree to which the IANA transition and ICANN accountability are dependent:

Stakeholders  have  voiced  concerns  that  the existing accountability mechanisms [in ICANN] are not adequate and  that  the  external  accountability  associated  with the  US  government’s  contracting  and  stewardship roles must be replicated or represented in some way.  Many  stakeholders  claim  that  the  IANA  transition and  the  Enhancing  ICANN  Accountability  processes are  interdependent  and  cannot  progress  in  isolation.  Others  go  further  to  say  that  ICANN’s  accountability processes must be significantly strengthened prior to an IANA transition proposal being delivered to NTIA.

We conclude that a successful transition must be able to satisfy a number of key criteria, not least of which were those placed on the transition proposal by the NTIA, and suggest how success might be measured:

[T]he process must be fully open and transparent, and must facilitate contributions from outside the Internet technical community. The proposal will have to satisfy NTIA’s principles and the expectations of the global Internet community. The proposal will have to be stress-tested to ensure that it can survive known (and unknown) future challenges as well as be anchored by appropriate and strengthened accountability mechanisms. And it will need to have broad community support and agreement from around the globe. Stakeholders cannot afford for this transition not to be a success – the evolution of the Internet governance ecosystem may well depend on it.

The IANA transition is underway.  An IANA transition Coordination Group (ICG) is charged with both consolidating inputs from various communities and compiling them into a transition proposal.  The main players, particularly those from the Internet technical community, are establishing mechanisms for broader participation – largely through their regular organizational meetings.  However, challenges remain: there is a lack of awareness of the process and its importance to the broader evolution of the Internet and the institutional ecosystem. There is also lack of awareness of the means through which non-ICANN and non-Internet technical community stakeholders and interested parties can contribute.   The IANA transition will be the subject of a main session at the IGF and we hope that all IGF attendees, particularly those not yet involved in the transition process, take advantage of this opportunity contribute to the discussion.