Understanding the IANA Stewardship Transition and enhancing ICANN’s accountability
Daniel Fink, ICANN Stakeholder Engagement Manager for Brazil
March 14th will be remembered as “ground zero” of a challenging journey for the multistakeholder model. It was the date chosen by the United States government to announce its intention to transfer stewardship of the IANA functions. But what is the IANA? Who participates in the process? What exactly does it involve? Hopefully, this article will shed some light on these questions.
ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) was created in 1998 to coordinate the global Internet’s unique identifiers and, more specifically, to ensure the stable and secure operation of the unique identifier systems. ICANN’s mission is to coordinate policy development by the multistakeholder community, which means that anyone who is interested in doing so can (and should) participate through an open process. Great. But where does the IANA fit in this story?
In addition to the administrative work involved in names and numbers policy development, ICANN also has an operational branch that implements the decisions adopted by the community in relation to the domain name root zone. This is the IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority), a department of ICANN that has been under a no-cost contract with the US government for over 15 years. The IANA has three basic functions: 1. the coordination of the assignment of technical Internet protocol parameters; 2. the administration of certain responsibilities associated with Internet DNS root zone management; 3. the allocation of Internet numbering resources.
At this point, it might be useful to briefly describe the process whereby the responsibility for Internet names and numbers administration was transferred. It is a well-known fact that the Internet originated from a research and defense initiative set up by the US government in the 70s. The Internet has since grown to become a global tool for public good of great economic and social importance. The creation of ICANN in 1998 represented the beginning of an Internet privatization process; in other words, responsibilities were transfered from the US government to the stakeholder community. A few years of practice and improvements were needed, however, in order for this process to gain recognition and for the processes developed within ICANN to gradually earn the international community’s trust.
During this period, while ICANN was achieving maturity, stewardship of the IANA functions remained with the US government. Basically, this task consists of performing the final administrative check as to whether or not the relevant community has complied with all required approval and consensus steps.
Finally, on 14 March 2014, the US government announced its intention to promote the transfer the IANA functions stewardship role to the global multistakeholder community. The announcement asked ICANN to convene global stakeholders –those who already define the policies that are to be implemented– to develop a proposal for the transition plan. The announcement included the requirement that the final proposal must have broad community support and should not simply replace the US government by another government-led or an inter-governmental organization. It also stated that the proposal should address the following four principles:
- Support and enhance the multistakeholder model;
- Maintain the security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet DNS;
- Meet the needs and expectation of the global customers and partners of the IANA services;
- Maintain the openness of the Internet.
The first step after the announcement was the creation of a coordination group comprised of individuals representing the various stakeholders. This group was given the name of ICG (IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group) and was set up in July 2014. The ICG is comprised of 30 individuals representing 13 communities of both direct and indirect stakeholders affected by the IANA functions. It has four main responsibilities: to act as liaison to all interested parties, including the three IANA functions operational communities; to assess the outputs of the three operational communities for compatibility and interoperability; to assemble a complete proposal for the transition; information sharing and public communication.
The three operational communities served by the IANA are as follows:
- The protocol parameters community: IANAPLAN
- The numbers community: CRISP
- The domain names community: CWG-Stewardship
Each of these communities is tasked with developing its own transition proposal. The IANAPLAN proposal was submitted to the ICG on 6 January 2015. The Internet numbers community, made up by the five RIRs (Regional Internet Address Registries), held consultations with the communities in their respective service regions between September and November 2014 and then submitted its proposal to the ICG on 15 January 2015. Finally, the domain names community published a preliminary proposal for public comments on 1st December 2014 and has yet to complete additional development stages. The group’s final proposal is scheduled for delivery on 25 June 2015.
While waiting for the completion of the names community proposal, the ICG is developing a preliminary proposal considering the two other contributions. Its goal is to submit a final proposal to the US government at the beginning of the second half of 2015. Once again, our region will host important discussions on the future of the Internet, as many definitions will be announced at the ICANN 53 meeting which will be held in Buenos Aires on 21-25 June 2015.
Participate and follow the process closely by engaging in public consultations and reading all relevant updates. Visit our website https://www.icann.org/stewardship-accountability o contact our team.