Last week the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced that the proposal developed by the global Internet multistakeholder community meets the criteria NTIA outlined in March 2014 when it stated its intent to transition the U.S. Government’s stewardship role for the Internet domain name system (DNS) technical functions, known as the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions. This effectively means that the NTIA supports the oversight handover to a yet untested body.
But even before the announcement was made there have been numerous calls from organization against the transition for the transfer of oversight from the US Govt to be delayed, Last week Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) introduced The Protecting Internet Freedom Act. This legislation would prevent the transition of the control of the Internet from U.S. hands to an international body called the “Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Number (ICANN) unless Congress affirmatively acts to do so. It also ensures that the United States Government would maintain ownership and control of .gov and .mil domains, to protect our national security interests.
Several internet governance commentators have often warned against this transition prematurely, Sophia Bekele in a 2015 op-ed “No Legal Basis for IANA Transition”: A Post-Mortem Analysis of Senate Committee Hearing said
“Only proper regulation by an independent agency with full Congressional mandate will ensure that a ‘FIFA-Mafia type’ organization of systematic corruption does not emerge. ICANN should not be trusted by Congress to regulate itself” adding that The issue of ICANN’s accountability remains unresolved. All those who are involved in the ICANN Global Community have continued to complain about ICANN’s accountability or lack thereof. The existing ICANN accountability mechanisms remain at best unsatisfactory.
“After the transition the ability of the U.S. to provide support for the ICANN community’s future demands that the ICANN board adopt additional changes would be far less than if the U.S. contractual relationship remained in place. Ending the contract prematurely could remove the main incentive for the Board to compromise with the ICANN community at a critical juncture.”
Adding to the voice, Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI) president Tom Giovanetti said companion legislation introduced today by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Congressman Sean Duffy (R-Wisc.) preventing the U.S. government from relinquishing its internet governance role is a vital to keeping the internet free and open to people around the world.
“The Obama administration must recognize threats amid the increasing international pressure to have a United Nations-type organization take control of internet governance, which would fundamentally change ICANN into an international governmental regulatory agency subjected to political mischief from repressive regimes,” said Giovanetti of the Protecting Internet Freedom Act.
Most strikingly is the financial impact in lobbying, running costs to support the IANA transition among other costs. As DomainMondo reports,
“ICANN has spent heavily in support of ‘initiatives’ outside its scope and mission, not included in the above amounts. In addition, from 1 April to 30 June 2016, an additional $5,000,000 (ICANN estimate) has, or will be incurred, bringing the total to more than $28 million ($US) through the end of June.”
The concerns for the IANA transition are not only felt outside the circle, even proponents of the transition like Vint Cerf, Vice President and Chief Internet Evangelist at Google, and former ICANN Board Chairman (2000-2007) wrote
“If I have any trepidation about the proposal it is associated with its general complexity. As the former chairman of ICANN, I am no stranger to the evolution of ICANN’s structure and processes and their relative intricacy. The new proposal adds its own unique aspects to this tendency and it remains to be seen how well the system will work.”
Will the transition work, will it be stopped by congress, would ICANN have solved its inherent systemic accountability issues? Only time will be the best judge.