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US may break up ICANN powers

Kevin Murphy, February 25, 2011, 17:03:27 (UTC), Domain Policy

The US government is considering taking away some of ICANN’s powers.

The Department of Commerce today kicked off the process of reviewing the so-called IANA contract, from which ICANN currently derives its control over the domain name system root zone.

As I predicted yesterday, Commerce has published a Notice of Inquiry in the Federal Register. It wants input from the public before it officially opens the contract for rebidding.

ICANN has operated the IANA functions, often regarded as intrinsic to and inseparable from its mission, for the last decade. But the contract expires September 30 this year.

Significantly, Commerce now wants to know whether the three IANA functions – IP address allocation, protocol number assignments, and DNS root zone management – should be split up.

The NOI says:

The IANA functions have been viewed historically as a set of interdependent technical functions and accordingly performed together by a single entity. In light of technology changes and market developments, should the IANA functions continue to be treated as interdependent? For example, does the coordination of the assignment of technical protocol parameters need to be done by the same entity that administers certain responsibilities associated with root zone management?

I’m speculating here, but assuming ICANN is a shoo-in for the domain names part of the IANA deal, this suggests that Commerce is thinking about breaking out the IP address and protocol pieces and possibly assigning them to a third party.

The NOI also asks for comments about ways to improve the security, stability and reportable metrics of the IANA functions, and whether relationships with other entities such as regional internet registries and the IETF should be baked into the contract.

The timing of the announcement is, as I noted yesterday, interesting. It could be a coincidence, coming almost exactly five years after the IANA contract last came up for review.

But ICANN’s board of directors and its Governmental Advisory Committee will meet in Brussels on Monday to figure out where they agree and disagree on the new top-level domains program.

While it’s an ICANN-GAC meeting, the US has taken a prominent lead in drafting the GAC’s position papers, tempered somewhat, I suspect, by other governments, and will take a key role in next week’s talks.

Hat tip: @RodBeckstrom.

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Comments (7)

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Guillaume Champeau, ♥ Moui ♥, edinarl, neweconomy, IP Justice and others. IP Justice said: RT @DomainIncite: Just blogged: US may break up #ICANN powers http://is.gd/TOblYy #icann #newtlds >> Very interesting new development. […]

  2. isis says:

    Why would ICANN be a shoo-in for the naming function? ICANN has had significant differences with GAC & Commerce over domain names. At its last meeting the board resolved to move ahead with a .xxx sTLD despite the objections of both GAC and Commerce. I don’t understand why you think they would be a shoo-in?

  3. […] contract is up for renewal in September, and the NTIA recently issued a Notice Of Inquiry, soliciting public comments on how the IANA functions should be handled in […]

  4. […] IANA contract, which is up for renewal September 30, gives ICANN many of its key powers over the domain name system’s root […]

  5. […] IANA contract, which is up for renewal September 30, gives ICANN many of its key powers over the domain name system’s root […]

  6. […] the bright side, ICANN can rest assured that the NTIA seems to have put aside thoughts of breaking up the IANA functions and distributing them between different […]

  7. […] IANA contract, which is up for renewal September 30, gives ICANN many of its key powers over the domain name system’s root […]

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