ICANN has officially requested the loosening of its contractual ties to the US government.
In a letter to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (pdf), ICANN president Rod Beckstrom said the US should finally make good on its promise to privatize the management of the internet’s naming and addressing resources.
Currently, ICANN manages the so-called IANA functions, which give it powers over the domain name system’s root zone, under a no-fee procurement deal with the NTIA.
That 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 future.
In Beckstrom’s response to the NOI, he says that a US government procurement contract is not the most suitable way to oversee matters of global importance.
Its close links to the NTIA are often cited by other governments as proof that ICANN is an organization that operates primarily in the interest of the US.
Beckstrom said there is “no compelling reason for these functions to be performed exclusively pursuant to a U.S. Government procurement contract.”
He noted that the original plan, when ICANN was formed by the Clinton administration in 1998, was to transition these functions to the private sector no later than September 2000.
The privatization of the DNS is, in effect, 11 years late.
The IANA functions are provided for the benefit of the global Internet: country code and generic top-level domain operators; Regional Internet Registries; the IETF; and ultimately, Internet users around the world. Applying U.S. federal procurement law and regulations, the IANA functions should be performed pursuant to a cooperative agreement.
His position was not unanticipated.
At the start of ICANN’s San Francisco meeting last week, Beckstrom and former chairman Vint Cerf both said that a “cooperative agreement” would be a better way for the US to manage IANA.
VeriSign’s role in root zone management is currently overseen by this kind of arrangement.
The NTIA has specifically asked whether IANA’s three core areas of responsibility – domain names, IP addresses and protocol parameters – should be split between three different entities.
Beckstrom also argued against that, saying that there are “many examples of cross-functional work”, and that ICANN already has the necessary expertise and relationships in place to handle all three.
At least one respondent believes the IANA powers could be broken up.