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ICANN asks the US to cut it loose

Kevin Murphy, March 25, 2011, 19:56:28 (UTC), Domain Policy

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.

Beckstrom wrote:

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.

The NOI (pdf) is open until end of play next Thursday, March 31. Half a dozen responses have already been filed here.

At least one respondent believes the IANA powers could be broken up.

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Comments (9)

  1. The ramifications of this move are a double edged sword. We see the push for cTLDS as witness to the International communities pressure to be more relavent. We need to be more unified so I hope this will be a good move.

    Gratefully, Jeff Schneider (Contact Group) (Metal Tiger)

  2. Jo Diggs says:

    Oh gosh no dont let Government get involved, we will all be scrwed.

  3. Alex n says:

    The idea of ICANN’s powers being in private hands, unaccountable to it’s constituents through any government body, is terrifying. It’s a resource of the people of the world and must be accountable in some manner.

  4. speaking as an american internet enthusiast in china, i often hear from chinese that .com are controlled by the usa government…..and that the reason china is so closed up on the international internet realm is because they do not want to have ameri a own everything and have true influence in their internet as well.

    also this icann movement will weaken usa influence in the internet sector…

    i know recently many usa trademark infringements are more quickly revoked…..a guess is american government pushing more for trademarks to be more quickly upheld

    my perspective

  5. Gavin Lock says:

    Giving a single country any sort of control over the internet is a fucking terrible idea. Governments are almost all enemies of the internet.

  6. ActNow says:

    “ICANN Wants to Loosen Contractual Ties to US Government”

    It sounds like what every 14 yr. teenager says.
    They know what is right and wrong and best for
    them. So, they want complete independence.

    I’m against any gov’t managing the internet. But,
    there must be some checks and balances.
    If the U.S. gov’t gave up control, there would not
    be any effective checks and balances.

    If Icann was on its own, over time they would
    eventually make the oil cartel look like amateurs.

    In the past few years when has Icann really listened
    to the stakeholders?
    They give us lip service.

    Case in point, Icann said they want to listen to
    comments about the new gtlds. And, then we
    will have a “big party in Singapore”.

    Look how Icann handled the current Verisign contract !!!

    If it wasn’t fear of gov’t intervention, Verisign would
    have included in the last contract doubling the registration cost over time.
    Plus, establish market value for some domains and the renewal cost would be established off of that

    I believe Icann and Verisign should be challenged
    just to attempt to keep them honest.

    As for other governments complaining about the
    U.S. control (which is incorrect), If China had
    invented the internet, do you really think they
    would relinquish control?

    When I hear Icann insist on autonomy, it reminds
    me of the old Tyco Corp., where the upper management and the board treated the company as their own piggy bank.

  7. […] who since the San Francisco meeting in March has been pushing for the IANA contract to be re-framed into a longer-term “cooperative agreement” to better reflect ICANN’s international […]

  8. […] who since the San Francisco meeting in March has been pushing for the IANA contract to be re-framed into a longer-term “cooperative agreement” to better reflect ICANN’s international […]

  9. […] It appears that ICANN is looking to go in the other direction. ICANN boss Rod Beckstrom has sent a letter to the US government asking to be set free. In the letter, Beckstrom notes that the original plan had always been to privatize ICANN, and that […]

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