ICANN’s request for greater independence has been rejected by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
In its new Further Notice Of Inquiry (pdf) investigation into the IANA contract, through which ICANN is granted its internet management responsibilities, the NTIA said:
NTIA reiterates that it is not in discussions with ICANN to transition the IANA functions nor does the agency intend to undertake such discussions.
Transitioning the IANA functions would have meant less power over the domain name system for the US government and more for ICANN.
Privatizing the DNS was one of the original goals when ICANN was set up in 1998 — it was meant to happen before Clinton left office — but the US government has been dead set against such a move since at least 2005.
The latest decision was expected. NTIA assistant secretary Lawrence Strickling had flagged up the agency’s position in a recent speech.
Nevertheless, it’s a blow to ICANN and its CEO, Rod Beckstrom, 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 nature.
But the NTIA said this would not be possible:
NTIA does not have the legal authority to enter into a cooperative agreement with any organization, including ICANN, for the performance of the IANA functions.
To drive the point home, the FNOI also calls for the functional aspect of IANA – the updates it makes to the DNS root database – to be clearly separated from the policy-making side of ICANN.
On 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 entities.
This notion was put to bed primarily because the organizations most likely to take over roles such as protocol and IP number administration (such as the NRO and the IAB) did not seem to want them.
The FNOI also suggests a raft of process and technology requirements that ICANN’s IANA team will have to abide by after the contract is renewed.
The process for redelegating ccTLDs is currently an absolute bloody mess – utterly opaque and with no historical consistency with how decisions for transferring ownership of TLDs are made.
The ccNSO is working on this problem, but its policy development is likely to take a year or two.
In the meantime, the NTIA will mandate through the IANA contract at least one major nod to ccTLD redelegation reform, in the form of the “respect rule” I blogged about earlier.
Under the heading “Responsibility and Respect for Stakeholders”, the proposed IANA Statement of Work says: “the Contractor shall act in accordance with the relevant national laws of the jurisdiction which the TLD registry serves.”
This provision is already included in most of the agreements ICANN has signed with ccTLD registries and ICP-1, the policy that governs its redelegation processes.