The National Telecommunications and Information Administration has dealt a stunning blow to ICANN in its bid to carry on running the internet’s critical IANA functions.
The NTIA said this hour that it has canceled the RFP for the new IANA contract “because we received no proposals that met the requirements requested by the global community”
NTIA thinks that ICANN’s bid was unsatisfactory, in other words.
The NTIA said:
Based on the input received from stakeholders around the world, NTIA added new requirements to the IANA functions’ statement of work, including the need for structural separation of policymaking from implementation, a robust companywide conflict of interest policy, provisions reflecting heightened respect for local country laws, and a series of consultation and reporting requirements to increase transparency and accountability to the international community.
The government may cancel any solicitation that does not meet the requirements. Accordingly, we are cancelling this RFP because we received no proposals that met the requirements requested by the global community. The Department intends to reissue the RFP at a future date to be determined (TBD) so that the requirements of the global internet community can be served.
However, it has extended ICANN’s current IANA contract until September 30, 2012.
This means ICANN still has its IANA powers over the DNS root zone, at least for another six months.
While the NTIA has not yet revealed where ICANN’s bid for the contract fell short, it is known that the NTIA and ICANN’s senior management did not exactly see eye to eye on certain issues.
One of the key sticking points is the NTIA’s demand that the IANA contractor – ICANN – must document that all new gTLD delegations are in “the global public interest”.
This demand is a way to prevent another controversy such as the approval of .xxx a year ago, which the Governmental Advisory Committee objected to on the grounds that it was not the “the global public interest”.
Coupled with newly strengthened Applicant Guidebook powers for the GAC to object to new gTLD application, the IANA language could be described as “if the GAC objects, you must reject”.
If the GAC were to declare .gay or .catholic “not in the global public interest”, it would be pretty tough for ICANN to prove otherwise.
But ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom has previously stated that he believed such rules imposed by the US government would undermine the multistakeholder process.
He told the NTIA last June that the draft IANA contract language stood to “rewrite” ICANN’s own process when it came to approving new gTLDs.
The IANA functions contract should not be used to rewrite the policy and implementation process adopted through the bottom-up decision-making process. Not only would this undermine the very principle of the multi-stakeholder model, it would be inconsistent with the objective of more clearly distinguishing policy development from operational implementation by the IANA functions operator.
Since then, language requiring ICANN to prove “consensus” on new gTLD delegations was removed, but language requiring it to demonstrate the “global public interest” remains.
The game is bigger than petty squabbling about new gTLDs, however.
The US government is worried about International Telecommunications Union treaty talks later this year, which many countries want to use to push for government-led internet governance.
A strong GAC, backed by an enforceable IANA contract, is one way to field concerns that ICANN is not responsive enough to government interests.
It’s tempting to view the deferral of the IANA renewal as an attempt to wait out Beckstrom’s tenure as CEO – he’s set to leave at the end of June – and deal with a more compliant replacement instead.