America’s continuing unique oversight role in the DNS root management system, fuck yeah!
That’s basically the takeaway from a new bit of proposed US legislation, put forward by Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Sean Duffy in both houses of Congress yesterday.
The two Republican Congressmen have proposed the inappropriately named Protecting Internet Freedom Act, which is specifically designed to scupper the IANA transition at the eleventh hour.
PIFA would prevent the National Telecommunications and Information Administration from backing away from its role in the DNS root management triumvirate.
It’s supported, ironically, by a bunch of small-government right-wing think tanks and lobby groups.
If the bill is enacted, NTIA would need a further act of Congress in order to cancel or allow to expire its current IANA functions contract with ICANN
The bill (pdf) reads:
The Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information may not allow the responsibility of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration with respect to the Internet domain name system functions, including responsibility with respect to the authoritative root zone file and the performance of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority functions, to terminate, lapse, expire, be cancelled, or otherwise cease to be in effect unless a Federal statute enacted after the date of enactment of this Act expressly grants the Assistant Secretary such authority.
The bill also seeks to ensure that the US government has “sole ownership” of the .gov and .mil TLDs “in perpetuity”.
These ownership rights are not and have never been in question; the inclusion of this language in the bill looks like a cheap attempt to stir up Congresspeople’s basest jingoistic tendencies.
A Cruz press release said the IANA transition “will allow over 160 foreign governments to have increased influence over the management and operation of the Internet.”
President Obama wants to hand over the keys to the Internet to countries like China and Russia. This is reckless and absurd. The governments of these countries do not value free speech. In fact, they censor the Internet and routinely repress and punish political dissidents. They cannot be trusted with something as fundamental to free speech as a free and open Internet.
It’s unfiltered scaremongering.
No country — not China, Russia, the US nor any other government — gets increased powers under the IANA transition proposal, which was painstakingly crafted by, and is now supported by, pretty much all community stakeholders over two years.
In fact, governmental power is significantly curtailed under the proposal.
Post-transition, the Governmental Advisory Committee’s current voting practice, which essentially requires unanimity, would be enshrined in ICANN’s bylaws.
If the GAC came to ICANN with advice that did not have consensus — that is, some governments formally objected to it — ICANN would be able to reject it much more easily than it can today.
The one area where the GAC does get a new role is in the so-called “Empowered Community”, a new concept that will enter the ICANN bylaws post-transition.
The Empowered Community would be a non-profit legal entity formed by the ICANN community in the exceptional event that the ICANN board goes rogue and starts doing really egregious stuff that nobody wants — for example, introducing Draconian policy regulating freedom of speech.
The EC would have the power to kick out the ICANN board members of its choice, reject the ICANN budget, throw out proposed bylaws amendments and so on. As far as ICANN is concerned, the EC would be God.
Its members, or “Decisional Participants” would be the GNSO, the ccNSO, the ALAC, the ASO and the GAC.
The fact that the GAC has a seat at the EC table is the straw that Cruz, Duffy and co grasp at when they talk about governments getting increased power in a post-transition ICANN.
But the GAC’s voice is equal to those of the other four participants, and the GAC is not allowed a vote on matters stemming from ICANN’s implementation of consensus GAC advice.
In other words, the only way Cruz’s boogeymen governments would ever get to push through a censorship policy would be if that policy was also supported by all the other governments or by the majority of the diverse, multi-stakeholder ICANN community.
The arguments of Cruz and Duffy are red herrings, in other words.
Not only that, but the US record on attempted censorship of the DNS root is hardly exemplary.
While it’s generally been quietly hands-off for the majority of the time ICANN has had its hand on the rudder, there was a notable exception.
The Bush-era NTIA, following a letter-writing campaign by the religious right — Bible-thumping Cruz’s base — exerted pressure on ICANN to reject the proposed porn-only .xxx gTLD.
So who’s the real threat here, Red China or Ted Cruz, the man who tried to ban the sale of dildos in Texas?
The Protecting Internet Freedom Act is obviously still just a bill, but Republicans still control both houses of Congress so it’s not impossible that the tens of thousands of hours the ICANN community has put into the IANA transition could be sacrificed on the altar of embarrassing the President, who is probably Kenyan anyway.
There are now 1,300 top-level domains live on the internet.
The milestone was hit today when the dot-brand .flir was delegated to FLIR Systems, a $1.5 billion-a-year thermal imaging systems manufacturer.
Its nic.flir domain is now live and currently redirects to existing sites in other TLDs.
According to the DI database, there are 292 ccTLDs, of which 45 are internationalized domain names.
There are 1,008 gTLDs of which 84 are IDNs; 985 were applied for in the 2012 new gTLD application round.
Of the gTLDs, 347 are dot-brands (defined as where the registry has signed Spec 9 and/or Spec 13 of the new gTLD Registry Agreement).
ICANN has blown off US senator Ted Cruz by declining to answer a bunch of framed questions about its engagement with China.
In a letter (pdf) to Cruz and fellow senators Michael Lee and James Lankford, ICANN chair Steve Crocker testily explains that ICANN has offices and relationships all over the world, given the nature of its mandate.
There’s a suggestion that ICANN’s board resents the “insinuation” that talking to China means it’s ready to be captured by it or implement its censorship policies.
ICANN does not endorse the views of any particular stakeholder, regardless of the organization’s engagement efforts, the composition of its advisory committees, and where it holds its meetings. In this sense, ICANN’s engagement with China as a global Internet stakeholder does not suggest any level of support for the nation’s government or its policies. Similarly, no endorsement of such matters could reasonably be inferred from the operations of the United States’ largest technology firms operating in China, including Cisco, Dell, HP, IBM, Intel, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Qualcomm and Uber. These firms, like ICANN, do not endorse the policies, laws, and regulations of China simply by operating there. As long as the U.S. Government has a policy of engagement with China, U.S. firms operate there without the insinuation that doing so makes them complicit in China’s censorship.
The letter was written in response to a bullet-pointed list of a few dozen question Cruz has posed in letters over the last couple of months.
The Cruz missives were a fairly obvious fishing expedition, with the senators apparently looking for sticks to beat ICANN with in the form of evidence that the organization is too friendly with the dreaded Chinese.
Some on the right wing of American politics seem to see the transition of ICANN/IANA partially away from US government oversight as a wedge issue they can use to show Obama is happily selling the ‘Murican constitution to China.
But Crocker ducks most of Cruz’s questions, preferring instead to present an alternative narrative.
He does not, for example, give answers to simple factual questions related to former CEO Fadi Chehade’s joining as co-chair of a committee of the China-led World Internet Conference.
Instead, he refers Cruz to a previous letter from Chehade, and notes that Chehade is no longer with ICANN.
He does not answer anything related to XYZ.com’s proposals related to selling .xyz domain names in China, which Cruz reckons could be used to censor the people of Hong Kong.
Neither does he confirm that ICANN pays government-affiliated CNNIC for collocated office space in Beijing, which wasn’t disclosed until it came out at a press conference last month.
I imagine Cruz, in receipt of Crocker’s letter, is feeling much the same as I do when an interviewee waffles in response to simple questions.
I doubt this exchange is over.
US presidential wannabe Sen. Ted Cruz has sent ICANN’s chair another nasty letter, demanding to know why he hasn’t yet responded to a laundry list of questions about former CEO Fadi Chehade’s relationship with the Chinese government.
The letter, also signed by fellow Republican senators Mike Lee and James Lankford, expresses “dismay” over the lack of response from Steve Crocker.
Cruz et al have been posing awkward questions to ICANN’s top brass since it emerged in December that Chehade had taken an unpaid position on an internet governance advisory committee run by China.
The senators say they’re worried that the US relinquishing its oversight of the IANA functions will give governments with poor freedom of expression records too much control over the internet.
A more likely explanation is that the IANA transition is an Obama initiative, and if Obama single-handedly saved a bunch of kids from a burning orphanage Cruz & Co would blame him for contributing to over-population.
That’s more or less the sentiment Chehade expressed at ICANN 55 last month, when he said:
And you know that this [Cruz] letter is not driven by anyone really worried about the transition. This is someone really worried about politics. So let’s not bring politics into the transition… Let’s resist bringing the politics of our lovely capital into this process… I think everyone knows this is political, even those in his own party… We will answer all these questions… And we will respond to the questions fully, to the Senators’ full satisfaction.
The new letter calls Chehade out for this statement, saying he “disparaged” what they call an “oversight request”.
An actual Congressional oversight hearing, focusing on the transition, a couple of weeks ago had absolutely no fireworks whatsoever.
It seems that the Republican-led committee actually responsible for internet matters, which does not include Cruz as a member, isn’t particularly upset about the IANA transition.
Nevertheless, the new Cruz letter re-poses a whole list of questions about Chehade’s involvement in China and Crocker and the ICANN board’s response to it.
The questions were originally asked March 3. ICANN had evidently said it would respond by March 18 but has not.
Cruz’s hand in the Republican primaries against front-runner Donald Trump has been strengthened in recent days, increasing the possibility that he could become US president next January.
The Governmental Advisory Committee failed to reach consensus on proposals to improve ICANN’s accountability, but has raised “no objection” to them going ahead as planned.
After burning the midnight oil in a tense series of meetings at ICANN 55 in Marrakech last night, the GAC finally agreed to the text of a letter that essentially approves the recommendations of a cross-community accountability working group.
The GAC said, in a letter (pdf) to leaders of the so-called CCWG:
While there are delegations that have expressed support for the proposal, there are other delegations that were not in a position to endorse the proposal as a whole.
In spite of this difference of opinions, the GAC has no objection to the transmission of the proposal to the ICANN Board.
This means that one of the barriers to accountability reform, which is inextricably linked to IANA’s transition away from US government oversight, has been lowered.
The GAC said it could not by consensus endorse the full suite of proposals, however.
The main sticking point was the CCWG’s recommendation 11, which essentially enshrines the GAC’s consensus-based decision-making rules in the ICANN bylaws.
A handful of governments — a bloc of South American nations, plus France and Portugal — are still not happy about this.
There is “no consensus” from the GAC on Recommendation 11, the GAC said.
There is also no consensus on the so-called “GAC carve-out” in Recommendations 1 and 2, which would limit the GAC’s ability to challenge ICANN board decisions alongside the rest of the community.
The accountability plan still needs to be formally endorsed by a couple more ICANN community groups, before it is submitted to the ICANN board for approval, which is expected to happen over the next 48 hours.