ICANN will not be allowed to do business with groups designated by the US government as terrorists, according to one of many changes that have been quietly made to the IANA contract.
The IANA contract, which gives ICANN its ability to delegate top-level domains, is up for renewal following the publication of an RFP by the Department of Commerce earlier this month.
But Commerce substantially modified the RFP a week after its initial publication. It’s now about 20 pages longer than the original document, containing many new terms and conditions.
A few changes struck me as notable.
Among the changes is a ban on dealing with groups classified as supporting terrorism under the US Executive Order 13224, signed by President Bush in the aftermath of the the 9/11 attacks.
That Order bans US companies from working with organizations including the IRA, Hamas and Al Qaeda.
While the addition of this clause to the IANA contract doesn’t really change anything – as a US corporation ICANN is bound to comply with US trade sanctions – it may ruffle some feathers.
The new top-level domains Applicant Guidebook banned applicants involved in “terrorism” in its fourth draft, which caused complaints from some quarters.
It was revised over a year ago to instead make reference to US legal compliance and the US Office of Foreign Assets Control and its List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons.
Khaled Fattal of the Mulitlingual Internet Group, who first described the unqualified Guidebook ban on “terrorism” as “racist”, continued to voice opposition to this rule, most recently at the ICANN public forum in Dakar, suggesting it betrays ICANN’s American bias.
The revised IANA RFP also contains a new section detailing the US government’s “unlimited rights” to data and software produced by the IANA contractor.
The new RFP states: “The Government shall have… Unlimited rights in all data delivered under this contract, and in all data first produced in the performance of this contract”
“Data,” it says, “means recorded information, regardless of form or the medium on which it may be recorded. The term includes technical data and computer software. The term does not include information incidental to contract administration, such as financial, administrative, cost or pricing, or management information.”
It’s not entirely clear what this clause could potentially cover.
By it’s very nature, much of the data produced by IANA is public – it needs to be in order for the DNS to function – but could it also cover data such as redelegation communications with other governments or private DNSSEC keys?
There are no big changes to the section on new gTLDs, just one minor amendment.
Whereas the old RFP said that IANA must show that ICANN “followed its policy framework” to approve a gTLD, the new version says it must have “followed its own policy framework”, which doesn’t seem to change the meaning.
Other amendments to the RFP appear to be formatting changes or clarifications.
The more substantial additions – including the terrorism and data rights sections – appear to be standard boilerplate text designed to tick some boxes required by US procurement procedure, rather than being written specifically for ICANN’s benefit.
You can download the original and revised RFP documents here.
The European Commission is disappointed that only US-based companies are eligible to apply to take over ICANN’s IANA contract, but has otherwise welcomed the new deal.
As I reported Friday, the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration has put the IANA contract, which gives ICANN its powers to create new top-level domains, up for rebid.
While ICANN is generally expected to be a shoo-in for the contract, the NTIA tilted the odds in its favor by refusing to consider bids from replacement candidates from outside the US.
The EC said in a statement today:
The Commission believes greater respect should be given by the IANA contractor to respecting applicable law (such as EU personal data protection laws)… In that context, it noted with regret that non-US companies are not allowed to compete for the forthcoming IANA contract.
Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda said in a press release:
The new IANA tender is a clear step forward for global internet governance. A more transparent, independent and accountable management of the Internet domain names and other resources will reinforce the Internet’s role as a global resource.
The EC is also pleased that ICANN/IANA “will have to provide specific documentation demonstrating how the underlying decision-making process was supportive of the public interest” when new gTLDs are approved.
How this provision will be implemented, and how much power it gives ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee to kill new gTLD applications, is perhaps the biggest question hanging over the contract today.
The current IANA contract expires at the end of March next year, shortly before the end of ICANN’s first new gTLDs application window.
The US government has put the IANA contract, which currently gives ICANN its powers to create new top-level domains, up for competitive bidding.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration issued a request for proposals late yesterday, almost a week later than expected.
The Statement Of Work, which defines the IANA contractor’s responsibilities, is over twice at long as the current IANA contract, containing many deliverables and deadlines.
While the contract is open to bidders other than ICANN, ICANN is obviously the likely winner, so it’s fair to read the SOW in that context.
Notably, the section dealing with approving new gTLDs has been changed since the draft language released in June.
NTIA said previously that in order to delegate a new gTLD, ICANN/IANA “shall include documentation to demonstrate how the proposed string has received consensus support from relevant stakeholders and is supported by the global public interest.”
The new SOW has dropped the “consensus support” requirement and instead states:
The Contractor must provide documentation verifying that ICANN followed its policy framework including specific documentation demonstrating how the process provided the opportunity for input from relevant stakeholders and was supportive of the global public interest.
This could be read as a softening of the language. No longer will ICANN have to prove consensus – which is not a requirement of the Applicant Guidebook – in order to approve a new gTLD.
However, the fact that it will have to document how a new gTLD is “supportive of the global public interest” may give extra weight to Governmental Advisory Committee objections.
If the GAC were to issue advice stating that a new gTLD application was not in “the global public interest”, it may prove tricky for ICANN to provide documentation showing that it is.
The SOW also addresses conflicts of interest, which has become a big issue for ICANN following the departure of chairman and new gTLD proponent Peter Dengate Thrush, and his subsequent employment by new gTLD applicant Minds + Machines, this June.
The SOW says that IANA needs to have a written conflicts of interest policy, adding:
At a minimum, this policy must address what conflicts based on personal relationships or bias, financial conflicts of interest, possible direct or indirect financial gain from the Contractor’s policy decisions and employment and post-employment activities. The conflict of interest policy must include appropriate sanctions in case on non-compliance, including suspension, dismissal and other penalties.
Overall, the SOW is a substantial document, with a lot of detail.
There’s much more NTIA micromanagement than in the current IANA contract. Any hopes ICANN had that the relationship would become much more arms-length have been dashed.
The SOW includes a list of 17 deadlines for ICANN/IANA, mainly various types of compliance reports that must be filed annually. The NTIA clearly intends to keep IANA on a fairly tight leash.
You can download the RFP documents here.
The US Department of Commerce has announced the date of its RFP for the IANA contract, stating that only wholly US-based organizations are welcome to apply.
Commerce, via the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, said it intends to accept proposals from potential contractors between November 4 and December 4.
Among other things, the IANA contract is what gives ICANN its powers over the domain name system’s root – its ability to delegate gTLDs and ccTLDs to registries.
It is due to expire at the end of March next year, having been extended from its original expiry date of September 30. ICANN is of course the favorite candidate.
ICANN had asked for a longer-term or more arms-length contract, to dilute the perception that IANA is too US-centric, but NTIA has indicated that it intends to decline that request.
However, the duration of the contract has been changed.
The current IANA contract was a one-year deal, with four one-year renewal options. The next will be for a three-year base period, followed by two two-year renewal options, according to Commerce.
“The current unilateral structure of the IANA functions contract should evolve to meet the needs of the global community,” ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom said during his opening remarks at ICANN’s 42nd public meeting in Dakar, Senegal yesterday.
He noted that the US government originally said, in a 1998 white paper, that ICANN would ultimately take over the IANA functions entirely, cutting it off from government.
“We hope that progress towards the vision articulated by the US government’s white paper will be made in the next agreement and we hope and we expect to see a roadmap for the realization of this vision in the future,” Beckstrom said.
Now that Commerce has made such a big deal out of the fact that only US-based organizations are welcome to apply to run IANA, that goal seems further away.
It’s also notable that the next IANA contract will be a single document.
The NTIA had previously floated the possibility of splitting it into three functions – protocol management, DNS root management and IP address allocation – but the idea was not well-received.
ICANN is set to approve two new country-code top-level domains next week – .cw and .sx – for the year-old nations of Curacao and Sint Maarten.
The two countries were created when the Netherlands Antilles split last October.
The ICANN board of directors plans to rubber-stamp the delegations of both ccTLDs next Tuesday, according to the consent agenda for its meeting.
It also plans to vote on the “transition” arrangements for the Netherlands Antilles’ .an, which is now a ccTLD without a country.
The .an space won’t be the first TLD to be deprecated. Yugoslavia’s .yu disappeared in March last year, for example, a few years after Serbia and Montenegro acquired their own ccTLDs.
OpenRegistry CEO Jean-Christophe Vignes said that if ICANN votes for the delegation the company will start talks with potential registrar partners at the ICANN Dakar meeting later this month.
MediaFusion and Vignes’ alma mater EuroDNS have already been approved to act as .sx registrars.
The company plans to use CHIP, the ClearingHouse for Intellectual Property, for its sunrise period.
Anyone with a .an registration predating December 2010 will be able to request the equivalent .sx name under a grandfathering program the company plans to launch.
It will be the first TLD that OpenRegistry has provided the back-end infrastructure for.