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Chehade talks up split from US oversight

Kevin Murphy, October 28, 2013, Domain Policy

ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade used his keynote address at the newdomains.org conference this morning to discuss his plans to divorce the organization from US governmental oversight.

With a split from the US recurring theme in his recent speeches, Chehade nevertheless warned that there were risks that such a move could create a dangerous governance vacuum.

“The current ICANN contract that gives the US government a unique role in the root management function is not sustainable,” he said. “It’s just not sustainable.”

That seems to be a reference to the IANA contract, in which the US has essentially a veto on ICANN’s decisions regarding root zone changes such as new gTLD delegations.

“I think we need to think together how we grow from that and how we globalize that contract,” he said. “But we need to be very careful about creating a vacuum or uninteded consequences that would destabilize the root of the internet.”

While Chehade noted that a split from the US has always been envisaged, he said that the revelations about US internet surveillance made by NSA defector Edward Snowden has provided a catalyst to speed it up.

When Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff recently called for a “multilateral” (read: inter-governmental, (read: ITU)) approach to internet governance, Chehade and an ICANN team traveled to Brazil to persuade her to instead focus on the creation of a “multistakeholder” model instead.

There’s now a “coalition” of the “I*” groups (ICANN, IETF, etc), big-name companies such as Disney, and governments such as Brazil, focused on creating multistakeholder solutions to problems — such as spam and cyber-bullying — that are not in ICANN’s purview Chehade said.

There’s a multistakeholder meeting planned for April or May next year (I’ve heard both dates), to be hosted by Brazil, that will look at internet governance post-Snowden.

This meeting is about “allowing ICANN to not expand its remit”, according to Chehade. He said: “We don’t want to expand our remit.”

What we seem to be looking at here is the creation for a new organization, of which ICANN could be a member, that will allow stakeholders to coordinate responses to tricky cross-border internet problems.

While ICANN seems to be taking the leading role in its creation, it doesn’t sound like ICANN is trying to get into issues beyond naming and addressing, judging by Chehade’s speech this morning

Chehade also talked up ICANN’s support for the domain name industry.

He admitted that ICANN has caused a lot of problems for new gTLD applicants over the course of the gTLD program, but promised that this will change, with ICANN taking a more “background” role.

“You need less risk and more stability from the ICANN side,” he said. “You have suffered for a long time from a lot of instability, a lot of unknowns.”

Increased automation, internationlization and professionalism from ICANN will serve this goal, he said.

ICANN’s compliance department, he added, should “not be the policeman for the industry but be customer service for the registrants”, he said.

ICANN using PRISM as excuse to break from the US

Kevin Murphy, October 22, 2013, Domain Policy

ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade, with backing from government leaders, is using the recent revelations about the PRISM mass surveillance program to try to speed up ICANN’s split from the US.

Speaking to an American radio station, Chehade said yesterday:

I think the current role the United States has with ICANN was always envisaged to change. The timing of that was the question — not if, it was just when. I think now it is clear that we need to talk about changing that role and evolving it to become a more global role where all stakeholders, not just governments, have an equal footing in the governance of the Internet. So the timing has been put into clear focus right now, that is what’s happening.

He was speaking from the latest Internet Governance Forum in Bali, where today he reiterated his calls for “all governments and all stakeholders” to work together “on equal footing”.

Similar rhetoric has been dribbling out of ICANN for the last couple of weeks.

Earlier this month, Chehade met in Montevideo, Uruguay, with the leaders of the five Regional Internet Registries, the World Wide Web Consortium, the IETF, ISOC and the IAB to discuss “current issues affecting the future of the Internet.”

They came out with the Montevideo Declaration, which states in part:

They reinforced the importance of globally coherent Internet operations, and warned against Internet fragmentation at a national level. They expressed strong concern over the undermining of the trust and confidence of Internet users globally due to recent revelations of pervasive monitoring and surveillance.

They identified the need for ongoing effort to address Internet Governance challenges, and agreed to catalyze community-wide efforts towards the evolution of global multistakeholder Internet cooperation.

They called for accelerating the globalization of ICANN and IANA functions, towards an environment in which all stakeholders, including all governments, participate on an equal footing.

The first and third paragraphs, taken together, suggested that ICANN was yet again ready to start talking about casting off the US government’s special oversight role, and that it would use Edward Snowden’s PRISM revelations as a way back into the conversation.

Milton Mueller of the Internet Governance Project first blogged about this, talking about ICANN “abandoning the US government”, prompting much media speculation about America’s future role in internet governance.

Chehade has been on the road, it seems, since Montevideo, first stopping off in Brazil to lend his encouragement to President Dilma Rousseff’s proposal for an April 2014 conference to discuss internet governance in light of the Snowden revelations.

Rousseff herself was targeted by the NSA and has become one of the most vocal government leaders in criticizing the US spy programs.

Lately it seems Chehade has been in India, where he told the Economic Times:

When any government decides to use a resource like the internet in ways that erodes the public trust, it is very regrettable. I feel like I’m the public trustee of the internet. All of us should be equal stewards of the public trust.

So when any one takes it away, it distresses all of us. It is not just by the recent revelations about PRISM, but there are other revelations that are coming out as well. Countries are employing millions of people to track the movements of their fellow citizens.

I would argue that the recent developments have emboldened people to make sure all stakeholders are participating on equal footing, including all governments.

All of this posturing raises a few basic questions, the first of which is: what does PRISM have to do with ICANN?

The answer, it seems, is “nothing”.

The PRISM revelations have implicated the likes of Google, Microsoft and Facebook — all apparently cooperating with the NSA’s mass gathering of data on civilian internet users — but no domain name players.

If the Guardian were to report tomorrow that major infrastructure players such as Verisign or Go Daddy were also involved, I would not be in the least surprised, but so far I have yet to see a connection between the domain name business and NSA spying.

In that light, if ICANN were to sever its special relationship with the US, there would be presumably no impact whatsoever on PRISM or any other surveillance program.

Chehade’s current campaign therefore seems to be politically opportunistic at best and a distraction from the underlying problem of US human rights violations at worst.

But what is meant when people speak of “splitting from the US” anyway?

It seems to me there are three important areas where the US government has undue power over ICANN: jurisdiction, the Affirmation of Commitments and the IANA contract.

ICANN is based in California and subject to US federal law. While that continues to be the case, it will always be subject to the possibility of having its work thwarted by a US court or spurious lawsuit.

It also hampers ICANN’s ability to do business with some nations unencumbered by US trade embargoes, though ICANN is usually able to secure the requisite licenses when it needs to.

It’s also always going to be at risk of being hauled over the coals by Congress every couple of years, due to lobbying by US special interest groups, which interferes with its credibility as a global organization.

ICANN has already started setting up shop in other parts of the world. New “hub” offices in Istanbul and Singapore are being characterized as being on equal footing with the LA headquarters.

But that characterization seems disingenuous.

The Affirmation of Commitments, signed by the US Department of Commerce and former ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom in 2009 and largely negotiated under his predecessor Paul Twomey, is one of ICANN’s principal governing documents.

One of ICANN’s commitments under the AoC is to “remain a not for profit corporation, headquartered in the United States of America with offices around the world to meet the needs of a global community”.

Being US-based is baked into ICANN’s governance. If the US has to go, the AoC has to go, which means all the other accountability and review obligations in the AoC also have to go.

The third prong of US control is the IANA contract and the trilateral relationship between ICANN, Verisign and the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

The NTIA, essentially, controls the DNS root. Verisign actually manages the boxes it runs on, but it only makes changes — such as adding new gTLDs or redelegating ccTLDs to new registries — with NTIA authorization. That authorization, in turn, is basically a rubber stamp on an IANA/ICANN recommendation.

To the best of my knowledge, NTIA has never abused its authority to overrule an ICANN determination, or pressured ICANN into making a US-friendly recommendation.

But the process by which ICANN recommends changes to the root is pretty opaque.

I have to wonder why, for example, it took two years for Iran’s IDN ccTLD to get approved by ICANN’s board. Only the lack of any outcry from Iran suggests to me that the delay was benign.

When ICANN was founded in 1998, the original plan was for control of the root to enter ICANN’s hands before the end of the Clinton administration (ie 2000), but over the years that plan has been abandoned by the US.

The IANA contract was put up for renewal in 2011 — with a strict provision that only US-based organizations were able to apply — and then-CEO Beckstrom also pushed for more ICANN independence.

In 2011, Beckstrom was making many of the same noises Chehade is today, saying that the IANA function should be a looser “cooperative agreement” rather than a US procurement contract.

In March that year, calling for such an agreement he said at ICANN’s San Francisco meeting:

When all voices are heard, no single voice can dominate an organization – not even governments. Not even the government that facilitated its creation.

The NTIA’s response was, basically, to give Beckstrom the finger.

It said in June 2011 that it “does not have the legal authority” to do what was asked of it, then produced an IANA contract that gave itself and governments in general much greater powers to micromanage ICANN.

After delays, rejections and giving ICANN the general runaround, the NTIA finally signed off on its new IANA contract in July last year, on the final day of Beckstrom’s tenure as CEO.

It lasts until September 30, 2015, with two two-year renewals options.

If Chehade wants to unshackle ICANN from the US, the IANA contract will have to be a cornerstone of that project.

But NTIA’s past performance makes that possibility seem unlikely, unless Chehade can rally enough political pressure from the likes of Brazil and India to change his own government’s mind.

He faces an uphill battle, in other words, and at the end of the day whether breaking from the US government would be a good thing or not depends entirely on what, if anything, replaces it.

Whatever happens, let’s not pretend that ICANN’s independence has anything to do with PRISM, and let’s not allow ICANN to distract us from the wholesale violations of our rights that the US government is perpetrating.

Live new gTLDs this month? First four pass to delegation

Kevin Murphy, October 22, 2013, Domain Registries

New gTLDs are on the home stretch, after ICANN sent the first four applications to the final delegation stage of the process.

The four are: .сайт (Russian “.site”) and .онлайн (Russian “.online”) from Core Association, شبكة. (Arabic “.web”) from dotShabaka Registry and .游戏 (Chinese “.games”) from Donuts.

These were also the first four to sign their registry contracts with ICANN — over three months ago — and the first to be given their name collisions mitigation plan, just a few days ago.

Proceeding to delegation means the applications are now in the hands of IANA, the ICANN department with responsibility over changes to the DNS root system.

IANA has its own set of procedures to follow before delegating, which have historically taken a couple of weeks to process. If I recall correctly, .xxx was with IANA for about 10 days before it went live.

It seems possible that the first new gTLDs could be live this month, meaning the first sunrise periods could kick off in early December, with general availability following a month later.

However, the Christmas and New Year holiday period may wind up forcing some registrars to stagger their dates in order to benefit from the best publicity window when they finally go on sale.

KSRegistry takes over .gd but questions remain about two other hijacked ccTLDs

KSRegistry has been appointed the new registry operator for Grenada’s ccTLD after bad management at the previous operator led to the whole TLD being hijacked.

But the fate of two other hijacked ccTLDs — .tc and .vg — appears to be less certain, with significant confusion over who’s in charge at both.

One of them, at least, may still be “hijacked”.

But KSRegistry, part of the KeyDrive group, said today that it took over the technical management of .gd from AdamsNames (Amaryllis Investments Ltd) on May 1.

While a press release describes the change as a “redelegation” by ICANN’s IANA function, in fact it’s just a change of technical contact in the IANA database.

Grenada’s National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission remains the official, delegated manager of the TLD.

The hasty switch-over follows the alleged wholesale hijacking of the ccTLD by a disgruntled former employee of AdamsNames, who temporarily relocated it from the UK to Turkey.

The TLD, along with .tc and .vg, went AWOL in March after one Ertan Ulutas apparently took over the domain AdamsNames.net, the web site which was used by registrants to manage their names.

For a couple of weeks the site remained in the hands of the alleged hijacker, and all the while the AdamsNames.net site presented itself as the official registry manager.

KSRegistry was at the time the appointed back-end provider, appointed last year, for AdamsNames.

Due to the period of confusion, KSRegistry said today that the integrity of registration data in .gd may have been compromised, and that the zone will be “frozen” until May 21.

KSRegistry said in a statement:

While the .GD zone is frozen, no registrations, modifications, transfers, deletions or renewals can be made until the zone file has been fully reviewed and confirmed as valid and complete. Expired domains which are still in the zone can explicit be set to be either deleted or renewed prior to the reactivation of automated domain deletion function on May 21. Contact and nameserver updates can be done by each registrar for the domain names in its portfolio once the ServerUpdateProhibited status is removed. The NTRC and the KSregistry GmbH intend to resolve the discrepancies in the registration data with the .GD accredited registrars until May 21, 2013.

Getting rid of AdamsNames seems like a smart move by Grenada.

While AdamsNames has not been accused of any wrongdoing, allowing its TLDs to get hijacked, putting many thousands of domains at risk, certainly smacks of incompetence.

And the current status of .tc and .vg is unclear enough that I’d advise extreme caution when doing business with either TLD until further notice.

According to IANA records, .vg (British Virgin Islands) still has AdamsNames listed as the technical manager, but there have been significant, dodgy-looking changes at .tc recently.

Notably, references to AdamsNames as technical contact and official registration site for the ccTLD have been removed and replaced with those for a couple of new companies.

TLD AS (based in Turkey) and Meridian TLD (based in the British Virgin Islands) have been named as technical contact and registration site for .tc respectively.

Also, a name server for .tc that was operated by RIPE (a respectable organization), was also removed and replaced with one from zone.tc, a domain controlled by Meridian TLD, in early April.

All the name servers for .tc, and all but one of the name servers for .vg, are now on domains controlled by Meridian.

On the face of it, it looks almost legit. Meridian’s web site even states that its representatives were at the ICANN meeting in Beijing a month ago.

But according to AdamsNames, Meridian is actually run by Ulutas (the alleged hijacker) and at least two other people, and the two other people showed up in Beijing pretending to represent AdamsNames.

AdamsNames said on its web site:

We have to state frank and clear that neither Ayse Ergen nor her companion are authorised to represent or to act on behalf of AdamsNames Limited. By posing as employees of AdamsNames, the group of criminals around Ertan Ulutas, newly also known as “Meridian TLD Corp.”, continues its efforts to hijack the business of AdamsNames (run since 1999) by underhand means.

ICANN/IANA, according to AdamsNames, was aware of its complaints about Meridian from late March, which was before it made the changes that gave Meridian effective control over .tc.

Right now, it looks disturbingly like the alleged “hijacker” has actually managed to not only take over operations for at least one entire ccTLD but also to make it official.

Nuclear Iran campaign group sends ICANN list of demands (and they’re really, really stupid)

Kevin Murphy, September 19, 2012, Domain Policy

The campaign group United Against Nuclear Iran has called on ICANN to switch off internet access to Iran, due to an apparent misunderstanding of what it is ICANN does.

In a letter sent earlier this month and published yesterday, UANI told ICANN to “immediately cease and desist” from providing “ICANN/IANA access” to Iranian entities covered by US and EU sanctions.

The group is worried that these organizations are using the internet to help Iran with its goal of creating nuclear weapons.

The letter states:

Absent access to ICANN/IANA, the dictatorial regime of Iran would be severely impeded in pursuing its illegal and amoral activities. For each day that you knowingly continue to provide Iran sanction-designated persons and entities access to the worldwide web, ICANN/IANA will be increasingly complicit in the IRGC and Iranian regime’s nefarious behavior. ICANN/IANA must stop transacting with such Iranian entities and persons and deny them access to Unique Web Identifiers, and therefore, the worldwide web.”

The letter is stupid on so many levels it’s difficult to know where to begin.

It appears to assume that ICANN has the power and ability to shut down certain individual .ir and .com domain names, which are registered to and used by sanctioned entities.

The letter (pdf) states:

Prominent sanction-designated Iranian entities have acquired .ir Unique Internet Identifiers from ICANN/IANA through the RIPE NCC. For example, Iran’s nuclear brain trust, Malek Ashtar University holds the http://www.mut.ac.ir/ address. Major Iranian banks, including the country’s central bank, maintain active websites (e.g. http://www.cbi.ir, http://www.bank-maskan.ir, http://www.bmi.ir and http://www.banksepah.ir). Further, Khatam al-Anbia, which serves as the IRGC’s engineering arm with over 812 subsidiaries and is heavily involved in the construction of the Qom/Fordow nuclear weapons facilities, holds the web address of http://www.khatam.com. These sanction-designated entities could not gain such web access without ICANN/IANA.

You’ll immediately notice that UANI seems to think that RIPE NCC hands out .ir addresses, which it does not. RIPE is a Regional Internet Registry that deals exclusively with IP address blocks.

ICANN doesn’t have the power to shut down individual domains either. It has powers over the root zone — top-level domains — not second-level domains in individual TLDs.

Nor does ICANN appear to work with any of the organizations on the US list of sanctioned entities.

The .ir ccTLD is delegated to the Tehran-based Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences, which is not sanctioned.

ICANN could, feasibly, shut down the whole of .ir, as long as Verisign and the US Department of Commerce — which have ultimate control over the root — played along, but that seems like overkill.

Is UANI asking ICANN to shut down the whole of the .ir space?

Apparently not. In fact, the group condemns censorship and appears to support the ability of regular Iranian citizens to access a free, unfettered internet. The letter states:

Unfortunately, ICANN/IANA and the Unique Internet Identifiers that it provides are misused by the sanction-designated Iranian entities and persons to facilitate their illicit operations, activities and communications including support for Iran’s rogue nuclear weapons program, Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism around the world, and the Iranian regimes brutal crackdown against its own people. Disturbingly, that crackdown includes the ruthless censorship of the Internet and other communication access, and the use of tracking technology to monitor, torture and kill freedom seeking dissidents.

Simply put, ICANN/IANA should not provide the internet communications means that the Iranian regime and the IRGC misuses to censor and deny Internet freedoms to its people, much less to support Iran’s illicit nuclear program or its sponsorship of terrorism.

A second, more or less identical letter (pdf) sent to RIPE NCC accused the organization of being the country-code manager for .ir, apparently based on a misunderstanding of this web page.

Netherlands-based RIPE has already responded, saying:

The RIPE NCC is in contact with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure that we operate in accordance with Dutch law and all applicable international sanctions. Our advice from the Ministry has been that the RIPE NCC is not in violation of these sanctions. However, we will investigate in cases where new information is provided to us and we will ensure that changing circumstances do not place the RIPE NCC in violation of sanctions.

UANI could have avoided embarrassing itself with a couple of phone calls, and I have to wonder why it did not.

Possibly because it can get New York Times column inches simply by throwing around accusations.

Breaking: ICANN awarded IANA contract

Kevin Murphy, July 2, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN has been awarded the contract to run IANA for another three to seven years.

It’s almost eight months since the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration put the contract up for rebid and four months after ICANN’s initial proposal was deemed unsatisfactory.

“This is the longest IANA functions contract we’ve ever had, running for a period of three years with two 2-year renewal options,” said Akram Atallah, ICANN’s new interim CEO, in a statement.

The new contract starts October 1.

A cynic might note that the renewal, which was of course expected, comes just a day after the departure of former CEO Rod Beckstrom. That cynic might also suggest that the timing was deliberate.

Former CEO Rod Beckstrom tweeted tonight that his last act as CEO was to sign the new contract yesterday.

The IANA contract gives ICANN its powers over the domain name root system and IP address allocation.

More on the story when we have it…

US reopens IANA contract re-bid

Kevin Murphy, April 17, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN’s key contract with the US government is open for proposals again, a month after ICANN was told its first bid wasn’t up to the expected standards.

The US National Telecommunications and Information Administration yesterday posted a revised request for proposals, looking for a new IANA contractor.

The IANA contract is what gives ICANN its operational powers over the domain name system root database.

Based on a quick comparison of the new RFP with the old, there have been few notable, substantial changes, giving little indication of why ICANN’s previous response fell short.

The RFP has a strong emphasis on accountability, transparency, separation of ICANN/IANA powers, conflicts of interest and the “global public interest”, as before.

While many of the requirements have been edited, clarified or shifted around, I haven’t been able to spot any major additions or subtractions.

The RFP now envisages a contract running from October 1, 2012 until September 30, 2015, with two two-year renewal options, bringing the expiry date to September 30, 2019.

The deadline for responses is May 31.

The current contract had been due to expire at the end of March but the NTIA unexpected extended it by six months just before ICANN’s meeting in Costa Rica kicked off last month.

The NTIA said it canceled the first RFP “because we received no proposals that met the requirements” but neither it nor ICANN has yet provided any specifics.

Over a month ago, at an ICANN press conference in Costa Rica, CEO Rod Beckstrom said: “We were invited to have a debriefing with [the NTIA] to learn more about this. Following that discussion we will share any information we are allowed to share.”

Since then, no additional information has been forthcoming.

The new RFP can be read here. For comparison, the old version can be downloaded here.

ICANN to issue update on IANA contract

Kevin Murphy, March 12, 2012, Domain Policy

This weekend’s shock news that ICANN’s bid to renew its IANA contract with the US government failed is still without an official, detailed explanation, but ICANN may soon reveal more specifics.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration said Saturday that no bidder for the IANA contract had met its requirements, and that it was canceling the RFP until a later date.

It extended ICANN’s management of IANA for another six months.

CEO Rod Beckstrom said at a press conference here at the public meeting in Costa Rica today that ICANN cannot comment on the reasons its bid was rejected for now.

However, it’s going to meet with the NTIA soon to discuss the matter and may issue an update later.

“We were invited to have a debriefing with them to learn more about this,” Beckstrom said. “Following that discussion we will share any information we are allowed to share.”

Here in San Jose, there are several theories floating around the show floor.

The first hypothesis, which was popular on Saturday but which since seems to have fallen out of favor, is that it was a deliberate attempt to, in the words of one attendee, “fuck with” Beckstrom.

His contract expires in early July, and it was speculated that the NTIA would prefer to deal with his successor on the IANA contract, forcing him to leave the organization on a bum note.

I don’t really buy that. I can’t see the NTIA playing personality politics to that extent, not with the future of internet governance on the line.

The other theory doing the rounds is that ICANN fell foul of some rather esoteric US procurement guidelines – that the NTIA was legally unable to approve its bid.

Others speculate that ICANN just submitted a really crappy response to the RFP, or a response that failed to take the NTIA’s requirements seriously enough.

This seems more likely.

Whatever the reason, the way the news broke – apparently catching ICANN off-guard as much as anybody else – certainly suggests that the NTIA either screwed up its communications or that it wanted to make one of its trademark pre-show sabre-rattling statements.

Six hot topics for new gTLD applicants at ICANN 43

Kevin Murphy, March 11, 2012, Domain Policy

Hundreds of stakeholders are gathering in San Jose, Costa Rica today for the first official day of ICANN’s 43rd public meeting.

While the news that the US government has deferred the renewal of ICANN’s IANA contract for another six months has set the most tongues wagging so far, there’s a lot more going on.

In this in-depth DomainIncite PRO ICANN 43 preview, we take a look at:

  • Why many attendees think the shock IANA news is a personal slight against ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom.
  • How protecting the Olympic and Red Cross trademarks could lead to the new gTLD application window being extended.
  • Why the Governmental Advisory Committee is pushing for greater powers to reject new gTLD applications.
  • Which companies have applied for the potentially lucrative Trademark Clearinghouse contract (and which one is our favorite to win), and why unanswered questions have the IP community worried.
  • What criteria new gTLDs will be judged against after they launch.
  • Why critical talks between ICANN and domain name registrars could lead to the retail price of domain names doubling, and why that probably won’t happen any time soon.

DomainIncite PRO subscribers can read the full analysis here. Non-subscribers can find subscription information here.

NTIA says ICANN “does not meet the requirements” for IANA renewal

Kevin Murphy, March 10, 2012, Domain Policy

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.