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Reviewing the IANA Transition Proposal

March 11, 2016

Over the past two decades, the Internet has touched the lives of billions of people around the globe in profound ways.  It has fueled economic growth, giving even the most remote villages the opportunity to sell their products in faraway lands.  It has fueled innovation, connecting mobile gadgets and household appliances.  And it has torn down barriers to speech, enabling diverse viewpoints to be heard across the political spectrum.

The Obama Administration is committed to doing everything within our power to preserve and protect the open, free-flowing global Internet, which has revolutionized the world.  That’s why two years ago, we announced our intention to transition the U.S. government’s stewardship role of the Internet Domain Name System to the global multistakeholder community.

Since our announcement, the Internet community – made up of businesses, technical experts, academics and civil society – has risen to the challenge by developing a transition plan that has achieved broad community support.  The community delivered that proposal to NTIA yesterday, marking the culmination of the largest multistakeholder process ever undertaken.  Stakeholders spent more than 26,000 working hours on the proposal, exchanged more than 33,000 messages on mailing lists, and held more than 600 meetings and calls.  

Why is this transition so important? The Internet has grown and thrived largely because of the multitude of folks who have come together around the globe through multistakeholder processes to solve technical and policy challenges on a consensus basis.  No government or intergovernmental entity could have accomplished what this community of experts has achieved in such a relatively short period of time.

The U.S. government has been a strong proponent of this model, and we believed in 2014 and still believe today that transitioning our stewardship role is the best path to preserving and strengthening this multistakeholder model that has worked so well.  This model has demonstrated that it is a powerful mechanism for protecting the Internet as a driver of economic growth, innovation and free speech.

Over the last two years the members of the IANA Transition Coordination Working Group (ICG) and the ICANN Cross Community Working Group on Accountability (CCWG) have worked tirelessly to develop the stewardship transition proposal.  Scoping the issues, understanding the challenges, working through the various scenarios and then engaging with the various ICANN constituency groups and customers along the way was not easy.  Both the ICG and the CCWG showed incredible determination, focus and then flexibility to adjust as conditions required. 

So, what’s next?   NTIA will now begin the process of reviewing the proposal, hopefully within 90 days, to determine whether it meets the criteria we outlined when we announced the transition:

  • First, the proposal must support and enhance the multistakeholder model of Internet governance, in that it should be developed by the multistakeholder community and have broad community support.  More specifically, we will not accept a transition proposal that replaces the NTIA role with a government-led or intergovernmental organization solution. 
  • Second, the proposal must maintain the security, stability, and resiliency of the domain name system. 
  • Third, it must meet the needs and expectations of the global customers and partners of the IANA services. 
  • And finally, it must maintain the openness of the Internet.

In this effort, we will be joined by other agencies of the U.S. government.  We will also be guided by the recommendations of the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The U.S. Congress has a strong interest in this proposal and we expect Congress to closely monitor and review the proposal as well as our evaluation of the plan.

I applaud all those who participated in and contributed to this process for working through very complex issues.  Not only will ICANN be stronger as a result of this effort, but a successful outcome here would serve as a powerful example to the world that the multistakeholder model can be used to address challenging Internet governance issues.