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Stakeholders Continue Historic Work on Internet DNS Transition at ICANN Singapore Meeting

February 19, 2015

Last week, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) held its 52nd meeting in Singapore, where the global multistakeholder community continued progress on a proposal to transition the United States role related to the Internet Domain Name System.

I was pleased to see the amount of energy and professionalism exhibited by the nearly 1800 participants at the ICANN meeting. The Internet’s stakeholders are driving this transition and are demonstrating that businesses, technical experts, and civil society groups are best equipped to set the future direction of the Internet.  Under this multistakeholder model, no one party can control the Internet or impose its will. And that’s what’s enabled the Internet to flourish and evolve into this global medium that has torn down barriers to free speech and fueled economic growth and innovation.

 It is so important that we get this transition right. If it doesn’t take place, we will embolden authoritarian regimes to seek greater government control of the Internet or to threaten to fragment the Internet, which would result in a global patchwork of regulations and rules that stifle the free flow of information.

Now that we are nearing the one-year anniversary of our announcement, it is important to take stock of where this transition process stands. Stakeholders have organized two major work streams to develop the overall plan:  one group is focused on the specifics of the IANA functions and the second is addressing questions of the overall accountability of ICANN to the global community of Internet stakeholders. 

In the first track, the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (ICG), representing more than a dozen Internet stakeholder communities, is developing proposals for each of the three primary IANA functions – protocol parameters, numbering, and domain names. Two of the three stakeholder groups have already finished their draft proposals: the Internet Engineering Task Force, which is shepherding the protocol parameter proposal, and the five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs), which worked collaboratively in developing the numbering proposal. The third group, the ICANN Cross Community Working Group (CWG) on the naming related functions, continues to deliberate on how best to assure effective and accountable oversight of these naming functions in NTIA’s absence.    Once a consolidated proposal has achieved broad community support, the ICG will transmit the final proposal to the ICANN Board for submission to NTIA.

In the second track, stakeholders are working on a proposal to enhance ICANN’s accountability to the global Internet community in the absence of the contractual relationship with NTIA.  While it started later than the IANA transition process, the Accountability working group is making considerable progress.  It’s important that the two tracks remain in sync. We will only consider a coordinated and complete transition plan.

While in Singapore, I participated in meetings and discussions with ICANN, other governments and the stakeholder community with respect to the transition. NTIA also continued to represent the U. S. at the meetings of ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee. In these discussions, I posed several questions for stakeholders to consider. I want to ensure that any proposal  developed by the stakeholder community meets  the conditions NTIA outlined last March, including: supporting and enhancing the multistakeholder model; maintaining the security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet Domain Name System; meeting the needs and expectation of the global customers and partners of the IANA services; and maintaining the openness of the Internet. In addition, I want to ensure that our role is not replaced by a government or intergovernmental organization.

As both groups continue their work, any new process proposed must be tested to ensure that it actually works. The results will help inform our review of the final transition proposal.

As for timing, both groups are aiming to deliver a transition plan to us in the summer. While September 2015 has been a target date, because that is when the base period of our contract with ICANN expires, we have the flexibility to extend the contract if the community needs more time to develop the best plan possible.

The Internet community is undertaking truly historic work at a pivotal moment in time.  I thank them for their tireless dedication to this effort. The outcome of this process will impact the way the Internet is governed for years to come.