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NTIA Finds IANA Stewardship Transition Proposal Meets Criteria to Complete Privatization

June 09, 2016
News Media Contact
Juliana Gruenwald

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced today that the proposal developed by the global Internet multistakeholder community meets the criteria NTIA outlined in March 2014 when it stated its intent to transition the U.S. Government’s stewardship role for the Internet domain name system (DNS) technical functions, known as the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions.

The announcement marks an important milestone in the U.S. Government’s effort to complete the transition of the Internet’s domain name system and ensure that the Internet remains a platform for innovation, economic growth, and free speech.

For the last 18 years, the United States has worked with businesses, technical experts, governments, and civil society groups to establish a multistakeholder, private-sector led system for the global coordination of the DNS.  To accomplish this goal, in 1998, NTIA partnered with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a California-based nonprofit, to transition technical DNS coordination and management functions to the private sector. In 2014, NTIA initiated the final step in the privatization process by asking ICANN to convene global stakeholders to develop a plan to complete the transition away from NTIA’s remaining legacy role.

“The Internet’s multistakeholder community has risen to the challenge we gave them to develop a transition proposal that would ensure the Internet’s domain name system will continue to operate as seamlessly as it currently does,” said Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling.  “The plan developed by the community will strengthen the multistakeholder approach that has helped the Internet to grow and thrive, while maintaining the stability, security, and openness that users across the globe depend on today.”

NTIA said the transition proposal must have broad community backing and:

  • Support and enhance the multistakeholder model;
  • Maintain the security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet DNS;
  • Meet the needs and expectations of the global customers and partners of the IANA services; and
  • Maintain the openness of the Internet.

In addition, NTIA also said it would not accept a plan that replaced NTIA’s role with a government-led or intergovernmental organization solution.

In March 2016, ICANN submitted a proposal that addresses both the technical performance of the IANA functions as well as enhancements to ICANN’s accountability. The proposal replaces NTIA’s historic stewardship under the IANA functions contract with direct agreements between the operator of the IANA functions and the customers specifying the terms for performance.

Among the key provisions to enhance ICANN’s accountability is a proposal to provide the stakeholder community with enumerated community powers that can be enforced against the ICANN Board to ensure that ICANN remains focused on its limited technical mission.  Most important, the plan does not replace NTIA’s role with a government-led or intergovernmental organization solution.

NTIA, working with other U.S. Government agencies, conducted a thorough review of the Internet community’s proposal to ensure it met the criteria NTIA outlined in its March 2014 announcement. NTIA also evaluated the proposal against relevant internal control principles, as recommended by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), and found that the proposal adequately addresses those principles. In addition, an expert panel of corporate governance experts reviewed the ICANN accountability proposal and concluded that it is consistent with the sound principles of good governance.

The Internet is a network of networks that operates based on a system of voluntary standards, best practices, cooperation and trust. It has been led for the last two decades by the multistakeholder community, which includes technical experts, businesses, academics, civil society, governments, and other stakeholders who have worked together to solve policy and technical challenges on a consensus basis.

Implementation of the transition plan and completion of the transition will help ensure the continued leadership of the private sector in making decisions related to the technical underpinning of the Internet. It also will counter attempts by some foreign governments that have used the U.S. government’s legacy role related to the DNS to argue that governments should control the Internet domain name system.

You can find a fact sheet summarizing NTIA’s review of the transition proposal here  as well as Q and A about the transition here.

About NTIA:

NTIA, part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is the Executive Branch agency that advises the President on telecommunications and information policy issues. NTIA’s programs and policy making focus largely on expanding broadband Internet access and adoption in America, expanding the use of spectrum by all users, and ensuring that the Internet remains an engine for innovation and economic growth.