2015-05-01

Why ICANN Is Fighting for Permanent Control of IANA

In the last few days, the chatter, email "mail lists," and news in the IANA stewardship transition process (convened last year by ICANN as directed by the US government's NTIA), has been swirling around Professor Milton Mueller's postings--see: ICANN wants an IANA functions monopoly – will it wreck the transition process to get it? --about ICANN wanting permanent control of the IANA functions:

So why would ICANN care about "monopoly" or permanent control of IANA a/k/a the "IANA functions"?

For the answer, Domain Mondo recommends reading Controlling Internet Infrastructure: The "IANA Transition" and Why It Matters for the Future of the Internet, Policy Paper, April 30, 2015, by Danielle Kehl and David Post (pdf)--excerpt below, emphasis added--

"... NTIA could (and did) extract specific, contractually-enforceable promises from ICANN concerning its governance and decision-making structure and operations, and it included those in ICANN’s “Statement of Work” under the contract. More importantly, because the contract was for a limited period of time (subject to extension by mutual agreement of NTIA and ICANN), NTIA retained the option of re-opening the procurement and awarding the contract to some other party if it was unhappy with ICANN’s performance. NTIA’s ability to re-open the IANA contract procurement was a serious and credible threat to ICANN’s central role in DNS management. It was a serious threat because it would have had severe, and probably fatal, consequences for ICANN. ICANN’s power ripples downward from the Root through the DNS hierarchy. Without the ability to specify the contents of the Root Zone File, ICANN could no longer guarantee TLD operators that their domains would continue to exist in the DNS; those TLD operators could therefore no longer guarantee to 2nd-level domain operators that their domains would continue to exist in the DNS; and so on down the line. And if that were the case, why would a TLD registry operator choose to comply with any ICANN policies or directives, or pay ICANN a fee?... nobody can say for certain how ICANN would have behaved had NTIA not retained ultimate authority over the IANA Functions and the leverage that provided—precisely the question that now occupies center stage..." (Id. at p. 23)

This is precisely why the editor of Domain Mondo proposed an external Trust solution to the CWG-Stewardship which it unwisely discarded in favor of an internal solution based on a model of which one of its own authors admitted:  "While I personally hate the idea of splitting IANA, and think it is a disastrous thing to do, it remains possible in this model as was foreordained by the ICG." (emphasis and link added)

The ICANN stakeholders, in their three separate proposals--Names [now in public comment stage], and Protocols and Numbers as submitted to the ICG--IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group--all incorporate the same "ICG foreordained" disastrous outcome: separating or splitting the IANA functions. Of course, in that eventuality, under each of the three proposals, the wider global multistakeholder community has no standing or voice if and when the IETF ("Protocols"), RIRs ("Numbers"), or ICANN's "Names" (domain names) stakeholders, each decide to separate and/or split IANA or the "IANA functions" or who or what organization(s) end up with the "prize"--control of the Internet Root. What happens then? What prevents "capture" of one or more of the "IANA functions" under that scenario? Who will then control the Internet Root? Where will they be located, under what laws will they be subject, which TLDs will be recognized, and which TLDs will be dropped from the DNS?

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