Cable Ops, Others Say 'We Can' To ICANN Transition Process

Cable operators and other media company stakeholders in the Internet Governance Coalition say they welcome the National Telecommunications & Information Administration's announcement last week that it will work on transitioning U.S. oversight functions over ICANN, the domain naming system (DNS) body, to a nongovermental, multistakeholder model.

In a statement, the coalition said Wednesday, that it embraces the opportunity to help with that transition.

"We especially applaud NTIA's resolve to 'maintain the security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet DNS' and not to 'accept a proposal that replaces the NTIA role with a government-led or an inter-governmental organization solution.' The latter would be a definite nonstarter."

The coalition unites edge players and cable and telco ISPs, networks and tech companies. Its members include Amazon, AT&T, Cisco Systems, Inc., Comcast NBCUniversal, Google, Juniper Networks, Microsoft, Telefónica, S.A., Disney, Time Warner Cable, Twenty-First Century Fox, and Verizon.

NTIA's move -- it has been the "historic steward" of the domain naming system -- is consistent with the Obama Administration's support of a multistakeholder model of Internet governance.

The switch-over won't be for a while, though, as the NTIA's current contract with ICANN is not up until Sept. 30, 2015, and in the interim it will continue in its stewardship role.

NTIA's announcement has generally been praised.

"This plan reflects a strong commitment to keeping the technical operations of the Internet in the hands of its nongovernmental community and out of the hands of governmental bodies," blogged Cameron Kerry, a visiting Brookings Fellow and former acting secretary and general counsel of NTIA's parent, the Commerce Department.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said earlier this week that he wanted stakeholders to take the lead.

"My colleagues and I on the Commerce Committee will be watching closely to see if the transition NTIA has announced results in an acceptable structure to ensure a stable and free Internet," he said. "But I trust the innovators and entrepreneurs more than the bureaucrats--whether they're in D.C. or Brussels.

"While ICANN will convene the process to craft a transition plan for the IANA functions, we need all stakeholders who believe in an open and innovative Internet to participate in the conversation."

What Thune doesn't want is the United Nations filling any voids, saying: "There are people who want to see the Internet fall into the grip of the U.N. or who would allow ICANN to become an unaccountable organization with the power to control the Internet, and we cannot allow them to determine how this process plays out."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.