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IANA Handover Likely Not Ready for Sept. 30 Deadline

One of the key takeaways from the House Communications Subcommittee hearing on the handover of oversight of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) to a multistakeholder model is that the transfer won't be ready by the Sept. 30, 2015 expiration date of the current contract with ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), a nonprofit created by the U.S. in 1997.

Steve DelBianco, executive director of NetChoice, who has been working on that multistakeholder model, said: "Some ICANN Advisory Committees and Stakeholder Organizations may not be ready to approve the final proposal until after the ICANN meeting in October 2015. That means NTIA will need to extend the IANA contract beyond its September 30, 2015 expiration."

The National Telecommunications & Information Administration has had a contact to oversee IANA, but signaled last year it would not be renewing that contract in favor of a multistakeholder governance model.

Democrats are generally supportive of the move. But concerned about that handover, Republicans pushed the DOTCOM Act in the last Congress — it stalled after passing out of the full House Energy & Commerce Committee. The bill, a new version of which is being worked on in this Congress, would require the Government Accountability Office to review the handover plan now being worked on my those "multistakeholders," after it is completed.

Opponents of the bill, including ranking member Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), say it will unnecessarily delay the handover and send the wrong signal about government control to other countries.

Del Bianco said that while the proposal may not ready until spring or summer, when it is, it should not be further delayed by a GAO review, arguing it would be more productive for GAO to weigh in with recommendations during the process, not afterwards.

Bill backers, including Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), and the bill's author, John Shimkus (R-Ill.), say the GAO post-proposal review is basically a trust and verify step before handing over the keys to the car, an automotive metaphor that got quite a workout during the hearing.

Walden said he was concerned about who was paying for that car's insurance. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) said he was worried about who would police the road. Barton, who supports the bill, suggested there was benefit in having the U.S. in an enforcement role of a multistakeholder process.

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.