ICANN Approves Domain Name Hand-Off Plan

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has approved its plan to transition stewardship of the IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority), which oversees domain naming conventions, from the U.S. to a multistakeholder model.

The contract extension expires in September 2016, and ICANN said it expected the plan to be implemented by then.

It must still be reviewed by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, the White House's telecom advisor, which has been overseeing IANA.

NTIA's contract to oversee IANA expired last fall, but was extended when ICANN signaled it would not have completed the plan.

NTIA promised a concerned Congress would get to kick the tires as well.

The House Communications Subcommittee will hold a hearing March 17 on the plan.

“This transition proposal marks a major milestone in the history of the Internet. We thank the entire multistakeholder community for their hard work and attention to this important task,” said Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and John Shimkus (R-Ill.) in a joint statement. "Now we in the U.S. government must do our work. We look forward to reviewing the proposal and to the thoughtful analysis from NTIA as we look to whether this proposal meets the U.S. government's requirements for the transition and the needs of the American people. This final step of removing U.S. government oversight of the IANA functions is irreversible and we must be sure the transition will not harm the Internet or the millions of Americans that rely on it. There are no do-overs. Once the U.S. relinquishes its role in IANA, that’s it, there’s no going back. We must get it right."

Upton is chair of the parent Energy & Commerce Committee and Walden chair of the Communications Subcommittee. Both had issues, as did many other Republicans, with giving up U.S. oversight.

"“I applaud the efforts of the multistakeholder community in reaching this consensus proposal," said Rep. Frank Pallone, ranking member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee. "I look forward to closely reviewing the proposal and the NTIA's forthcoming report to Congress. Fortunately, the bipartisan DOTCOM Act we negotiated last year and passed through the House already set out the framework for ongoing congressional oversight, and I hope to follow that outline as this process continues.”

Cable operators and studios have generally been OK with the transition.

The Internet Governance Coalition (IGC), whose members include 21st Century Fox, AT&T, Cisco, Comcast, Disney, Facebook, GoDaddy, Google, Juniper, Microsoft, NCTA, Time Warner Cable, Telefonica, and Verizon, urged timely approval and implementation.

“Today’s action by the ICANN Board to approve the plan for transitioning IANA from the United States government, together with the associated and substantially improved accountability processes, is an important milestone for the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance and for the Internet as a whole," IGC said in a statement. "Approval by the ICANN Board is the result of two years of hard work by many people and organizations, demonstrating that even complex and difficult Internet-related issues can be resolved successfully through a multi-stakeholder process. The proposals approved by the ICANN Board in Marrakech will be instrumental to ensuring the continued stability and reliability of the Internet, especially as it continues to help the world’s people economically, socially and culturally. We look forward to the timely finalization of ICANN’s bylaws and the implementation of these recommendations.”

The Internet Society (ISOC) Board Mardch 10 passed a resolution in strong support of the plan. "Ultimately, this process is about stewardship of the critical functions of one of the most extraordinary human innovations," said Kathryn Brown, Internet Society President and CEO. "It was right to entrust this important role to the Internet community. The IANA transition proposal is reflective of the collaborative nature of the community and I am confident that it protects and enables the continued growth and development of the Internet."

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.