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NTIA Praised for Domain Name Sign-Off

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) was getting some love Thursday for its approval of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) plan to transition stewardship of the IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority), which oversees domain naming conventions, from the U.S. to a multistakeholder model. NTIA succeeded with room to spare, but there remains work to be done.

“The announcement from NTIA provided just the impetus the community needed to round out the accountability mechanisms inside ICANN and harden the organization against capture by governments,” said Jonathan Zuck, president of ACT | The App Association. That was not a big surprise since Zuck was part of the working group that helped create the transition proposal.

“There is no question that the transition – supported by businesses, civil society, and the broad internet stakeholder community – must move forward," said Sen. Brian Schatz, (D-Hawaii), ranking member of the Communications Subcommittee.

Some legislators, primarily but not exclusively Republicans, have had issues with the handoff, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who is backing a bill to block the handoff unless Congress approves it.

But Schatz says it is time to act.

"The consensus plan for many years, through many administrations, has always been to turn the IANA functions over to the private sector.  In fact, Congress and the U.S. government at large have expressed unanimous support for the multistakeholder model of international internet governance.  I encourage the multistakeholder community and ICANN to finalize its work on implementing the plan in an expeditious manner, as recommended by NTIA, so that the transition can proceed this year. The internet may have its roots in America but its social, economic, and human rights benefits depend on the internet’s global nature. A successful IANA transition will ensure that the global community continues to benefit from an open internet.”

The NTIA contract with ICANN runs out at the end of September but can be extended up to three years. NTIA has signaled there is still work to do on the transition and won't decide until at least August whether the contract will need to be extended.

"The internet economy applauds NTIA for its deliberative and thorough work reviewing the ICANN transition proposals to ensure its principles for a successful transition are met," said the Internet Association, Computer & Communications Industry Association, and the Internet Infrastructure Coalition in a joint statement. "Our organizations agree that the proposals to transition ICANN from U.S. government stewardship to a bottom-up, multistakeholder model satisfy NTIA principles and provide the internet with the best path forward for self governance. It is important that Congress not artificially slow down the transition beyond the September 30 expiration of the current IANA contract. We will remain engaged and vigilant as the transition proceeds to ensure the continued success of the multistakeholder model."

The Global Commission on Internet Governance, the product of a pair ot think tanks thinking about Internet governance, urged the U.S. government to complete the transition by the end of September.

“The U.S. government’s 2014 call for a plan to transition the stewardship of the IANA functions to the global multi-stakeholder community was an important step toward ensuring that no one entity can exert undue influence or control over the Internet," the commisison said. "We commend the international Internet community for coming together in response to that call to develop a workable plan. The dedication and energy committed by all stakeholders shows that the multi-stakeholder model is robust enough to ensure the stability of the Internet’s key functions far into the future.

“We now call upon the U.S. government to adopt that plan and to meet the September 2016 target date for the transition of the IANA functions. Failure to do so will send the wrong message to the international community, increase distrust, and will likely encourage some governments to pursue their own national or even regional Internets.

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.