NTIA Will End Domain Name Contract Oct. 1

The Obama Administration signaled Tuesday that it plans to let the contract for overseeing the internet domain naming system expire Oct. 1, essentially privatizing the process under a multinational, multistakeholder model.

In a blog post, National Telecommunications & Information Administration chief Larry Strickling said NTIA has informed the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which operates the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) under a contract with NTIA, that barring any "significant impediment" the contract would expire.

That came after ICANN informed NTIA last week that it had completed, or was about to complete, all the things NTIA said had to happen before it felt comfortable with the hand-off, including protecting internet openness and security.

In June, NTIA signed off on the outlines of the compliance plan, which had to include:

• "Support and enhance the multistakeholder model;

• "Maintain the security, stability and resiliency of the Internet DNS;

• "Meet the needs and expectations of the global customers and partners of the IANA services; and

• "Maintain the openness of the Internet."

But NTIA also said in June there was still work to be done on the details. NTIA signaled Tuesday that work had been done in a brief letter to the head of ICANN.

Back in March, the NTIA said it hoped to have a decision by June on whether or not it approved of ICANN's plan to transition stewardship of the IANA, 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 Obama Administration decided it was time to migrate IANA oversight to a global stakeholder model rather than have any one government do so.

Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, but particularly Republicans, are concerned with the handoff. But Strickling has long pledged that NTIA would not turn over the internet naming function to a government-led or controlled model, which is the main concern of those critics.

“We commend NTIA’s decision to move forward with its commitment to finalize ICANN’s independence next month," said Jonathan Zuck, president of ACT | The App Association. "The ICANN community has succeeded in putting significant accountability mechanisms in place and is ready for this transition.

“The system is designed for continuous improvement from a truly multistakeholder community, ensuring people around the globe can benefit from an internet hardened against capture by governments or a singular entity. This is a historic moment reflecting 18 years of hard work from the international internet community to create a workable, reliable framework.”

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.