Strickling: Congress Will Vet Domain Name Hand-Off

The House Communications Subcommittee held a hearing Wednesday on the plan to transition oversight of ICANN's domain naming functions (IANA) to a multistakeholder model and there were a number of key takeaways, summed up neatly by Subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) during the proceedings.

According to Larry Strickling, head of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, NTIA's contract with ICANN to oversee IANA will have to be extended for at least a year (July 2016) and perhaps until September. The contract expires at the end of the year.

Strickling also assured Walden that Congress would get to vet the final handover plan whether or not the DOTCOM Act passes. That legislation, which was passed by the House as well as the Senate Commerce Committee, would require Congressional oversight before any hand-off.

And, finally, Strickling and ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade—they were the witnesses at the hearing—assured the legislators that IANA would remain "domiciled" in the U.S., and assured Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), ranking member of the subcommittee, that would mean it remained in its current California home—she joked that she would attest to it being a great place to live.

Eshoo was not the only representative looking after the home folks. One Kentucky representative asked about ICANN's tabling of a request from Amazon to get the Amazon extension—Amazon has a fulfillment center in Kentucky. Chehade assured him that it had a good working relationship with Amazon and was just letting the company and those who objected to it getting that extension work it out among themselves.

Chehade also promised that the final transition plan, which is targeted for release in November, "Will not leave ICANN with any loopholes of accountability."

Accountability has been a watchword among both Democrats and Republicans on the panel.

"ICANN must be more accountable if it is to be trusted with the stewardship of IANA," Walden said in his opening statement.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) appeared to have the most concerns about the multistakeholder model and its accountability and transparency. She said she did not think the transition was "quite ready for prime time."

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.