Witnesses to Hill: IANA Hand-Off Can Meet Contract Deadline

Witnesses told a House Communications Subcommittee hearing panel March 17 that they thought the U.S. could hand off oversight of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority), which oversees domain naming conventions, from the U.S. to a multistakeholder model by the time the current contract expires at the end of September.

The National Telecommunications & Information Administration currently oversees IANA under a contract that was to have expired Sept. 30, 2015, but was extended a year--with an option to extend it three more years--because the plan was not yet ready. In 2014, NTIA concluded that no single nation, including the U.S., should be overseeing domain names for the Internet and set the transition in motion.

That plan was presented to NTIA last week, and it signaled it could be done vetting it by June. Congress is also kicking the tires.

At the hearing, subcommittee chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) signaled that the transition should be done right, not rushed, and suggested that if need be, the contract should be extended. The Heritage Foundation has suggested there may not be enough time for all that vetting and approving before September.

Steve DelBianco, executive director fo NetChoice and an ICANN official, sounded confident. "We can do it," he said. "We have finished the hard work of a report that has been cleared by all of the multistakeholder members. We now have to match bylaws to that report. We've got high-paid lawyers, both for ICANN and for the [stakeholder] community. And they need to come together roughly a week from now with a draft that we can review. When that's done, the only other step is to implement the set-up of certain corporations and creating panels and we can do that in time to get this transition completed."

"I don't know of any low-paid attorneys," Walden joked, but he continued the serious line up questioning. Republicans in particular, but hardly exclusively, have been concered about the U.S. handing off the authority.

DelBianco pointed out that NTIA chief Larry Strickling has said that if the new plan is not implemented by mid-August and the bylaws aren't adopted "NTIA would extend the contract. We do have a safety valve."

"Perfect," said Walden.

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.