ICANN handoff officially delayed

Internet Governance

ICANN handoff officially delayed

The U.S. will retain oversight of Internet domain naming and addressing functions for at least another year, through September 2016, because more time is needed to plan and execute the handoff to an international body.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a Commerce Department component, had been working to relinquish its long-held oversight responsibilities of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers to a global, multi-stakeholder body. The current contract with U.S.-based non-profit ICANN, which has historically contracted with NTIA to manage the master database of top-level domain names like .com and .net., is set to expire Sept. 30.

Lawrence Strickling, assistant secretary of Commerce for communications and information, said in an Aug. 17 blog post on the NTIA website that although the worldwide Internet community had made "tremendous progress" in developing proposals to transition the stewardship of ICANN and its handling of the Internet domain name system, he said more planning is needed before the functions are handed over.

Strickling had indicated only a few weeks ago that NTIA might need to extend the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority contract only until July 2016.

Additionally, although Strickling doesn't mention it in his blog post, some lawmakers have questioned the plan to transition oversight of ICANN to an international body, which they fear could include representatives of authoritarian regimes looking to tighten controls on the Internet for their own purposes.

A joint statement released Aug. 17 by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), and Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-Ill.) called the renewal "an important step."

"A key component of the bipartisan DOTCOM Act, which was overwhelmingly approved by the House, is to ensure Congressional oversight and provide concrete accountability and transparency measures for the transition" the GOP trio said. "By extending the United States' role in these functions, we are creating an environment for ongoing dialogue and decision making instead of a rush to meet artificial deadlines."

Strickling wrote that "it has become increasingly apparent over the last few months that the community needs time to complete its work, have the plan reviewed by the U.S. government and then implement it if it is approved."

In May, NTIA asked groups developing transition plans how long it would take to complete their proposals. After getting responses and factoring in the U.S. government's evaluation and implementation times for those plans, "the community estimated it could take until at least September 2016 to complete this process," he wrote.

In response to feedback from the planning groups, Strickling told Congress in an Aug. 14 letter that NTIA intended to extend the IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) contract for another year, with options for up to three additional years. NTIA also filed a notice in the Federal Register on Aug. 10 referring to its plans for a new deadline.

The Federal Register notice said comments on the IANA Stewardship Transition Plan are due by Sept. 8, 2015; comments on the Enhancements to ICANN Accountability are due by Sept. 12, 2015.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a staff writer covering acquisition, procurement and homeland security. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.