IANA oversight transition: first draft proposal published for public comment

Until 22 December 2015, comments are invited on the draft transition proposal for stewardship of the elements of the IANA function relating to domain names.

Until 22 December 2015, comments are invited on the draft transition proposal for stewardship of the elements of the IANA function relating to domain names. The proposal in question is a very rough outline of the envisaged ultimate solution, which has been placed in the public domain for discussion.

Update 29-12-2014: our response to the first proposal for is added for download at the end of this blog post.

Any interested party may comment via https://www.icann.org/public-comments/cwg-naming-transition-2014-12-01-en. As spokesperson for SIDN, I was involved in development of the proposal. The background to the proposal, SIDN's position and the key features of the proposal are outlined below.


The internet is made up of various interconnected networks. The application of universal standards and the sharing of best practices enable the internet to function. A number of central facilities also play a role. The IANA function is one such facility. Briefly, IANA manages so-called protocol parameters for the IETF (the body that administers IP addresses for the RIRs) and manages the top-level domains (TLDs) in the root of the domain name system (DNS), i.e. the DNS's universal central point. For more than fifteen years, the IANA function has been administered by ICANN on the basis of an agreement with the US government (through the NTIA). In principle, the IANA function is purely executive. Policy on matters such as which TLDs should be included in the root and who should act as the registry for a TLD is not decided by IANA. For the generic TLDs, policy is defined within ICANN’s gNSO. Where country-code TLDs are concerned, it is less clear who defines policy or what exactly the policy is. In practice, the administrator of the IANA function does currently have some say in ccTLD policy.The current contract between the NTIA and ICANN regarding administration of the IANA function expires on 30 September 2015. The NTIA has indicated that it does not wish to renew the contract, but prefers to transfer its oversight role to the internet community. ICANN was subsequently nominated as the party that should guide the internet community towards the formulation of a concrete proposal for transition of oversight of the entire function after September next year.ICANN has accordingly established an overall coordination group (the ICG). The ICG has in turn divided the task on the basis of the three main IANA functions (protocol parameters, IP addresses and domain names). Each of the communities associated with the three functions has been asked to develop a concrete proposal for the corresponding function. The ICG will then endeavour to knit the three proposals together into a coherent proposal for submission to the NTIA.

SIDN's involvement and position

At SIDN, we have mainly been following the developments relating to domain names. As the manager of the .nl domain, we are a direct user of IANA services in the field of root administration. We consequently have a direct interest in the stability of the IANA function and in good service provision. Within the group that is seeking to develop a proposal for the domain name element of the IANA function (CWG IANA), our priority has therefore been to protect those interests. We take the view that the ultimate proposal must assure the stability of the IANA function and must ensure that registries receive services of an appropriate quality level. Because SIDN is satisfied with the way that the IANA function is currently administered, we also believe that it is important that the function remains with ICANN, at least for the time being. Moreover, we believe it is important that transfer of the NTIA's oversight role to the internet community is successful. The transition is a major test for the co-called multistakeholder model. If the process were to fail, that would be interpreted as a failure of the multistakeholder model and presented as evidence that the model does not work. Such a turn of events would strengthen the hand of those who advocate a system of stewardship in which governments have a greater say, while also confronting that lobby with the return of IANA oversight to the US government by default. In that scenario, although the US government's authority is largely symbolic in practice, other governments will inevitably become more vocal in demanding an equal say. SIDN does not regard the multistakeholder model as a panacea; it leaves much to be desired, particularly in the form it currently takes within ICANN. Nevertheless, we are convinced the model provides a more effective and more workable basis for management of the internet than, for example, a UN-style model. If all decisions regarding internet governance were dependent on international consensus, development of the internet would grind to a halt, or else the single, indivisible and universally accessible internet that we know today would cease to exist.

CWG IANA proposal

The main features of the CWG IANA draft proposal are as follows:

  1. A 'contract company' is to be created, which will agree a contract with the IANA Service Provider (initially ICANN; what happens later remains undecided). The contract company is to be a largely empty vehicle, which acts as the nominal contracting party but has no control over the contract content or the practical oversight.

  2. A Multistakeholder Review Team (MRT) is to be established, which will define the actual oversight policy, determine the contract content and make decisions regarding contract extensions, etc. The MRT will be formed only when required.

  3. A permanent group (given the working name 'CSC' ) is to be set up, consisting of representatives of IANA's clients (e.g. SIDN), which will undertake the practical oversight activities, such as monitoring fulfilment of the service level agreement(s). The group will report to the MRT.

  4. A mechanism is to be established for appealing against IANA decisions.

Although the proposal is supported by many members of the CWG in principle, a minority of CWG members would prefer a solution under which the IANA function is assigned to ICANN on a more permanent basis. The members in question envisage an ‘MRT-like entity’ (inside or outside ICANN), with the power to force the ICANN board to perform the IANA function in accordance with the multistakeholder group's wishes. SIDN leans towards the minority group's suggested solution. We regard the contractual solution as difficult to realise and complicated, because we regard the idea of the IANA contract ever being awarded to a body other than ICANN as unrealistic and probably undesirable.




Maarten Simon

Legal & Policy Advisor

+31 26 352 55 00


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