Myths and Facts on NTIA Announcement on Intent to Transition Key Internet Domain Name Functions

Date: 
April 02, 2014

Myth:

The United States Government controls the Internet through the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions contract.

Fact:

There is no one party – government or industry, including the United States Government – that controls the Internet.  The Internet is a decentralized network of networks. 

The IANA functions are a set of interdependent technical functions that enable the continued efficient operation of the Internet.  The IANA functions include: (1) the coordination of the assignment of technical Internet protocol parameters; (2) the processing of change requests to the authoritative root zone file of the DNS and root key signing key (KSK) management; (3) the allocation of Internet numbering resources; and (4) other services related to the management of the .ARPA and .INT top-level domains (TLDs). 

ICANN as the IANA functions operator processes changes to three different databases.  First, ICANN distributes the protocol parameters or Internet standards developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF).  Second, it allocates IP numbers to the Regional Internet Registries (RIR) who then distribute IP numbers to Internet Service Providers.  Third, ICANN processes change requests or updates to the authoritative root zone file or “address book” of the DNS from top level domain name operators – those companies or institutions that manage .com, .org, .us, .uk, etc.  In all three cases ICANN’s role is to implement the policies or requests at the direct instruction of the various IANA functions customers.

NTIA’s role in the IANA functions includes the clerical role of administering changes to the authoritative root zone file and, more generally, serving as the historic steward of the DNS via the administration of the IANA functions contract.  NTIA has never substituted its judgment for that of the IANA customers.

Myth:

The proposed transition has alarmed business leaders and others who rely on the smooth functioning of the Internet.

Fact:

A broad group of U.S. and international stakeholders – such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AT&T, Cisco, Verizon, Comcast, and Google - have expressed strong support and pledged cooperation in this process.

Myth:

This transition is “giving the Internet to authoritarian regimes.”

Fact:

The U.S. Government has made it clear that we will not accept a proposal that replaces its role with a government or intergovernmental organization.

The criteria specified by the Administration firmly establish Internet governance as the province of multistakeholder institutions, rather than governments or intergovernmental institutions, and reaffirm our commitment to preserving the Internet as an engine for economic growth, innovation, and free expression.

The U.S. government will only transition its role if and when it receives it receives a satisfactory proposal to replace its role from the global Internet community — the same industry, technical, and civil society entities that have successfully managed the technical functions of Internet governance for nearly twenty years.

Myth:

With the U.S. withdrawal from stewardship over the IANA functions, the U.N.’s International Telecommunication Union will take over the Internet – making it easier for repressive regimes to censor speech online.

Fact:

The transition process that is underway will help prevent authoritarian countries from exerting too much influence over the Internet by putting control of key Internet domain name functions in the hands of the global community of Internet stakeholders — specifically industry, technical experts, and civil society — instead of an intergovernmental organization. 

Myth:

This transition of the Internet Domain Name System (DNS) to the global multistakeholder community is meant to quell international criticism following disclosure of National Security Agency surveillance practices.

Fact:

This transition is part of a process set out sixteen years ago. The Administration believes the timing is right to start the transition process.  ICANN as an organization has matured and taken steps in recent years to improve its accountability and transparency and its technical competence. At the same time, international support continues to grow for the multistakeholder model. 

Myth:

The United States has made an irreversible decision to transition NTIA’s role when the current IANA contract ends in September 2015.

Fact:

Before any transition takes place, the businesses, civil society organizations and technical experts of the global Internet community must agree on a plan that supports and enhances the multistakeholder community; maintains the security, stability and resiliency of the Internet’s domain name system; meets the needs and expectations of the global customers and partners of these services; and maintain the openness of the Internet.

We have made clear that the transition proposal must have broad community support and reflect the four key principles we outlined in our announcement.   If the global multistakeholder community does not develop a plan that meets these criteria by Sept. 30, 2015, we can extend the contract for up to four years.

Myth:

ICANN is not up to the task of convening a process to develop a proposal to transition the current role.

Fact:

As both the current IANA functions contractor and as the global policy coordinator for the DNS, ICANN is uniquely positioned to convene a multistakeholder process to develop a plan to transition the USG role to the global multistakeholder community based on the specified criteria.  ICANN held a number of productive sessions at its meeting in Singapore March 23-27 to initiate discussions among stakeholders on a transition plan.

Myth:

The Internet community is not up to the task of developing a proposal that will ensure the security and stability of the Internet.

Fact:

That very community has been responsible for operational Internet governance for most of the World Wide Web’s existence. The highly resilient, distributed global system that we call the Internet is itself a testament to their technical skills and effectiveness in coordinating a decentralized network of networks. 

Myth:

The U.S. Government’s action immediately affects the Internet.

Fact:

The U.S. role will remain unchanged until the global community develops a transition plan that incorporates the principles outlined in the U.S. Government’s announcement.  The average Internet user will not notice this process or eventual transition. 

Myth:

The U.S. Government transition will lead to blocking of web sites.

Fact:

The Internet is not controlled by any one government or entity. It is a network of networks.  The U.S. Government’s role with respect to the Domain Name system is a technical one. Our work has been content neutral and policy and judgment free. 

Free expression online exists and flourishes not because of U.S. Government oversight with respect to the Domain Name System, or because of any asserted special relationship that the U.S. has with ICANN.  Instead, free expression is protected because of the open, decentralized nature of the Internet and the neutral manner in which the technical aspects of the Internet are managed.

We have made clear in our announcement of the transition that open, decentralized and non-governmental management of the Internet must continue.