Statement Regarding Extension of MOU with ICANN (Ammendment 6)

DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE
STATEMENT REGARDING EXTENSION OF
MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING WITH

 

THE INTERNET CORPORATION FOR ASSIGNED NAMES AND NUMBERS

 

Summary

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Department of Commerce and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to transition management of the Internet domain name and numbering system (DNS) expires on September 30, 2003. The Department and ICANN have agreed to extend the term of the MOU for an additional three years, until September 30, 2006, and to amend the MOU in several important ways. These amendments are designed to ensure that ICANN develops into an independent, stable, and sustainable organization that is capable of meeting its responsibilities for the technical management of the DNS.

Background

The Department currently serves as the steward of critical elements of the DNS. ICANN is the private sector entity responsible for day-to-day management of the DNS. The Department continues to believe that the stability and security of this important global resource can best be achieved through privatization of and global participation in the technical management of the DNS. The Department supports the ongoing technical work of ICANN and its efforts to engage stakeholders in its decision-making processes. The Department especially desires to see ICANN evolve into an independent, stable, and sustainable organization that is well-equipped to weather a future crisis. ICANN has made progress toward this end, but in the Department's view, finalizing the future shape of ICANN is an urgent priority.

Last year, the Department and ICANN agreed to renew the MOU for a period of one year with a focus on improving stability and sustainability. ICANN undertook to clarify its mission and responsibilities; to ensure transparency and accountability in its processes and decision making; to increase its responsiveness to Internet stakeholders; to develop an effective advisory role for governments; and to ensure adequate and stable financial and personnel resources to carry out its mission and responsibilities.

In pursuing these tasks, ICANN made important strides towards developing into a more stable, transparent, and responsive organization. ICANN completed a comprehensive reform effort that resulted in major structural adjustments and refinements to its decision-making processes to permit greater transparency and responsiveness to all Internet stakeholders. In addition, the corporation hired a new Chief Executive Officer having both management expertise and experience in dealing with this unique organization. It also implemented a new nominating process to attract qualified, committed, and internationally representative members on its Board of Directors. ICANN recently appointed eight new Board members with impressive credentials and relevant experience. Moreover, the ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), of which the United States is an active participant, has also evolved into a more effective organization. The GAC has established liaisons to each of the ICANN supporting organizations to encourage communications between the GAC and these constituent groups.

Modifications to the MOU and Departmental Expectations

The Department welcomes ICANN's achievements over the past year. Yet, as both the Department and ICANN recognize, much work remains for ICANN to evolve into an independent, stable, and sustainable DNS management organization. The Department also recognizes that the term of the MOU should provide sufficient time for this work to be accomplished. Accordingly, the Department and ICANN have agreed to a three-year extension of the MOU and the incorporation of milestones. The Department expects that this extension will be sufficient for ICANN to complete the tasks remaining under the MOU. It will allow ICANN, under its new leadership, to implement the structural and organizational changes that have been adopted in the past year. The extension should also permit ICANN to stabilize and to secure the necessary financial and personnel resources critical to long-term sustainability of the organization. In addition, it should afford ICANN ample time to provide opportunities for enhanced cooperation from Internet stakeholders.

To ensure steady progress throughout the renewed MOU term, the Department and ICANN agreed to the incorporation of numerous specific milestones into the agreement. These milestones are intended to ensure ICANN is a sufficiently stable, transparent, representative, efficient, and sustainable management organization capable of handling the important DNS tasks well into the future. These milestones cover the following areas:

Strategic Plan - - By December 31, 2003, ICANN will develop a strategic plan that sets forth its goals for securing long-term sustainability of critical DNS management responsibilities, including the necessary corporate structure and financial and personnel resources necessary to meet such responsibilities. The amendment further provides for a variety of measurable objectives and corresponding milestones for achieving those objectives. For example, ICANN will review and augment its corporate compliance program, including a system for auditing material contracts for compliance by all parties, and will implement any recommendations resulting from this review by June 30, 2004.

Corporate Structure - - By March 31, 2004, building on ICANN's recent efforts to re-examine its mission, structure, and processes for their efficacy and appropriateness in light of the needs of the evolving DNS, ICANN will collaborate with the Department to ensure that ICANN's corporate organizational documents optimally support the policy goal of privatization of the technical management of the DNS.

Contingency Plan - - By June 30, 2004, ICANN will develop a contingency plan to ensure continuity of operations in the event the corporation incurs a severe disruption of operations, or the threat thereof, by reason of its bankruptcy, corporate dissolution, a natural disaster, or other financial, physical or operational event. In conjunction with its efforts in this regard, ICANN will work collaboratively with the Department to ensure that such plan reflects the international nature of the DNS.

Root Server System Security - - The root server system forms the critical infrastructure of the DNS by linking domain names to the corresponding numerical addresses. ICANN will formalize its relationship with the root server system operators to enhance the security of the root server system.

Allocation of Numbering Resources - - ICANN will enter into agreements with Regional Internet Registries, which are responsible for allocating numbering resources within their respective geographic regions.

Transparency and Accountability - - ICANN will continue to develop, test, and implement processes and procedures to improve transparency, efficiency, and timeliness in the consideration and adoption of policies related to technical management of the DNS. In conjunction with this effort, ICANN will take into account the need to accommodate innovation in the provision of DNS services. In addition, ICANN will continue to develop, test, and implement accountability mechanisms.

Country Code Top Level Domains - - ICANN will continue its efforts to achieve agreements with country code top level domain operators.

New Top Level Domains - - ICANN will develop, by September 30, 2004, and will implement by December 31, 2004, an appropriate long-term strategy for selecting new top level domains.

WHOIS Database - - ICANN will assess the operation of the WHOIS databases and implement measures to secure improved accuracy of WHOIS data. In addition, by March 31, 2004, and annually thereafter, ICANN will publish a report providing statistical and narrative information on the InterNIC WHOIS Data Problem Reports system. By November 30, 2004, and annually thereafter, ICANN will publish a report providing statistical and narrative information on the implementation of the ICANN WHOIS Data Reminder Policy. Both reports will contain an evaluation of the impact of these policies on improved accuracy of WHOIS data.

Outreach - - ICANN will continue to develop, test and implement appropriate mechanisms that foster informed participation in ICANN by the global Internet community, such as providing educational services and fostering information sharing for constituents and promoting best practices among industry segments.

Conclusion

While numerous issues and substantial challenges confront ICANN, the organization has made notable progress toward achieving the goals of the MOU in the start-up phase of its existence. The Department and ICANN both now seek to complete the transition of DNS management to the private sector. Thus, in its next phase, it is essential that ICANN effectively address mission, operational, and organizational challenges to its long-term success. While the Department stands ready to continue its stewardship of critical DNS elements during the transition period, it is incumbent upon governments, private sector companies, and users across the globe to work towards establishing mechanisms for managing the DNS that are sustainable over the long term. To this end, the Department remains committed to working diligently with ICANN and Internet stakeholders to assist ICANN in its evolution and to preserve and enhance this global resource.