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Stakeholder Proposals to Come Together at ICANN Meeting in Argentina

June 16, 2015 by Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling

Next week, hundreds of members of the Internet stakeholder community will attend the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ (ICANN) 53rd meeting in Argentina. As I head to Buenos Aires, one of NTIA’s top priorities continues to be the transition of NTIA’s role related to the Internet Domain Name System. Since we announced the IANA stewardship transition in March 2014, the response of the stakeholder community has been remarkable and inspiring. I thank everyone for their hard work. 

The meeting in Buenos Aires will be pivotal, as the community finalizes the components of the transition proposal and determines what remains to be done. The three stakeholder groups planning the transition of the individual IANA functions have made great progress. I congratulate the Cross Community Working Group on Naming Related Functions for finishing its draft proposal and look forward to this work stream reaching closure. The other two stakeholder groups – the Internet Engineering Task Force, which is shepherding the protocol parameter proposal, and the five Regional Internet Registries, which collaborated on the numbering proposal – finished their proposals earlier this year.

Now the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (ICG) must combine these proposals into a consolidated transition proposal and then seek public comment on all aspects of the plan. ICG’s role is crucial, because it must build a public record for us on how the three customer group submissions tie together in a manner that ensures NTIA’s criteria are met and institutionalized over the long term.   

In addition to the ICG transition proposal, the final submission to NTIA must include a plan to enhance ICANN’s accountability. Given that the draft proposal of the Cross Community Working Group on Enhancing ICANN Accountability will be a major focus of the discussions next week in Argentina, I would like to offer the following questions for stakeholders to consider:

  • The draft proposes new or modified community empowerment tools. How can the Working Group on Accountability ensure that the creation of new organizations or tools will not interfere with the security and stability of the DNS during and after the transition? Do new committees and structures create a different set of accountability questions?
  • The draft proposal focuses on a membership model for community empowerment. Have other possible models been thoroughly examined, detailed, and documented?  Has the working group designed stress tests of the various models to address how the multistakeholder model is preserved if individual ICANN Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committees opt out?  Similarly, has the working group developed stress tests to address the potential risk of capture and barriers to entry for new participants of the various models? Further, have stress tests been considered to address potential unintended consequences of “operationalizing” groups that to date have been advisory in nature?
  • The draft proposal suggests improvements to the current Independent Review Panel (IRP). The IRP has been criticized for its own lack of accountability. How does the proposal analyze and remedy existing concerns with the IRP?
  • In designing a plan for improved accountability, should the working group consider what exactly is the role of the ICANN Board within the multistakeholder model?  Should the standard for Board action be to confirm that the community has reached consensus, and if so, what accountability mechanisms are needed to ensure the Board operates in accordance with that standard?
  • The proposal is primarily focused on the accountability of the ICANN Board. Has the Working Group also considered if there need to be accountability improvements that would apply to ICANN management and staff or to the various ICANN Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committees?

All of these questions require thoughtful consideration prior to the community’s completion of the transition plan. Similar to the ICG, the Working Group on Accountability will need to build a public record and thoroughly document how the NTIA criteria have been met and will be maintained in the future.   

As the plans take final shape, I hope the community starts to focus on the matter of implementation of its recommendations. Have the issues of implementation been identified and addressed in the proposal so that the community and ICANN can implement the plan as expeditiously as possible once we have reviewed and accepted it?  This is an important issue right now because after the Buenos Aires meeting, NTIA will need to make a determination on extending its current contract with ICANN, which expires on September 30, 2015. Last month, I asked both the ICG and the Working Group on Accountability for an update on the transition planning, as well as their views on how long it will take to finalize and implement the transition plan if it were approved.  Keeping in mind that the community and ICANN will need to implement all work items identified by the ICG and the Working Group on Accountability as prerequisites for the transition before the contract can end, the community’s input on timing is critical and will strongly influence how NTIA proceeds with the contract extension. I look forward to hearing from everyone in Buenos Aires.

At this key juncture, it is timely to not only take stock of all the work that has occurred, but also what lies ahead. I recognize that some stakeholder groups have finalized their proposals and are anxious to move forward. But NTIA will only review a comprehensive plan that includes all elements, and we must let the multistakeholder process run its full course. In that same spirit, I urge all global stakeholders – community members, ICANN Board members, and ICANN staff  – to work together constructively to complete this final stage of the transition. The commitment by the global community to develop a consensus proposal that meets NTIA’s conditions and improves ICANN’s accountability is a testament to the power of the multistakeholder model. 

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