The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) finds that the IANA Stewardship Transition Proposal developed by the global Internet multistakeholder community meets the criteria NTIA set in March 2014.
THE IANA STEWARDSHIP TRANSITION PROPOSAL
The IANA Stewardship Transition Proposal is the culmination of nearly two years of work by the global Internet community after NTIA announced in March 2014 it would transition the stewardship role NTIA plays related to key technical functions of the Internet Domain Name System (DNS), known as the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions.
The IANA Stewardship Transition Proposal is made up of two parts. The first is focused on maintaining the secure and stable performance of the IANA functions. It addresses each of the three primary IANA functions – domain names, numbering, and protocol parameters. The proposal relies on ICANN’s existing operational practices. It replaces NTIA’s historic stewardship under the IANA functions contract with direct agreements between the operator of the IANA functions and the customers specifying the terms for performance.
The second part of the IANA Stewardship Transition Proposal calls for enhancements to ICANN’s accountability to the global Internet community. The ICANN accountability proposal establishes seven community powers that can be enforced directly by the community in cases of disputes between the ICANN Board and the multistakeholder community. These new powers include the ability for the community to reject ICANN budgets and bylaw changes and to remove a board member or the entire board if the community ever finds it necessary.
NTIA’s assessment of the IANA Stewardship Transition Proposal involved significant interagency coordination to cross-check the proposal against NTIA’s evaluation criteria to ensure that the proposal:
- supports and enhances the multistakeholder model;
- maintains the security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet DNS;
- meets the needs and expectations of the global customers and partners of the IANA services; and
- maintains the openness of the Internet.
In addition, NTIA also said it would not accept a plan that replaced NTIA’s role with a government-led or intergovernmental organization solution.
NTIA also evaluated the proposal against relevant internal control principles, as recommended by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). In addition, an expert panel of corporate governance experts reviewed the ICANN accountability proposal and concluded the proposal is consistent with sound principles of good governance.
NTIA finds that the IANA Stewardship Transition Proposal meets the criteria established in 2014:
- The proposal supports and enhances the multistakeholder model because it was developed by a multistakeholder process that engaged Internet stakeholders around the world. The plan builds on existing multistakeholder arrangements, processes, and concepts in defining post-transition oversight and accountability mechanisms.
- The proposal maintains the security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet DNS because it relies on ICANN’s current operational practices to perform the IANA functions. The proposed accountability and oversight provisions bolster the ability of Internet stakeholders to ensure ongoing security, stability, and resiliency.
- The proposal meets the needs and expectations of the global customers and partners of the IANA services because it was directly created by those customers and partners of the IANA functions. These customers are satisfied with the performance of the functions today and have confidence in ICANN’s being responsible for the performance of the IANA functions. The accountability proposals will ensure that ICANN will perform in accordance with the will of the multistakeholder community.
- The proposal maintains the openness of the Internet because it requires that the IANA functions, databases, operations, and related policymaking remain fully open and accessible just as they are today. The accountability provisions help ensure the global Internet community can work together to preserve the openness of the Internet in perpetuity.
- The proposal does not replace NTIA’s role with a government-led or intergovernmental organization solution. The proposal eliminates NTIA’s verification and authorization role for root zone changes, and IANA functions performance oversight is replaced with direct customer stewardship via contracts, service-level expectations, community-led reviews, and increased transparency. The accountability provisions maintain the advisory role of governments within ICANN, and through bylaw changes, ensure that a government or a group of governments cannot capture or exercise undue influence over the DNS.
At GAO’s recommendation, NTIA also examined the IANA Stewardship Transition Proposal against relevant portions of the internal control principles developed by the Committee of Sponsoring Organizations of the Treadway Commission (COSO), which incorporate leading practices to help give organizations reasonable assurance that their goals and objectives will be met. Evaluating the proposal against the COSO Framework’s provisions related to organizational environment, risk assessment, and monitoring structures, NTIA finds that the transition proposal adheres to the COSO principles with respect to:
- Organizational environment: NTIA’s review concludes that ICANN has in place structures and processes that set the tone for accountability, and the proposed enhancements reinforce this by allowing the community to hold the Board accountable to its commitments and responsibilities. Further, the Post-Transition IANA (PTI), which will be instituted as an affiliate of ICANN for the purpose of performing the naming functions, is well on track to establish such processes and structures prior to the transition.
- Risk assessment: The transition proposal does a good job of identifying risks and proposing mechanisms to address them, namely through contractual requirements, service-level expectations, oversight and review committees/processes, and requisite ICANN bylaws to institutionalize them.
- Monitoring: The proposal incorporates a variety of monitoring requirements including those associated with operational performance of the IANA functions as well as those associated with ICANN and the ICANN Board’s actions.
Finally, NTIA commissioned a panel of corporate governance experts including Columbia Law Professor John Coffee, Brooklyn Law Professor Dana Brakman Reiser, and The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University to review the ICANN accountability provisions. The expert panel concluded that the accountability recommendations are consistent with sound principles of good governance that reflect the unique and important mission of ICANN within the Internet ecosystem. In addition, the experts concluded that the proposal renders the prospects for takeover by a single government, group of governments, or one or more economic actors to be extremely remote.