While the web stares at cat pics, the glue of the internet is being shifted from US govt control

Proposal for key IANA contract published for public comment

The US government's role at the top of the internet should be replaced by four different groups, according to an official proposal put out for public comment.

The proposal [PDF] was developed by a small group of volunteers looking at the "names" aspect of the current internet arrangements and would effectively recreate the status quo.

The crucial "IANA functions", which hold together the internet as we know it, would continue to be contained within a contract and awarded to DNS overseer ICANN for a set number of years with periodic review.

Also suggested is a new shell corporation to hold the contract with three review bodies carrying out the current role of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). It would most likely be a non-profit based in the United States.

A Multistakeholder Review Team (MRT) would be in charge of drawing up the contract, reviewing its associated budget and running the rebid process. It would be made up of different stakeholders from the internet community (most likely from within ICANN).

A Customer Standing Committee (CSC) would be in charge of checking that the IANA contract is carried out effectively and would report any issues to the MRT. It would be made up of companies that actually use the IANA functions i.e. internet registries.

And lastly, an Independent Appeals Panel (IAP) would act as an independent arbitrator if there a dispute in how the contract is carried out.


The proposal was created in short order by 100 people working over email for the past six weeks, with a special two-day meeting in Frankfurt earlier this month. The group has been told it needs to complete its work by 31 January 2015 in order to be reviewed and put in place in time for the existing IANA contract's completion on 30 September.

That tight deadline has in some respects forced the group to effectively copy the existing arrangements, despite a number of other more transformative or creative suggestions having been put forward.

The proposal contains a significant problem in that the group's solution is to effectively recreate itself, except this time with decision-making powers.

The MRT body is almost an identikit version of the working group, with members selected by different arms of the internet community. Most members of the existing group could expect to be in pole position to take a seat on the new body.

That body would take all the key decisions over the IANA contract and hence over one of the most important aspects of global internet governance. The proposal specifically limits the scope of the contracting company it argues needs to be set up in order to hold the contract. That company would have little or no staff and would delegate all decision-making to the MRT.

It's a hard life

While making all the decisions without any liability, the MRT would also not be required to possess any expertise or do any actual work. Approving changes and tracking the work of the IANA contract would be farmed out to the contract's customers in the CSC body. But, crucially, the CSC is only capable of referring issues back to the MRT for review.

The construction of the review body - the IAP - is currently undecided, although it closely follows the model used by ICANN for independent arbitration. Namely, a third-party arbitrator or a body with a standing list of qualified people. Presumably the MRT would also decide upon the arbitrator and who are suitable candidates.

Taken overall, the group's solution for replacing the United States government is to make itself the new United States government, while removing tricky issues like work, expertise or legal liability. It's no wonder the proposal has proven popular.

The proposal is now out for public scrutiny with two weeks set aside for comments. You can email your response by using the address comments-cwg-naming-transition-01dec14@icann.org. ®

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