The internet community is split when it comes to who should be given the right to run the critical IANA functions.
Under an official proposal put out to public comment and which closed on Monday, the current contract owned by the US government will be handed over to a new shell company that would then award it to ICANN.
The idea behind this approach is to maintain the ability to award the contract to another party at some point in the future.
Around two-fifths of responders support the idea as a way of encouraging a high level of service and accountability. However the same number are opposed to it and want to see the services handed over to the current contractor ICANN on a more permanent basis. They argue that accountability can be maintained through changes to ICANN's bylaws and a new committee focused on the service levels.
The remaining fifth of respondents are uncertain about the "Contract Co." proposal, highlighting the risk of litigation, its uncertain legal status and lack of detail over how the company would be instructed.
The split makes for an intriguing and significant fight over a fundamental part of the internet's infrastructure. Under the current timeline, a final proposal will be put forward at the end of January for review by a larger committee with the goal of enacting the proposal in September.
Who needs who
It is also telling who sits on the sides of the divide. Opposing the independent contracting party is the ICANN Board, Google and AuDA, the Australian domain administration. However Google's response has been heavily influenced by ICANN's former chair Vint Cerf who serves as Google's lead on DNS policies, and AuDA's CEO Chris Disspain currently sits on the ICANN Board and is expected to be its next chair.
Others opposed to the contracting company include ICANN's At Large organization, representing internet users, and the organization's business constituency, as well as the .uk operator Nominet and Japan's .jp operator JPNIC.
Those in favor of the contracting company include ICANN's own registrar and registry organizations, New Zealand's .nz operator, Canada's .ca operator and ICANN's intellectual property constituency.
What is clear from the responses is that the difference of opinion is largely built around the level of trust they feel toward ICANN and whether they believe the organization will introduce accountability measures that will constrain the organization's behavior.
The vast majority of responses to the public comment period make specific mention of a separate working group that is looking into accountability changes to ICANN as an organization. There has been some argument over the delay to that group starting its work, especially over repeated efforts by ICANN to not link accountability changes to the IANA transition.
Those efforts were criticized in the responses that were in favor of the new contracting company, demonstrating a lack of trust in ICANN. Whereas those in favor of ICANN being handed control of IANA functions viewed the accountability review team as the key to providing answers.
The rest of it
There was however much broader agreement on other aspects of the formal proposal: both for and against it.
A clear majority of responses are opposed to the Multistakeholder Review Team (MRT) as it is currently structured, with the most common complaints being that it is unwieldy, will have too much power, and is liable to grow beyond its limited functions.
Likewise, a clear majority are in favor of creating a Customer Standing Committee (CSC), made up only of customers of the IANA functions, that would act as a reviewer of the IANA services and track service levels.
As for the fourth element in the proposal - an Independent Appeals Panel (IAP) - opinion on that was split evenly between those opposed to it (arguing that the accountability review team should devise the relevant process), those strongly in favor (who believe it could act as an interim control between contract renewals) and those who were uncertain and wanted more detail. ®