As the Internet community prepares for the transition of the Internet’s stewardship from the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) of the U.S. Commerce Department to the global multi-stakeholder community, stakeholders made progress on enhancing accountability at the latest annual meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
At the week-long meeting, which wrapped on October 22 in Dublin, some 1,800 participants from government, business, civil society and the technical community rallied around a proposal to develop an ICANN accountability mechanism to replace the “backstop” function currently provided by ICANN’s contract with U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Barbara Wanner, USCIB’s vice president for ICT policy, represented USCIB member interests at the meeting.
Since NTIA announced in March 2014 that it would transition key Internet functions and domain names to the global multistakeholder community, USCIB and other stakeholders have underscored that any new model of domain name system (DNS) management must include mechanisms that ensure it is accountable to the global stakeholder community. USCIB further has emphasized that the transition process must be thoughtfully conceived so as to not in any way compromise principles set forth by NTIA for the IANAN transition. These include supporting and enhancing the multistakeholder model, maintaining the security, stability, and resilience of the Internet DNS, meeting the needs and expectations of the global customers and partners of the IANA services, and maintaining the openness of the Internet.
“The proposal developed at the Dublin meeting marked an important step in developing a mechanism that will effectively empower business and other stakeholders to hold ICANN accountable. We have repeatedly said that accountability mechanisms must be in place before the IANA transition takes place,” said Wanner.
Mathieu Weill, co-chair of the Cross-Community Working Group on Enhancing ICANN Accountability (CCWG-Accountability), concurred. “What I think we can take away from this week is the wonderful and amazing way in which we have brought together in the same room people from different [stakeholder] groups to work in a collaborative manner – and that makes a difference and brings progress,” he said, noting that stakeholder collaboration is being embedded in ICANN’s accountability framework.
According to Wanner, ICANN’s work on accountability is helping to build the case for a multistakeholder Internet governance model, which is preferable to a government-controlled alternative. “Participants proposed that the CCWG-Accountability’s work demonstrates to critics who advocate inter-governmental organization jurisdiction over Internet governance issues that a multistakeholder model, although occasionally ‘messy,’ is effective and produces important results,” she said.
In addition to discussions about the enhanced accountability mechanism, the Dublin gathering featured some over 300 separate sessions on topics as diverse as “Women in ICANN, Internet and ICTs,” “Universal Acceptance of TLDs [top-level domains like .com and .org],” and “The Role of Voluntary Practices in Combating Abuse and Illegal Activity,” which reflected the substantive breadth of the policy and technical issues considered by ICANN.
USCIB is a member of the Business Constituency, a stakeholder group representing the private sector in discussions with ICANN on Internet governance.