News, views and what I choose to dos

ICANN gets IANA for five years

Category : ICANN, Internet governance · by Aug 16th, 2006

[tag]ICANN[/tag] has been re-awarded the [tag]IANA[/tag] contract for one year with a stated four extensions, giving the US overseeing organisation top-level management of the [tag]Internet[/tag] until 2011.

You can download the whole contract off this site [pdf] or from the NTIA [pdf].

The decision is not exactly a huge shock. The US government made some noises about perhaps looking at other people taking on the job, but it was widely interpreted as a bargaining chip with ICANN, and that it seems is exactly what happened.

The important thing about the contract is that it has introduced timelines – most significantly that any change taking longer than seven days has its own separate and visible process. Plus ICANN has now signed up to the e-IANA software that should help automate the vital changes at the top of the Internet.

What does IANA actually do? Actually, ICANN’s press notice sums it up pretty well: “The IANA function includes Internet Protocol (IP) address space allocation, protocol identifier assignment, generic (gTLD) and country code (ccTLD) Top-Level Domain name system management, as well as root server system management functions.”

To people that know nothing of the technical side of the Internet, this basically means the fundamental, top-level changes made to the Internet both in everyday maintenance and occasionally in interations of Net evolution.

ICANN CEO Paul Twomey was of course chuffed. “In executing this contract the Department of Commerce has confirmed that ICANN is uniquely positioned to perform this function,” is the line. “It means that ICANN remains the organisation responsible for a range of functions that are vital to the daily operation of the Domain Name System (DNS) and hence the Internet.”

It certainly demonstrates that ICANN is here to stay. The crucial contract however remains the NTIA’s Memorandum of Understanding with ICANN, due for renewal on 30 September. That’s the big one.

Update: Apparently I’m worthy of quoting by The New York Times. Their story yesterday on IANA, “Overseer of Domain Names Renews Contract“, bizarrely sticks me in at para four. “The contract renewal ‘certainly demonstrates that Icann is here to stay,’ said Kieren McCarthy, a British writer who has applied for a seat on Icann’s board…” – using a quote taken off this blog.
I’m not sure whether to be flattered or concerned. There are lots of people that should be used as sources before me: Milton Mueller, Paul Twomey, Emily Taylor, Paul Kane, Michael Froomkin. It must have been a tight deadline situation and grabbing a blog comment much easier and faster.

I’m also a little concerned that the NomCom application might become a millstone around my neck. At least in media terms. Especially since Wendy was called up apparently for the same reason – having applied to become an ICANN Board member.

I’ve heard not a sausage about or from the NomCom btw. Is it really going to be the case that I hear nothing at all until the decision is made, and then get a formal email? I suspect it is.


(8) comments

Veni Markovski
15 years ago ·

when you say, “It certainly demonstrates that ICANN is here to stay” did you mean you have had some doubts about it? Or did you think someone else could do the IANA job?

15 years ago ·

Both Veni. ICANN was on self-destruct for a while back there. If the USG hadn’t fought so hard in Tunisia (more for its own interests than ICANN’s), ICANN could easily have turned into something else. There wouldn’t have been a sudden change, but perhaps an agreement to base it in Europe, and then a slight change in its staff structure…

As for IANA. I think there’s three groups that could run IANA *today* if they had to. ICANN, CENTR and the loose conglomeration of existing root server managers. You could even just take the ICANN staff dealing with IANA, pull them out, stick in a few managers and a board of top-DNS engineers and IETF people and 90 percent of IANA would be done.

But as it is, it makes more sense to stick with ICANN and try to iron out all the problems.


Veni Markovski
15 years ago ·

I am more optimistic about the way Internet is governed.
Perhaps that’s due to the fact that we in Bulgaria managed to do it all by the book. It is amazing that sometimes advises come from parties which actually have never participated in a practical implementation of IG, but they have great theories how to solve the problems.

Problem is that there are so many interests behind ICANN, that sometimes it’s funny to see how exactly these interests are the loudest speakers asking for transperancy on the Board level, but there’s no transperancy at their own level…

So, my suggestion would be – let’s change ICANN towards better, but let’s do it wisely.

What you suggest in your second paragraph does not change anything, except that it will not be called ICANN.

Let’s stay focused on the positive things we can do. Destruction is easy.

15 years ago ·

We’re in agreement Veni. ICANN has made it through WSIS intact and I think Nominet’s and Denic’s responses, and CENTR’s response to the IANA announcement yesterday all point to the fact that it is gradually coming together. So it will take ICANN to screw it up for it to go wrong.

My concern is that is exactly what will happen, so it’s in everyone’s interests to make sure there is no secrecy and there is open discussion so the best choices are made and so people that may not agree with the decision can at least respect the fact it was arrived at by consensus.


Veni Markovski
15 years ago ·

I often hear this word “secrecy”.
I know that people tend to agree on this, but the truth is different. If there were some secret issues, with a Board, consisting from people coming from all over the world, that would have been made obvious.
I don’t believe there’s a great conspiracy theory behind the way ICANN works. Yes, it still need to put some better minutes, but people who consider this topic as the most important one in their own lives are somewhat strange, don’t you think so?
I’d be more concerned on the eavesdroping in the US, or the video cameras all over London, but the same people are not concerned about those issues. Perhaps difference of values ;)

15 years ago ·

The secrecy issue can be easily divided up, Veni. But first ICANN has to accept it can’t have it both ways. If ICANN is attacked as not being representative of the real Internet, the answer is always: “We are a bottom-up consensus model with people from all over the world on the Board.” When it is then criticised by not actually demonstrating these attributes, ICANN says: “There is no other body like us that is so open.”

ICANN’s processes are not open. You may believe they are because you have ready access to the information and the people with the information. Things are changing but ICANN cannot claim to be open as yet. For instance:

* Agenda of Board meetings. For a long time no one had a clue when they were of what was going to be discussed. That is partially solved now, with the agenda and dates going up on the website, but there are still sudden meetings and things are still added to or removed from the agenda at the will of the chairman, sometimes without explanation.
* Board meeting minutes. We are constantly told that free-ranging and intelligent debate is held during Board meetings. But people don’t buy it when the final decision appears to go against what everyone has been saying. Everyone is simply not willing to accept the word of people within the meeting with the most to gain – and nor should they be. The little that we have seen of Board meetings, appears to demontrate that half the Board gets involved in debate and the other say nothing or contribute nothing – and then vote in the way the chairman wishes them to. That’s how it looks from the outside. If it’s wrong, ICANN needs to prove so.
* If there is a bottom-up consensus, why doesn’t ICANN publish the papers produced by ICANN staff summarising issues? Surely this is just a case of boiling down what people have said if there is a bottom-up process? The problem is, and we all know it, that the ICANN staff frequently provide a one-sided brief to the Board which pushes ICANN staff’s best interests. And the Board has been very weak in bringing this distortion of the decision-making process to account.
* It is nigh on impossible to find relevant information. ICANN now recognises that simply posting something to the website (where it can’t be found even if you knew it had gone up) does not justify the constant refrain that “it has been up for public comment”. But that is a very recent development. The black hole of the ICANN website has been carefully used for years to push through changes that ICANN staff know people won’t like.
* The process that decides who gets what role within ICANN and ICANN constituencies is opaque at best and downright corrupt in some places. The same people have been in the same job – and here I mean mostly committees and constituencies that the process is stale and self-contained. There is an in-crowd to the extent that everyone goes along with bad decisions because they don’t want to incur displeasure. That is a poor way to reaching consensus.
* ICANN pays no attention to public comments made on the website and as a result no one bothers to post any, which is then used as an indication that everything must be fine. Everyone *knows* that is what happens and yet everyone also pretends they don’t.
* The first instinct within ICANN at the moment is not to give information. It is then referred to an over-burdened legal department in a permanent state of anxiety, slowing the process down even further and causing a culture to be created of just not bothering to provide information.
* There is no appeals process. It is a phantom. And everybody *knows* it, except everybody pretends not to. That is ridiculous and has caused – and it always has done and always will do – an element of corruption because people ultimately know they can do what they want anyway. It breeds contempt for people that argue whereas in fact what ICANN should be doing is encouraging debate, not stifling it.

I’m sure I have more, but there are some real-world problems with ICANN at the moment.


[…] Kieren asked some questions, related to ICANN. Here are my answers. […]

Veni Markovski
15 years ago ·

I’ve published your questions and my answers as an article at . If we were to continue here, the answers would have been lost and not easy to find.

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