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Senators Thune and Schatz weigh in supporting continued multistakeholder Internet governance

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The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) will open its 54th meeting tomorrow in Dublin, Ireland. Top of mind for the discussions this week are clearly the transition of oversight of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) from the U.S. government to the multistakeholder community, and the proposal for accountability reforms for ICANN as undertaken by the Cross-Community Working Group (CCWG).

In advance of this week’s meeting, United State Senator Thune, Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Senator Schatz, a member of the same committee, sent a letter to the ICANN board reiterating Congress’ support for multistakeholder Internet governance processes. The letter is a welcome reminder to the community, during a time of intense deliberation, that process is critical to the successful transition of oversight of the IANA functions. It is no secret that there has been confusion and frustration leading up to this meeting. As in any uncertain process, emotions have run high. Nevertheless, the global Internet governance community has shown great dedication and determination to produce the best possible result for the world’s Internet users.

In the IANA transition process, the directly affected communities consist of three interest groups – Numbers, Protocols and Names. As I stated in my testimony to Congress in May of this year, the Numbers and Protocols communities submitted their proposals on time, on January 15 of this year, while the Names community submitted theirs subsequently. The Names proposal contains dependencies on the outcome of the not-yet-concluded CCWG. In summary, here is my understanding of the three IANA functions transition proposals:

Transition diagram FINAL2

The past several days of preparatory meetings to the 54th ICANN meeting here in Dublin have demonstrated the multistakeholder community’s commitment to achieving the best possible accountability structure for ICANN. However, it is worth understanding that ICANN encompasses much more than its contractual role as the parent of the current IANA Functions Operator (IFO). Unlike Numbers and Protocols, the Names community does not have its own forum for its policy-development process, and instead creates its governance policies within ICANN meetings. As a result, the Names aspect of the transition is inextricably tied to the work being undertaken by the CCWG. By contrast, the Numbers and Protocols communities each have independent policy-making processes that predate the formation of ICANN, and pass their results directly to the IANA for implementation, a process that does not include ICANN in any role.

The outcomes of the Dublin meeting this week will determine whether further timeline adjustments are needed to complete the CCWG’s proposal. The Names and Protocols communities have both publicly stated that their transitions have no interdependencies with the CCWG’s work. A recent statement by The Numbering Resources Organization (NRO) acknowledged the importance of accountability to the Numbers community but clearly stated that their accountability requirements will be fulfilled through the contractual relationship between the NRO and ICANN. The Internet Architecture Board (IAB) of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) noted in their public comments to the CCWG that the accountability related to their IANA function is also independent of the CCWG’s work.

We commend Senators Thune and Schatz on their support for the Internet’s multistakeholder governance process and their clear dedication to ensuring that each community’s accountability requirements are met. We look forward to participating in ICANN 54 in the upcoming week.