Over the next week, all eyes of those interested and vested in Internet governance will turn to Buenos Aires. From June 21 – 25, ICANN will be holding its regular public meeting and much of the discussion will once again be focused on the IANA stewardship transition and the ICANN accountability processes. Like all previous meetings, this 53rd meeting of ICANN will gather a wide range of representatives from governments to businesses to civil society and technical community to continue the discussions on the plan to transition key Internet domain name functions from the US government to the global multistakeholder community.
With the protocol parameters and the numbers communities’ proposals having been submitted back in January, the one left was the proposal by the names community. ICANN’s Cross-Community Working Group (CWG) released a second draft of the proposal in May and held a 20-day public comment period. After an intensive week of teleconferences, the proposal was updated to incorporate the public comments and it currently sits with ICANN’s Advisory Committees (AC) and Supporting Organizations (SO). In Buenos Aires, it will be determined whether the CWG proposal will be submitted to the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (ICG).
At the same time, the public comment period for the parallel Enhancing ICANN Accountability proposal has just closed. This track is as significant as the IANA transition process. Absent the contract with the NTIA, a new mechanism must be in place to ensure the appropriate operation of the functions. Additionally, ICANN accountability is so inherently linked with the IANA functions that it will be almost impossible to conceive of a successful IANA transition process without a sufficient ICANN accountability framework.
Signs are promising for significant progress during the meeting in Buenos Aires. The ICG has scheduled a two-day meeting prior to ICANN. At the top of its agenda: a pre-assessment of the CWG names’ proposal; and, the beginning of the planning for the combined proposal. This meeting is significant because it is the first time the ICG is in the position to start working on the narrative that it will submit to the NTIA. The ICG has also blocked half day on 25 June, after the ICANN meeting, for an additional working session.
As we head into this intensive week-and-a-half of meetings, there are two things we need to remember. The first is how all the people who have participated in this process have tangoed around very complex and difficult questions. It has often been repeated that the IANA transition process is significant because the IANA functions is the last place where a single government exercises an oversight role over the management of key parts of the global Internet. For many years now, the NTIA has done an excellent job in providing a safety valve for a system that, nonetheless, never needed it. But, its presence was reassuring. Designing a new system is not an easy task. And, the three operational communities not only acknowledged the difficulty of their task but they did so in a responsible and accountable manner.
And, this brings me to the second thing we need to keep reminding ourselves. For over a year now, the communities have stayed committed and true to processes that reflect much of the Internet’s early design and development. The great thing about these processes is that they were not imposed upon the communities; rather, they have been consistent with their historical modus operandi. What the IANA transition process managed to do on top was to highlight the features of these processes: inclusiveness, openness, efficiency, and transparency. In addition, this last year has seen the communities working closer than ever before and creating new communication channels. These are both significant achievements and demonstrate the maturity of the global Internet community towards achieving a suitable IANA transition.
All this to say that we are closer to a solution as we start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel—but, we are not done. There is still a lot of work to do, many more emails to send and many more telephone conferences to take place. The current momentum needs to be preserved and the community needs to continue to work hard towards a final proposal. Maintaining the cooperation and collaboration is key. ICANN’s 53rd meeting provides the appropriate forum for this to happen.
P.S. For an overview of the Internet Society’s DNS security activities next week at ICANN 53 please read this post from my colleague Dan York.
Photo of Puerto Madero in Buenos Aires by Martin St-Amant [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.