The historical contractual relationship between the US government and the key Internet domain name functions entered a new phase with the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration's (NTIA) announcement of March 2014 of its intent to delegate its oversight role to a global multistakeholder community. This process – initially intended to be finalised by 30 September 2015 (now extended until September 2016) – has also triggered a discussion on the accountability of ICANN and the minimum accountability pre-requisites for the transition to happen, separating it from a broader reform of ICANN in the post-transition period.

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IANA transition and ICANN accountability in detail

More than one year ago, on 14 March 2014, the NTIA announced its intent to transition its oversight over key Internet domain name functions – domain names, number resources, and protocol parameters performed under the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) – to the global multistakeholder community by 30 September 2015. It asked ICANN to convene stakeholders to develop a proposal to transition the stewardship function, a proposal that would subsequently need to be approved by the NTIA. The proposal would require broad support and should follow a number of principles:

  • Support and enhance the multistakeholder model
  • Maintain the security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet DNS
  • Meet the needs and expectation of the global customers and partners of the IANA services
  • Maintain the openness of the Internet.

After issuing a Scoping Document (8 April 2014), ICANN published the Process to Develop the Proposal and Next Steps (6 June 2014), following a month-long public consultation. This led to the formation of the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination group (ICG), comprising 30 members serving as liaisons to 13 different stakeholder communities. The ICG developed the assembly and finalisation process of the IANA Stewardship Transition Proposal for submission to the NTIA at the end of process, expecting proposals from three communities directly affected by the transition according to a detailed timeline:

  • The Domain Names community (naming-related functions), proposal to be issued by Cross Community Working Group (CWG-Stewardship), that is GNSO and ccNSO. Status: proposal submitted (25 June 2015)
  • Numbering Resources community (functions related the management and distribution of numbering resources), proposal by the Consolidated RIR IANA Stewardship Proposal Team (CRISP team), that is NRO, ASO, and RIRs. Status: the community submitted its proposal (15 January 2015)
  • Protocol Parameters community (functions related to Internet Protocol Parameters) proposal by IANAPLAN Working Group, that is IETF and IAB. Status: the community submitted its proposal (6 January 2015)

The Numbering Resources and Protocol Parameters communities submitted their proposals in January. CWG-Stewardship published its first draft proposal on 1 December, which was open for comments until 22 December 2014. Significant input led CWG-Stewardship to reconsider its original draft with one model (Contract Co), and instead propose four models in a discussion document published right before ICANN 52: (i). Contract Co. and (ii). External Trust models (external); (iii). ICANN Internal Bylaw, and (iv). Internal Trust models (internal) (the models are also described here). After several rounds of discussions and legal counsel, CWG-Stewardship submitted its proposal in June 2015.

The change in the historic contractual relationship with the US government also triggered a broader accountability discussion within ICANN, responding to a set of concerns from the community related to the current and future role of ICANN. Following the accountability discussions at ICANN 49, in May 2014 ICANN published a proposed process on Enhancing ICANN Accountability, inviting comments from the ICANN community (6 May-27 June 2014, and again 6-27 September 2014) and suggesting the formation of an ICANN Accountability Working Group. The Cross Community Working Group on Enhancing ICANN Accountability (CCWG-Accountability) was formed in October 2014 and focuses on two parallel work streams:

  • Work stream 1, to be completed before the IANA Stewardship Transition, covering accountability aspects that represent pre-requisites for the IANA transition;
  • Work stream 2, which can extend beyond the transition. 

Several working group meetings have preceeded ICANN's regular meetings. CWG-Stewardship has also been heavily involved in the accountability. Legal counsel has been sought by the working groups throughout the process.

In June, the chartering organisations of CWG-Stewardship – GAC, SSAC, GNSO, ccNSO, and ALAC – approved the community’s final proposal (dated 11 June 2015) which is now with the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (ICG). The ICG is expected to synthesise the three proposals from the Naming Community, the Numbering Resources and Protocol Parameters communities.

The parallel track of accountability also moved forward with a face-to-face meeting in Buenos Aires preceding ICANN 53, in which the accountability architecture proposed (based on four building blocks: an empowered community, the Board, the Bylaws and the Independent Review Process) was discussed. More face-to-face meetings will take place in the coming weeks. ICANN’s next meeting will take place in October in Dublin.


Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers – ICANN coordinates the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions, which are key technical services critical to the continued operations of the Internet's underlying address book, the Domain Name System (DNS). Read more

National Telecommunications and Information Administration – The NTIA, located within the US Department of Commerce, is the Executive Branch agency that is principally responsible by law for advising the President on telecommunications and information policy issues in the United States. Read more

Also: Domain Names community (CWG-Stewardship) | Numbering Resources community | Protocol Parameters community | Cross Community Working Group on Enhancing ICANN Accountability (CCWG-Accountability)

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