Twenty-five advocacy groups that comprise TechFreedom, Heritage Action for America and Taxpayers Protection Alliance have writen a letter demanding that the Commerce Department to hold off on plans to transition its control over the body that governs internet domain names ICANN. But the NTIA shows no signs of halting plans to end its oversight of the domains body by the end of September 2016.
The groups argue that Congress uphold riders on the spending bills that prohibit the internet naming transition from moving forward. If the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) moves forward with its plan to relinquish control, the groups say Congress should sue.
“We agree that internet governance should work from the bottom up, driven by the global community of private sector, civil society, and technical stakeholders,” said the letter, “Without robust safeguards, internet governance could fall under the sway of governments hostile to freedoms protected by the First Amendment.”
“…Suing to enforce the appropriations rider and extending it through FY2017 are amply justified by the extraordinary importance of the Constitutional principle at stake.”
The NTIA currently holds an 18 years old contract to run the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), the body that oversees the domain names used by internet service providers. IANA is a department within the global nonprofit group that broadly governs the internet: the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.
“Ominously, governments will gain a formal voting role in ICANN for the first time when the new bylaws are implemented,” the groups said in the letter. “ICANN’s new governance structure may prove inadequate, or the community too disunited, to hold the ICANN staff or board accountable,” the groups added, adding that the multi-stakeholder approach is “fragile.”
The letter follow a series of many others that have been written by the US law makers in an attempt to stop the IANA transition. The main question being asked is if ICANN is ready for an independent role given that it is currently in court over it mishandling of the new gTLD processing of the .Africa domain. A panel in July 2015 ruled that the applicant for .Africa, DotConnectAfrica was the prevailing party.
In a similar fashion, the domains overseer faces a second loss after case in the Dot Registry, LLC v. ICANN (.INC/.LLC/.LLP), where the ICANN Board Governance Committee (BGC) in particular was castigated for having blatantly and repeatedly failed to carry out its oversight duties. This is despite the serious allegations made against ICANN’s staff and the “independent” evaluator Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) selected to do a review. A Kansas company Dot Registry LLC, applied for the gTLDs .llc, .llp, and .inc as a “Community” applicant however, the company lost its Community Priority Evaluations after ICANN’s decision to refuse “community” status for three applications.
Should DCA have been included in the joint letter?
DotConnectAfrica Trust the .africa applicant was the first organization to articulate this position that the Advocacy groups appear to affirm now to the US congress, though albeit a little late in my opinion. The organization has posted all its letters to congress on its website here. No doubt concurrently, DCA has also won a precedent setting IRP case over ICANN on this New gTLD program.
In particular regarding the IANA transition, the .Africa applicant has been urging the US Congress that IANA transition should not be rushed, and that there is no legal basis for effecting such, repeatedly arguing and engaging the US congress with an update:
“…the IANA Transition process must not be rushed, and that it should be handled with proper deliberation; and that Congress must be allowed an unfettered hand, and not be steamrollered into approving any resulting proposals until all questions – including those relating to national security -have been fully clarified and satisfactorily answered.”
The testimony by NTIA Assistant Secretary Strickling’s stated
“…NTIA has fulfilled this temporary role not because of any statutory or legal responsibility, but as a temporary measure at the request of the President. Indeed, Congress never designated NTIA or any other specific agency responsibility for managing the Internet DNS. Thus, NTIA has no legal or statutory responsibility to manage the DNS.”
However Bekele countered NITA’s testimony above in her public commentary “no legal basis for IANA transition” arguing “the legal loophole needs to be closed”
“…As part of ensuring an enduring oversight mechanism, the Congress must now put a permanent legal structure in place to designate a specific agency for this role — with legal/statutory responsibility for managing (or regulating) the Internet DNS. The NTIA believes that it did not have the legal responsibility to act, and that its role was temporary; so on what basis is the NTIA driving the current IANA Transition process without the requisite legal authority or Congressional mandate?”
Bekele who leads DCA Trust, a Governance expert and also a former gTLD advisor to ICANN has been openly calling for the establishment of a new body to govern ICANN, saying
“We reiterate our belief that the US Congress should not trust ICANN to regulate itself because of the compelling need to avoid the example of FIFA –an institution that governs and regulates the global sport of soccer that is widely perceived as unaccountable; and that a new body – the USIRA – that will handle policy has to be established; while ICANN and the Internet technical community will handle Internet technical implementation management and related Domain Names Service (DNS) roles such as naming, numbering addressing and allied activities.”