Lawrence E. Strickling on ICANN, IANA: Accountability process needs to include stress tests

Remarks by Assistant Secretary Strickling at the PLI/FCBA Telecommunications Policy & Regulation Institute | NTIA:

Excerpts from remarks by Lawrence E. Strickling, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information at the PLI/FCBA Telecommunications Policy & Regulation Institute, Washington, DC, December 4, 2014 (go to the link above for complete copy):

“… we [NTIA] play a central role in shaping Administration policies on complex issues of international Internet governance, online privacy and data security to maintain consumer trust in the Internet and protect the digital economy.

“Today, I would like to spend a few minutes talking about three major priorities for 2015:

  • First, we will promote spectrum sharing as a key part of our ongoing efforts to find more spectrum for commercial wireless broadband;
  • Second, we will continue to expand broadband access and adoption to help close the digital divide; and
  • Third, we will support and strengthen the bottom-up, consensus-based approach to Internet governance known as the multistakeholder process, which has allowed the Internet to flourish and thrive.

“. . . . in 2015 with respect to Internet policy. Our core mission at NTIA is to ensure that the Internet remains an engine for economic growth, innovation and free expression.

“Internationally, the United States has been a vocal advocate of the bottom-up, consensus-based approach to Internet governance known as the multistakeholder model.

“The multistakeholder model has enabled the Internet to develop into an engine for innovation, free speech and economic growth. Under this model, all stakeholders, whether they be from industry, civil society, or government, come together in an inclusive, transparent, accountable forum to make decisions and solve problems. As the Internet agency, NTIA’s job is to strengthen and promote that model.

“In 2014, we have seen a growing acceptance of the multistakeholder model around the world, but particularly in developing countries. Earlier this year, Brazil hosted the successful NetMundial conference, which brought together a wide range of stakeholders including technical experts, civil society groups, industry representatives and government officials, all on an equal footing with each other. At this meeting not only did participants agree that Internet governance should be built on democratic multistakeholder processes,” the entire meeting was a demonstration of the open, participative, and consensus-driven governance that has allowed the Internet to develop as an unparalleled engine of economic growth and innovation.

“A month later, a High-Level Panel, headed by the president of Estonia, Toomas Ilves released a report once again affirming the power of multistakeholder policy development. The panel said it “recognizes, fully supports, and adopts the Internet governance principles produced in the NetMundial Statement.”

“Most recently, at the International Telecommunication Union’s 2014 Plenipotentiary conference in Busan, Korea, last month, we saw the fruits of all our work to preserve multistakeholder Internet governance. The United States achieved all of its objectives in Busan, including keeping the ITU’s work focused on its current mandate and not expanding its role into Internet and cybersecurity issues. The U.S. delegation, led by Ambassador Danny Sepulveda, successfully built consensus across nations to protect the robust, innovative, multi-stakeholder Internet we enjoy today.

“This validation of the multistakeholder model comes at a critical time. Last March, NTIA announced its intention to complete the privatization of the Internet Domain Name System (DNS), currently managed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). This process began in 1998, when ICANN took over important technical functions related to the domain name system, known as the IANA functions, under a contract with NTIA. In our March announcement, NTIA asked ICANN to convene a multistakeholder process to develop a proposal to transition the U.S. stewardship role over the IANA functions to the international community. We did this to ensure that the multistakeholder model for DNS coordination continues.

“When we announced this transition, we outlined some specific conditions that must be addressed before this transition takes place. First, the proposal must support and enhance the multistakeholder model of Internet governance, in that it should be developed by the multistakeholder community and have broad community support. More specifically, we will not accept a transition proposal that replaces the NTIA role with a government-led or intergovernmental organization solution. Second, the proposal must maintain the security, stability, and resiliency of the domain name system. Third, it must meet the needs and expectations of the global customers and partners of the IANA services. And finally, it must maintain the openness of the Internet.

“Now that we are eight months past our IANA announcement, it is important to take stock of where this transition stands.

“We are pleased that the community has responded enthusiastically to our call to develop a transition plan that will ensure the stability, security and openness of the Internet. Acting as a facilitator, ICANN announced this summer the formation of a group representing more than a dozen Internet stakeholder communities that will help develop a transition proposal. As set forth in its charter, the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group is “conduct[ing] itself transparently, consult[ing] with a broad range of stakeholders, and ensur[ing] that its proposals support the security and stability of the IANA functions.”

“The community is in the process of developing proposals for the specific IANA functions. Earlier this week, a working group focused on domain names released a 100-page proposal for community review and comment. We expect proposals for other of the functions to surface over the next month or so. The community hopes to submit its transition proposal to NTIA by the end of next July, which would allow us to review the proposal before the current contract expires at the end of September 2015. I want to emphasize that we did not set a deadline for this transition. If for some reason the community needs more time, we have the option to extend the current contract for up to four years.

“ICANN has also launched a process to examine how to ensure it remains accountable to the global Internet community. Specifically, this process will examine how ICANN can strengthen its accountability mechanisms to address the absence of its historical contractual relationship with NTIA. NTIA believes that this accountability process needs to include the stress testing of solutions to safeguard against future contingencies such as attempts to influence or takeover ICANN functions that are not currently possible with the IANA functions contract in place.

“The two work streams on the IANA transition and enhanced accountability are directly linked and NTIA has repeatedly said that both issues must be addressed before any transition takes place.

“I am confident that engaging the global Internet community to work out these important issues will strengthen the multistakeholder process and will result in ICANN’s becoming even more directly accountable to the customers of the IANA functions and to the broader Internet community.