The Proposal to transfer (“transition”) the oversight of the IANA Functions, from the US Administration to a multi-stakeholder system with checks and balances, was approved by the NTIA earlier this year. More recently, the NTIA declared its intention to let the current IANA contract expire on 1st of October 2016. Interestingly, until August this year the issue seemed to float in a calm bubble. But with the acceleration of the US presidential campaign, the question of who should have oversight of the IANA Functions was back, like a puck in a hockey rink, slapped here and there.
On 14th of September, Senator Ted Cruz and some others summoned witnesses to a hearing held by the Judiciary Committee, “Protecting Internet Freedom: Implications of Ending US Oversight of the Internet”. The terms used were meant to instill fear among US voters: “Protecting” must be against some attack; and “Freedom” suggests that, without US control, the alternative must needs be a takeover by some Evil Force.
Two recent articles attempt to inform the US and global public about the fallacy of some of the claims made by Senator Cruz and others: on 15th of September, the New York Times wrote “Ted Cruz Fights Internet Directory’s Transfer; Techies Say He Just Doesn’t Get It“, and on 18th of September The Guardian’s editorial pointed to “Ted Cruz’s wrong turn on the information superhighway“.
Just before these articles, a group of 12 individuals from the US and elsewhere sent a letter to President Obama, urging the Administration to implement, and the Congress to not impede the Transition of Oversight of the IANA Functions. Similar letters were sent to the Speaker and Leadership of the House of Representatives, and the President pro tempore and Leadership of the Senate. Here is the content of the letter sent to the US President on the 12th of September, and subsequently conveyed to the New York Times, The Guardian and several other media:
Dear Mr. President:
As the first truly universal infrastructure in human history, the Internet has allowed huge progress to be achieved in business, legislation, science, public health, agriculture, industry, education and communications, at the same time as it has facilitated the daily lives of ordinary citizens all over the world.
Because of the seminal contribution of the United States of America in creating the Internet and carrying forward so many of its subsequent developments, your country has earned the deep and lasting gratitude of billions of people. In fact, today’s younger generations in so many countries cannot even imagine life without the benefits of ubiquitous connectivity, quick and free access to knowledge, as well as the facilitation of social intercourse.
As individuals deeply engaged in, and committed to improving the integrity, stability and uses of the Internet, we believe that now is an appropriate time to confirm the multi-stakeholder model of the Internet, in a way that would benefit both the United States and the rest of the world. In this respect, we note that the United States have consistently considered that the further development of the Internet would best be served by a global multi-stakeholder model:
At the inception of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in September 1998, the U.S. Government and Internet stakeholders envisioned that the U.S. oversight of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority functions (“IANA functions”) would be temporary. Also in 1998, the U.S. Department of Commerce issued a Statement of Policy that the U.S. Government “is committed to a transition that will allow the private sector to take leadership for DNS (Domain Name System) management.“
In December 2012, the House of Representatives and the Senate jointly stated: “It is the sense of Congress that the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Commerce, should continue working to implement the position of the United States on Internet governance that clearly articulates the consistent and unequivocal policy of the United States to promote a global Internet free from government control and preserve and advance the successful multistakeholder model that governs the Internet today.“ (H.Con.Res.127; S.Con.Res.50).
In March 2014, the National Telecommunication and Information Agency (NTIA) announced its intention to transition key Internet domain name functions to the global multistakeholder community. As the first step, NTIA asked ICANN to convene global stakeholders to develop a proposal to transition the current oversight role played by NTIA in the coordination of the Internet’s domain name system, and set out four criteria for such a transition to merit consideration. As requested, ICANN convened the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (ICG) which started work in December 2014.
In March 2016 the ICG, with the input of the Internet community, submitted its Proposal to NTIA. The NTIA certified that the Proposal met the four criteria (June 2016), approved it (August 2016), and announced its intention to let the IANA Functions contract expire on October 1st, 2016.
It is our belief and indeed our conviction that the transition of oversight of the IANA Functions, from an agency of the United States Government to a multi-stakeholder system equipped with detailed checks and balances, will safeguard the security, openness and efficiency of the Internet, while helping to meet some of the challenges facing humanity and the world in which we live.
In bringing this to your esteemed attention, we are inspired by the fact that the foundation of the United States of America was, in itself, a major innovation of its time: it set out a model of government predicated on principles, a judiciary unswerved by political partisanship, and an economic model in which wealth and success would be earned by initiative and enterprise rather than by inheritance alone. Implementing those lofty principles required open information, as well as the awareness and growing participation of citizens. For the Internet today, the challenges are not very different.
It is our sincere hope that the Administration will now implement, and that the Congress of the United States of America will not impede the transition of oversight of the IANA Functions.
We are addressing similar letters to the Honorable Speaker of the House of Representatives, and to the Honorable President pro tempore of the Senate.
On behalf of the signatories listed below: Jean-Jacques Subrenat (Ambassador, ret.)
- The Hon. Carl Bildt (Sweden), Chair, Global Commission on Internet Governance; former Prime Minister & Foreign Minister
- Dr. Vinton G. Cerf (United States), former Chair of the Board of ICANN, Internet Pioneer
- Mr. John Danilovich (United States), Ambassador (ret.); Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce
- Ms. Avri Doria (United States), Principal Researcher, Technicalities
- Mr. Roberto Gaetano (Italy), Chair, the Public Interest Registry
- Prof. Dr. MURAI Jun 村井 純 (Japan), Dean & Professor, Environment and Information Studies, Keio University; Founder of Junet & WideProject
- Dr. Nii Narku Quaynor (Ghana), Chairman, Ghana Dot Com Ltd.; founding Chairman of AfriNIC
- Ms. Njeri Rionge (Kenya), Founder & CEO, Ignite Consult. & Investment; co-founder & Director, Wananchi Online Ltd.
- The Hon. Ms. Marietje Schaake (Netherlands), Founder, Intergroup on the Digital Agenda for Europe; Member of the European Parliament
- Mr. Jean-Jacques Subrenat (France), Ambassador (ret.); Former member, ICANN Board; Member of the ICG (2014~)
- Dr. Prof. XUE Hong 薛虹 (China), Founding Director, Institute for Internet Policy & Law, Beijing Normal Univ. 北京师范大学
- Dr. Prof. YOKOZAWA Makoto 横澤 誠 (Japan), Professor, Kyoto University; Vice Chair of the Internet Economy WG, Keidanren
(Views expressed in this letter are those of the signatories, and do not purport to represent the positions of entities with which they may be associated.)