Today, 35 U.S. Senators lead by Senators John Thune (R-S.D.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) sent a letter to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), seeking clarification regarding the recent announcement that NTIA intends to relinquish responsibility of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions to the global multistakeholder community. Read my previous post “US to Relinquish Control of the Internet” for more background on this issue.
The letter express the group’s “[strong] support [of] the existing bottom-up, multistakeholder approach to Internet governance.” The letter highlights bipartisan support of S. Con. Res 50 in 2012 that reinforces “the U.S. government’s opposition to ceding control of the Internet to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), an arm of the United Nations, or to any other governmental body.”
The group cautions: “We must not allow the IANA functions to fall under the control of repressive governments, America’s enemies, or unaccountable bureaucrats.” To read the full text of the letter click here.
As you read it I encourage you to think about a few things:
Are these the right questions?
These are fair questions and likely on the minds of those invested in the outcome of this transition. ICANN & NTIA have pledged transparency throughout this process, therefore, I look forward to their candid responses. None of the questions are out of line or beyond the scope of Congressional oversight.
What other questions should we ask?
The answers to these questions will spark additional questions. However, in my opinion, there are a few other questions the Senators could have posed.
- What happens if the deadline is not met? Is the US prepared to renew the contract? Is the US prepared for the international backlash if the deadline is not met?
- Does the structure of an organization like ICANN, that has an entire constituency of comprised of government representatives (GAC), meet the nongovernmental multistakeholder model? To what extent and how are governments going to be kept out of oversight after the initial launch?
- Whose interests does NTIA seek to serve or protect by initiating this transition?
What other questions do you have?
How hard do you want Congress to push on this issue?
Transparency will help alleviate fears and misconceptions. I think the answers to these questions and those likely to follow with help shape the dialogue as this process continues. Gaining the confidence of the American people and other inter nation critics will serve to make this a smoother process for NTIA and ICANN. I encourage Congress to pursue the answers to these questions and then decisions can be made about how to proceed.
This issue has a long way to go before we can develop a definitive perspective on the positive or negative effect this will have on the future of the Internet. I will continue to monitor the developments but I encourage you think about what concerns you most and leave your thoughts in the comments.
The below are highlights of the questions asked:
- Please provide us with the Administration’s legal views and analysis on whether the United States Government can transition the IANA functions to another entity without an Act of Congress.
- Please explain why it is in our national interest to transition the IANA functions to the “global multistakeholder community.”
- Why does the Administration believe now is the appropriate time to begin the transition, and what was the specific circumstance or development that led the Administration to decide to begin the transition now?
- What steps will NTIA take to ensure the process to develop a transition plan for the IANA functions is open and transparent?
- Will NTIA actively participate in the global multistakeholder process to develop a transition plan for the IANA functions, or will the Administration leave the process entirely in the hands of ICANN?
- What specific options are available to NTIA to prevent [a government or inter-governmental solution] from happening?
- How can the Administration guarantee the multistakeholder organization that succeeds NTIA will not subsequently transfer the IANA functions to a government or intergovernmental organization in the future, or that such successor organization will not eventually fall under the undue influence of other governments?
- How did NTIA determine that ICANN is the appropriate entity to lead the transition process, and how will NTIA ensure that ICANN does not inappropriately control or influence the process for its own self-interest?
- Does NTIA believe ICANN currently is sufficiently transparent and accountable in its activities, or should ICANN adopt additional transparency and accountability requirements as part of the IANA transition?
- Is it realistic to expect that an acceptable transition plan can be developed before the IANA functions contract expires on September 30, 2015? Is there another example of a similar global stakeholder transition plan being developed and approved in just 18 months?
- How will NTIA ultimately decide whether a proposed transition plan for IANA, developed by global stakeholders, is acceptable? What factors will NTIA use to determine if such a proposal supports and enhances the multistakeholder model; maintains the security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet Domain Name System; meets the needs and expectation of the global customers and partners of the IANA services; and maintains the openness of the Internet?
- Will NTIA also take into account American values and interests in evaluating a proposed transition plan? How?