Sunday, October 01, 2006

New US Government (NTIA) ICANN agreement

When it comes to the Internet, the US government is much like most other governments, our own included. My point is that they all have resource and expertise constraints - or limitations - which ultimately effects the decisions that they make. Why am I thinking this? read on....

Yesterday the National Telecommunications and Information Administration component of the US department of Commerce (DOC), published the new agreement between the US government and ICANN. Keep in mind that it was less than a year ago that they announced - prior to the World Summit on Information Society II - that they will continue to control the DNS and this was effectively not up for negotiation at WSIS.

That lead to their current renewal of the contract with ICANN, something expected after it was really legitimised by WSIS. The latest NTIA announcement follows a general trend towards accountability frameworks which makes some sense, if not for any other reason than it's a logical extension of Internet society and the IETF process of standards development. So all in all it's not a surprise, it's good news for Internet society.

You can see from Veni's blog entry that it's after a great deal of hard work from ICANN, and in addition to the CEO and staff I must especially mention the ICANN board, made up of more than a dozen global volunteers. Congratulations to them all, and I draw your attention to the ICANN announcement where Paul Twomey is quoted:

The major gains in this new agreement are:
- ICANN will no longer have its work prescribed for it. How it works and what it works on is up to ICANN and its community to devise;
- ICANN is not required to report every 6 months as it has been under the MOU. It will now provide an annual report that will be targeted to the whole Internet community;
- There is no requirement to report regularly to the DOC. The DOC will simply meet with senior ICANN staff from time to time.

A minor semantic point niggles me, ICANN's responsibility for technical co-ordination expands beyond the DNS, so why did they phrase it as such:

The U.S. Department of Commerce (Department) has an agreement (the Joint Project Agreement) with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for the purpose of the joint development of the mechanisms, methods, and procedures necessary to effect the transition of Internet domain name and addressing system (DNS) to the private sector.

The addressing system is not the DNS, so my suggestion to the NTIA author, is to move the (DNS) to immediately follow domain name, or is the mash up some political method of including the RIR's?

I must also mention Susan Crawfords blog post "ICANN and the DOC", which to my surprise looks at this from a whois perspective. The groundswell of people who think that ownership of a domain should not neccesarily be accessible seems to be growing. I'm concerned about it as to me this is an essential part of the DNS, keeps things transparent and does not remove the opportunity for registrars to offer privacy services. IMHO, loss of the whois could be a big blow to the whole industry.


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