The IANA Stewardship Transition happened! What now?

2016-10-04 News

Last Saturday morning, at 5.00 AM CET, something unremarkable happened. A contract expired. However, this unremarkable event triggers a fundamental change in the way the Internet is managed.

Until 30 September 2016, the US Department of Commerce, in particular the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) had a contract with ICANN, the manager of the global Domain Name System (DNS).

Through that contract, it was theoretically possible for the US government to exercise – as the only stakeholder – its authority over the DNS. However, this does not mean that the US controlled the Internet as has been reported by different media.

Nevertheless, the fact that the US government no longer has a unique role to play in the management of the Internet’s unique identifiers will have a strong positive impact on the Internet Governance discussions.

The CENTR community applauds this long-awaited change and wants to express its gratitude to all those that have contributed; in particular, the dedication from the country code top-level domains (ccTLD) community members throughout this process has been unprecedented.

The oversight over the organisation that acts as the registry for the root zone file (IANA) is now passed on to a well-balanced group of stakeholders. That group has set up a system of check and balances that not only ensures the stability and security of the root zone, but that also puts in place escalation mechanisms that will help IANA and its customers to keep on improving services.

For the operators of ccTLDs, two things change: firstly, changes requested by the ccTLD (such as a phone number, an address or a nameserver) are no longer subject to an approval from the US government. That is the only change that is triggered directly by the expiration of the contract. Secondly, and an indirect a consequence of the expiration, ccTLDs now have an escalation mechanism that could help solve any issues that arise in their relationship with IANA. These escalation mechanisms are closely tied in with the structure of the newly created entity to manage the IANA naming function and are supported by the accountability mechanisms that support that new structure.

The CENTR community will discuss the details (including the impact on the automated change request process) at its General Assembly this week in Belgrade.