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[council] Strickling affirms ICANN accountability comes before IANA transition

  • To: council@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: [council] Strickling affirms ICANN accountability comes before IANA transition
  • From: john@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 23 Jul 2014 12:36:47 -0700
  • List-id: council@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Sender: owner-council@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
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As we begin to prep for tomorrow;s Council meeting, even though accountability 
is not specifically on the agenda, remarks made Secretary Strickling makes it 
clear we can have no discussion of IANA transition without first handling 
accountability.  For your reading pleasure,

Also this spring, in response to community discussions at its Singapore 
meeting, ICANN announced a separate process to address ways to improve its 
overall accountability.  Specifically, this process will examine how ICANN can 
strengthen its accountability mechanisms to address the absence of its 
historical contractual relationship with NTIA.  This important accountability 
issue will and should be addressed before any transition takes place.
Full text:
Keynote Address by Assistant Secretary Strickling at the American Enterprise 
 Keynote Address by Lawrence E. Strickling
 Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information
 “Who governs the Internet? A conversation on securing the multistakeholder 
 American Enterprise Institute
 Washington, D.C.
 July 22, 2014
 --As Prepared for Delivery--
 I want to thank the American Enterprise Institute, and in particular, Jeff 
Eisenach and Shane Tews, for inviting me to address this group today on the 
important issue of Internet governance.  In particular, I want to focus on what 
has been happening in response to the National Telecommunications and 
Information Administration's (NTIA) announcement [3] in March that we intend to 
transition our stewardship role with respect to the Internet domain name system 
 At the outset, I want to put your minds at ease.  Contrary to some initial 
concerns that we were giving away the Internet, the response from the global 
Internet community has been overwhelmingly supportive.  The community has 
organized a multistakeholder process to determine what will happen once the 
United States government steps out of its current limited role.  The 
discussions to date demonstrate that the community is taking this transition 
very seriously and is determined to develop a transition plan that will ensure 
that the Internet DNS continues to support a growing and innovative Internet. 
 However, before I get into the details, let me start by setting the stage.  
What is NTIA's role today with respect to the domain name system?  And what is 
 This transition is the last step in a process that started 16 years ago when 
the U.S. government committed to allowing the private sector to take leadership 
for domain name system management.  In 1998, the Department of Commerce 
designated [4] the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) 
to perform what are known as the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority or IANA 
functions. These include assigning Internet protocol, or “IP,” numbers to 
regional registries who then assign them to Internet service providers. Another 
function is the maintenance and updating of the root zone file for top-level 
domain names-the so-called address book for the Internet that is necessary for 
the routing of Internet communications. 
 In March, we asked ICANN to convene global stakeholders to develop a proposal 
to transition the current role played by my agency in the coordination of the 
domain name system. Our role is largely procedural in that NTIA verifies that 
ICANN followed its policies and procedures in processing domain name change 
requests.  Then we pass that request on to Verisign, which implements those 
changes in the root zone file.  We have no operational role and we do not 
initiate any changes to the root zone file, to the assignment of IP numbers, or 
the allocation of Internet numbering resources. 
 In making our announcement, we communicated a number of conditions that must 
apply to the transition.  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.
 This announcement does not change anything about how the domain name system 
operates today.  Before any transition takes place, the businesses, civil 
society and technical experts of the global Internet community must present a 
consensus plan that ensures the uninterrupted and stable functioning of the 
Internet and its present openness.  We have not set a deadline for this action. 
 While the current contract [5] with ICANN expires in September 2015, we have 
repeatedly noted that we can extend the contract for up to four years if the 
Internet community needs more time to develop a proposal that meets the 
criteria we have outlined.  In the meantime, our current role will not change.
 Since our announcement, ICANN - working with other Internet organizations such 
as the Internet Engineering Task Force, the Internet Architecture Board, the 
Internet Society, and the Regional Internet Registries - has laid out a process 
for developing the plan based on consultations with stakeholders, which began 
in Singapore in March.  Acting as a facilitator, ICANN earlier this month 
announced the formation of a coordination group of around 30 individuals 
representing 13 different Internet communities that will help develop a 
transition proposal.  The group held its first meeting last week in London.
 The group appears to be off to a good start.  It has developed a proposed 
charter for comment that affirms that it “will conduct itself transparently, 
consult with a broad range of stakeholders, and ensure that its proposals 
support the security and stability of the IANA functions.”  I am confident that 
by working out these important issues, this process will strengthen the 
multistakeholder process and will result in ICANN becoming even more directly 
accountable to the customers of the IANA functions and to the broader Internet 
 Also this spring, in response to community discussions at its Singapore 
meeting, ICANN announced a separate process to address ways to improve its 
overall accountability.  Specifically, this process will examine how ICANN can 
strengthen its accountability mechanisms to address the absence of its 
historical contractual relationship with NTIA.  This important accountability 
issue will and should be addressed before any transition takes place.
 We will monitor the progress of both of these work efforts closely and 
carefully.  We remain steadfast in our commitment to preserve and protect the 
vibrant, free-flowing Internet. We will ensure that the plan submitted to us 
from the community satisfies our conditions and has been stress-tested to 
ensure that it can deal with whatever contingencies arise in the future. 
 As anyone paying attention to Internet governance issues knows, our 
announcement created a lot of discussion and a little bit of controversy.  But 
overall, the international community has applauded the move as it demonstrates 
in a concrete way the commitment of the United States to the multistakeholder 
model of Internet governance.  But here in the United States, some have argued, 
if it is not broke, do not fix it.  However, let me explain why this is the 
right move at the right time.
 First, as ICANN has performed the IANA functions over the years, it has 
matured as an organization and has taken important steps to improve its 
accountability and transparency as well as its technical competence.  Second, 
as witnessed so strongly in the past several months, international support has 
continued to grow for the multistakeholder model of Internet governance.  And 
as a result, many of the Internet's key stakeholders, including Internet firms 
like Google; communications providers like AT&T and Cisco; and civil society 
groups such as Human Rights Watch and Public Knowledge support this transition 
as the right course, at the right time.
 Now I understand that these issues are complex and that any change, even one 
as planned and as evolutionary as this one, raises questions that need to be 
answered.  We welcome a full and open debate on the transition but at the same 
time, we should base that discussion on facts, not on myths or ideologies.
 For example, there is a persistent notion that the United States currently 
controls the Internet.  That is simply not true.  The Internet has been, and 
will continue to be, a decentralized network of networks that relies on 
cooperation and coordination of many stakeholders for its efficient function.  
It works today, and it will work after the transition, because the stakeholders 
are committed to making it work, not because of the IANA functions contract 
between the United States and ICANN.
 Some critics have argued that NTIA is proposing to give away United States 
“property” as if we were proposing that the United States give Alaska back to 
Russia.  We do not own the domain name system and we cannot give away what we 
do not own.  Instead, our contract with ICANN simply designates it to perform 
the IANA functions.  Neither ICANN nor the United States pays anything to each 
other under this contract.  Now that ICANN has demonstrated its ability to 
perform these functions with the support of the community, there is no longer a 
need for the United States to designate ICANN to perform these functions and we 
are not obligated to maintain a contract when it is no longer needed.
 Another misconception about this transition is that our announcement has 
emboldened authoritarian governments like Russia to attempt to exert greater 
influence over Internet policy.  To the contrary, our announcement arguably has 
had the effect of reducing Russia's influence in the rest of the world for 
greater government control over the Internet. 
 It is a historical fact that Russia has long argued for more governmental 
control of the Internet.  This is nothing new.  It is simply not the case that 
Russia started to argue for greater governmental control only after our 
announcement.  It has consistently done so for years.  What is new is that 
other countries are rejecting Russia's arguments and demonstrating support for 
the multistakeholder model. 
 This was on full display in April when businesses, public interest groups, 
technical experts and governments met in Brazil for the NetMundial conference 
on Internet governance. The conference gave all stakeholders the opportunity to 
participate in a discussion about the future of Internet governance. Those 
parties came together in two days and agreed that Internet governance should be 
built on democratic multistakeholder processes that ensure “meaningful and 
accountable participation of all stakeholders, including governments, the 
private sector, civil society, the technical community, the academic community 
and users.”
 Now as reported in the press, Russia spoke out against the NetMundial 
consensus.  What was not as fully reported was the fact that only one other 
government, Cuba, joined it in open opposition to the outcomes statement 
endorsed by the NetMundial participants.
 We firmly believe that our announcement will help prevent any government or 
group of governments to take over the domain name system.  Our continued 
stewardship of the IANA functions has been a source of friction and used as an 
excuse by Russia and others to push for organizations like the International 
Telecommunication Union to take over the IANA functions.  Our announcement 
takes that argument off the table, and affirms the role of the global Internet 
community, which is committed to a truly inclusive multistakeholder process for 
Internet governance.
 Leading human rights groups agree.  In a letter to Congress earlier this year, 
the Center for Democracy and Technology, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch and 
others said that the transition “could help thwart government overreach in 
Internet governance, which would have devastating implications for human rights 
 Another misconception about our announcement is that some countries have used 
it as an excuse to clamp down on Internet access in their own countries.  
Nothing about our role with the IANA functions can prevent countries from 
censoring and restricting access to the Internet within their own borders.  
Efforts by Russia and others to limit access within their own country to 
information online and offline began long before our announcement.  As the 
Freedom House noted in its 2013 Internet Freedom report, “Blocking access to 
information on entire websites, IP addresses, and particular webpages has 
become the most common means in Russia to restrict user activity on the 
 While countries like Russia might want to export this approach worldwide, the 
Internet's decentralized and cooperative nature would never allow it to happen. 
 Harvard Law Professor Jonathan Zittrain, an expert in the intersection of 
policy and technology, summed it up best in the New Republic earlier this year. 
 He wrote, “Any attempt to impose broad-based censorship through domain name 
assignments would be met with stiff resistance by the operators of domain name 
registries, and ultimately by the Internet Service Providers who choose to 
consult those registries for information about what destination each name 
 Such a move would be strongly resisted by the United States government as 
well.  Because while we seek to transition out of our limited, largely 
clerical, role with the IANA functions, we are not walking away from ICANN or 
exiting from the debate over Internet governance. We will continue to be vocal 
and active players in all Internet governance forums including ICANN.
 Like other governments, the United States is active in ICANN's Governmental 
Advisory Committee (GAC).  We have been and will continue to be vigorous 
advocates within the GAC for policies that promote the openness and freedom of 
the Internet. As one group of stakeholders in the ICANN process, governments 
have unique power to speak to the public interest when they speak as one based 
on consensus positions.  I want to emphasize this point.  The Internet does not 
respect national boundaries.  No one country, no two countries, no ten 
countries can claim to speak on behalf of the public interest.  This fact is 
reflected in the ICANN bylaws in which governments can provide advice on public 
policy matters to the board.  However, such advice only has true power when it 
is presented as the consensus advice of governments; in other words, when it 
reflects a global view and not just the parochial view of a handful of 
 In that context, the idea that governments could enhance their influence 
within ICANN by changing its rules to allow for a majority vote on policy 
issues reflects a misunderstanding of the policymaking process at ICANN as well 
as a misunderstanding of the meaning of the word consensus.
 The United States would strongly oppose any such move and indeed, any effort 
by governments to eliminate the requirement of consensus will simply weaken the 
role of governments within ICANN.  Ultimately, ICANN's multistakeholder process 
makes it impossible for any one group to dominate the discussions or impose its 
will.  That is the beauty of the multistakeholder process and why it has 
enabled the Internet to grow and flourish.
 Domestically, there has been strong support for the multistakeholder approach. 
 Both chambers of Congress voted unanimously in 2012 to “preserve and advance 
the multistakeholder governance model under which the Internet has thrived.”  
Now I understand that some lawmakers have concerns about the IANA transition 
and its potential impact on Internet freedom and openness.  I respect those 
opinions but strongly believe Congressional efforts aimed at delaying this 
transition would send the wrong message to the rest of the world about our 
commitment to the multistakeholder approach to Internet governance.
 The unified message has traditionally been a bulwark against regulatory 
efforts by foreign authoritarian regimes.  It is important that we continue 
echoing that message and do everything we can to support the multistakeholder 
approach as the best model for promoting a free and open Internet across the 
 The multistakeholder model allows anyone the opportunity to participate and be 
heard.  That includes all of you in this room today.  So I urge all of you to 
show your support for the transition process by participating in it. We have 
made it crystal clear that the plan should be developed in an open and 
transparent manner.  Now, there will be coordination out of necessity, and I 
referred earlier to the coordination group that will do just that.  But anyone 
can provide input into the process.  I encourage you to do so. 
 Second, I urge you to continue to demonstrate your support for the 
multistakeholder model of Internet governance.  As with any consensus-based 
organization, one will not always be able to get everything one wants. But that 
is a hallmark of the process.  It is not a sign of failure of the process.
 And finally, continue to work with all of the stakeholders at ICANN to improve 
the accountability and transparency of the organization.  I have made that 
commitment by personally participating in the two prior Accountability and 
Transparency Review teams, and I encourage all of you to contribute to the 
accountability review as it gets organized this summer.  
 Thank you for listening.

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