Quick – what is the means through which ICANN derives its authority to oversee the management of the Domain Name System (DNS), the allocation of IP addresses, and other technical functions of the Internet?
If you said, “the IANA contract,” then congratulations, you guessed correctly.
IANA, or the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, is an entity that oversees the functions mentioned above. Shortly after ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, was created, the U.S. Department of Commerce (DoC) signed a contract with the new organization to administer IANA and its functions. They called it – you guessed it – the IANA contract. Currently, IANA is operated by ICANN.
This contract between ICANN and the DoC has expired and been renewed before. Most recently, it was set to expire on March 31, 2012, but was extended six months to September 30, 2012. In anticipation of the impending expiration, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), a department within the DoC, issued two public notices last year, in February and again in June, requesting input on what changes should be made to the IANA contract to improve the performance of the IANA functions.
Many organizations, including the Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse (CADNA) the non-profit organization that FairWinds helped to found, submitted their input. This response ultimately led the NTIA to add additional requirements to the statement of work for the IANA functions. One of the biggest new requirements was the need for structural separation of policymaking from implementation – something that ICANN, as the organization that develops policy around the DNS and other Internet identifiers, inherently lacks.
In November, the NTIA issued a request for proposal (RFP) for a new IANA functions contract. By the December 19 deadline, four organizations had responded to the request, including ICANN. In a notice released over the weekend, the NTIA pointed out that “The government may cancel any solicitation that does not meet the requirements.” It followed that statement with this one:
“Accordingly, we are cancelling this RFP because we received no proposals that met the requirements requested by the global community. The Department intends to reissue the RFP at a future date to be determined (TBD) so that the requirements of the global Internet community can be served.”
This means that ICANN, the organization that has administered the IANA functions contract since 1998, no longer meets the NTIA’s new requirements.
The NTIA, according to its statement, will reissue the RFP. It remains to be seen whether ICANN will take steps to adjust its organizational structure to better meet the new requirements, or if we will see a brand new entity taking the IANA responsibilities away from the organization.
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