01 May 15

Towards the IANA functions transition

Early last year, the US government’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) made an historic announcement: it intends to cease its role as the oversight body for the Internet naming and numbering functions managed by IANA. But making history can take a lot of time and effort, and the task of replacing NTIA’s role is complex and politically sensitive.

So what has happened so far and what remains to be done to ensure a smooth, orderly transition?

As we reported in an earlier Netnod News Magazine article, the issue at stake is that of the NTIA’s stewardship role over the IANA functions, not the IANA functions themselves. Affirming the value and legitimacy of the Internet’s multistakeholder development model, the NTIA specifically tasked ICANN to coordinate a process in which interested stakeholders develop a transition proposal. 

In response, ICANN formed the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (ICG) to coordinate proposals from the three stakeholder groupings responsible for the three main IANA functions, numbering, protocol parameters, and domain names. The ICG held its first meeting during the London ICANN meeting in July 2014.

With the current IANA contract set to expire in September this year, the ICG was set an aggressive timeline (see sidebar), including community development of proposals by 15 January 2015. So the various communities quickly got to work.

Protocol parameters
The IETF took on this task, forming the IANAPLAN Working Group (IANAPLAN WG), which followed normal IETF processes and produced a proposal ahead of the deadline.

IANAPLAN website: http://www.ietf.org/iana-transition.html 

Proposal: http://tools.ietf.org/html/draft-ietf-ianaplan-icg-response-09 

Numbering
The Consolidated RIR IANA Stewardship Proposal (CRISP) Team was formed to develop a proposal for the numbering function. The process started with discussions in each of the five RIR communities, which informed the regular CRISP Team meetings, culminating in a proposal delivered on time.

CRISP Team website: https://www.nro.net/crisp-team 

Proposal: https://www.nro.net/wp-content/uploads/ICG-RFP-Number-Resource-Proposal.pdf 

Names
The names community, coordinated by the GNSO and ccNSO, formed the expansively titled Cross Community Working Group to Develop an IANA Stewardship Transition Proposal on Naming Related Functions (CWG). The work on the naming proposal has, unsurprisingly, proved more complicated than that for the other functions. Within the CWG multiple subgroups (called Design Teams) have formed and, late in 2014, the names community spawned a new group, the Cross Community Working Group on Enhancing ICANN Accountability (CCWG-Accountability), chartered to “deliver proposals that would enhance ICANN’s accountability towards all stakeholders” in the absence of an NTIA-ICANN contract. By the time of writing, the names community had not yet submitted a proposal. It has, however, set itself a revised timeline aiming for a 2nd draft proposal on 22 April and a final proposal by June.

CWG website: https://community.icann.org/x/37fhAg

Public consultation document: https://www.icann.org/en/system/files/files/cwg-naming-transition-01dec14-en.pdf 

What has been proposed so far?

Protocol parameters
Under the IETF’s rather minimal protocol parameters proposal, relatively little would change. This reflects the uncontroversial – indeed uneventful – history of protocol parameter registration functions. The proposal does seek assurances about preserving the integrity and public domain nature of the registry in the event of any future transition away from ICANN. But otherwise, it states that “no new organizations or structures are required” and reaffirms the existing framework of protocol parameter functions and the oversight role of the IAB.

Numbering
At the core of the CRISP Team proposal, the NTIA’s contractual accountability role would be taken over by the RIRs, who would be informed by community advice from a review committee. The main components of the proposal are:

• IANA function stability and reliability – ICANN to continue as the IANA Numbering Services Operator; orderly transition to another operator if need arises.

• RIRs (as representatives of RIR communities) to replace NTIA’s role – RIRs to establish a service level agreement with the IANA Numbering Services Operator.

• Review Committee – Reviews performance of IANA Numbering Services and advises the RIRs; provides community perspective; representative of each RIR, members selected by RIRs’ bottom-up processes.

• Clarify IPR-related issues – Intellectual property rights related to IANA services stay with the community.

The 52nd ICANN meeting, held in Singapore in February, heard reports from all communities on their progress. Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling has since published an article praising the efforts so far, but reminding stakeholders of the need to keep their efforts synchronised. In this process, once all of the separate proposals are complete, the ICG will still have the task of coordinating broad community support for a single, consolidated proposal to be submitted to the NTIA.

“We will only consider a coordinated and complete transition plan,” writes Strickling.

Apart from achieving a consolidated proposal, it will also be necessary to stress test the proposal to demonstrate that it can work.

If all of this raises doubt that the NTIA will have anything to review before the IANA functions contract expires, then Strickling does give some hope, noting that quality will be more important than timeliness.

“While September 2015 has been a target date … we have the flexibility to extend the contract if the community needs more time to develop the best plan possible,”he writes.

However, the further this process stretches into the next US election cycle (which has already begun), the greater the risk of this essentially administrative issue being politicised and brandished as a vital issue of national sovereignty. 

On 25 February, Strickling testified before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, explaining in very careful language the background to and status of the transition process. The activities of this committee could be well worth observing in coming months.

On 17 April, Netnod publicly re-affirmed its commitment to operate DNS root name server I-root in a stable manner, independent of any future changes to the IANA stewardship. Netnod assured the Internet community that our commitment to providing this service and to coordinating appropriately with ICANN and the other root server operators, remains and will not be affected by the outcome of these discussions.

Netnod re-affirms commitment to operate I-root.

“Netnod has assured the Internet community that our commitment to providing the i.root-servers.net service in a stable manner remains, independent of any future changes to the IANA stewardship.”

What is left to do?

As noted above, we must now wait for the CWG and the CCWG-Accountability to complete their tasks before work can begin to consolidate the proposals and achieve broad community support.

In the meantime, other work is ongoing to communicate details of the proposals and process to the various stakeholder communities. The ICG has worked with the IETF and the numbers communities to clarify some aspects of their proposals and ensure there were no conflicts between the two on the subject of intellectual property rights. And to ensure timely coordination of upcoming issues, the CRISP Team recently wrote to the CWG asking that group to “communicate directly to the Chair and Vice-Chair of the CRISP team, regarding any proposals or developments that might affect the numbers community in advance, and not wait for the final submission to the ICG”.

The next ICANN meeting will be held in June in Buenos Aires, where the transition process will be one of the major issues. 

Read more

IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (ICG) website: http://www.ianacg.org 

Larry Strickling, “Stakeholders Continue Historic Work on Internet DNS Transition at ICANN Singapore Meeting”: http://www.ntia.doc.gov/blog/2015/stakeholders-continue-historic-work-internet-dns-transition-icann-singapore-meeting 

Testimony of Assistant Secretary Strickling before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on “Preserving the Multistakeholder Model of Internet Governance”: http://www.ntia.doc.gov/speechtestimony/2015/testimony-assistant-secretary-strickling-senate-committee-commerce-science-and-