U.S. government plans to relinquish key internet stewardship

The U.S. government has announced its intention to divest itself of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions. On March 14, the U.S. Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) declared its intent to transitionthe stewardship of key Internet domain name functions to the global, multistakeholder community.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) was asked by the U.S. government to lead a process for a global multistakeholder community dialogue about what this transition will entail and how it will proceed. ICANN has since launched a process to transition the role of the United States Government relating to the Internet's unique identifiers system, a release on the organisation's website said.

The Internet's unique identifier functions are not apparent to most Internet users, but they play a critical role in maintaining a single, global, unified and interoperable Internet. IANA functions involve the coordination of those unique Internet identifiers. These include allocating Internet Numbers in cooperation with the Regional Internet Registries, administration of the DNS root zone, and coordination of root zone management. The IANA functions are administered by ICANN.

"We are inviting governments, the private sector, civil society, and other Internet organisations from the whole world to join us in developing this transition process," said Fadi Chehadé, ICANN's President and CEO. "All stakeholders deserve a voice in the management and governance of this global resource as equal partners."

The change is significant to the Caribbean community of Internet users.

"It is particularly important that users from the Caribbean take an interest in these developments, understand the mechanisms by which their voices can be heard in the global debate and then step forward as Caribbean nations and as a Caribbean region to make an input to the processes of dialogue and policy development," said Albert H. Daniels, ICANN's Global Stakeholder Engagement Manager for the Caribbean, in a Q&A on regional technology blog ICT Pulse.

ICANN's role as administrator of the Internet's unique identifier system, remains unchanged, the release said.

"Even though ICANN will continue to perform these vital technical functions, the U.S. has long envisioned the day when stewardship over them would be transitioned to the global community," said Dr. Stephen D. Crocker, ICANN's Board Chair. "In other words, we have all long known the destination. Now it is up to our global stakeholder community to determine the best route to get us there."

Secretary General of the International Telecommunications Union, Dr Hamadoun I. Touré issued a statement welcoming the announcement: "I would like to reiterate what I have said many times: the Internet is a global public good and therefore all nations and peoples should have an equal say in its running and development. I commend the US government's announcement about changing oversight arrangements of the management of critical internet resources and I believe this development will lead to improved and productive cooperation between the telecommunications and internet communities."

While the announcement does not affect Internet users and their use of the Internet, all Internet users have a stake in how the Internet is run, and it is therefore important to get involved, an ICANN statement said.

The first community-wide dialogue about the development of the transitional process will begin March 23-27 during ICANN's 49th Public Meeting, in Singapore. ICANN described the process as "consensus-driven, participatory, open, and transparent".

All global stakeholders are welcome to participate in person or remotely. More information on how to participate in the process is available from ICANN here.