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Internet Governance 10 October 2014

Understanding the IANA Functions

By Konstantinos KomaitisFormer Senior Director, Policy Strategy and Development

“NTIA Announces Intent to Transition Key Internet Domain Name Functions” – this caption has marked much of Internet governance discussions so far in 2014 and it is expected to continue to do so in 2015, at least until the 30th of September, when the IANA contract is set to expire. 

Since 1999, the IANA functions have been contracted to ICANN and have historically included:

  • The coordination of the assignment of technical Internet protocol parameters performed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF);
  • The administration of certain responsibilities associated with Internet DNS root zone management;
  • The allocation of Internet numbering resources to the Regional Internet Registries (RIRs); and,
  • Other services related to the management of the .ARPA and .INT top-level domains. 

For the Internet and its community of users, discussions on the proposed transition of the IANA functions is important because it concerns both the technical stability of the Internet and the accountability to the public for these functions. Because of this, the NTIA has communicated that the transition proposal should have the broad support of the Internet multistakeholder community and must adhere to the following minimum principles:

  • Support and enhance the multistakeholder model;
  • Maintain the security, stability and resiliency of the Internet DNS;
  • Meet the needs and expectation of the global customers and partners of the IANA services; and,
  • Maintain the openness of the Internet. 

In addition, the NTIA made clear that its role should not be replaced by an intergovernmental structure.

It is important to remind ourselves of these criteria. The IANA functions involve a set of technical specifications that allow people to send emails and access websites in a friendly and easy way; they are part of a technical design. Understanding what the IANA functions are is important. And, as part of this process, it is equally important to understand what the NTIA criteria mean.

The Internet Society is contributing to this understanding. Early on in the process, it released a paper that uses everyday examples to explain what the IANA functions are and how they interrelate. Moreover, as an identifiable partner of the IANA services, ISOC has elected Narelle Clark and Demi Getchko as its representatives to the IANA Coordination Group and is in continuous discussions with its chapter and organization members. Finally, initiating a substantive dialogue on the NTIA criteria, the Internet Society has produced a living document on the openness of the Internet; it is planning to do the same for the other criteria. 

As a delegation of staff and members heads to ICANN 51 in LA, the Internet Society maintains that: 

  • The ongoing process for transition stewardship of the IANA by the US government is a process that needs to be focused and result in a timely proposal carried by the broad Internet community.
  • Issues of accountability constitute core elements of the discussions, especially as they relate to and inform the core issue of the IANA transition discussions; and,
  • All interested parties should recognize that the directly affected parties have their own processes for consent, which can be used as case studies that can positively contribute to the discussion. Case in point the IETF.

The Internet Society will continue to deliberate and offer its views on the conformity of the proposals to the NTIA criteria. We will further continue to facilitate a successful IANA transition process with the rest of the Internet community. 

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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