With the joint project agreement (JPA) between the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) now expired, a new agreement has been formed to give the non-profit global corporation greater freedom and more community involvement.
The JPA eventually resulted from a long-standing relationship between ICANN and the DOC in which a series of memorandums of understanding (MOUs) were put into place beginning in 1998, which governed how ICANN was run.
ICANN is a corporation whose responsibilities include maintaining the operational stability of the Internet, as well as managing Internet Protocol (IP) address space locations, generic and country code top-level domain name system (DNS) management.
ICANN is governed by a bottom-up, consensus based process, with a Board of Directors that oversee the policy development process. Because it’s structured as a private-public partnership, ICANN is represented by different global Internet communities and various stakeholders in the Internet community.
When ICANN was formed, the eventual objective was to transfer the management of the DNS from the U.S. government to the private sector. The plan was to eventually render ICANN as a completely independent corporation in the private sector.
The JPA between ICANN and the DOC expired at the end of last month and up until that point, no one knew whether or not the agreement would be extended.
Now that the JPA has expired, both ICANN and the DOC have the Affirmation of Commitments agreement in place which allows ICANN to have more independence and oversight and involvement from the Internet community.
Under the new agreement, ICANN is recognized as an international multi-stakeholder, private-sector led organization. The Affirmation of Commitments document also calls for a review panel team to be created. The panel, along with members of ICANN’s advisory committees and individuals from the DOC, will be in charge of reviewing ICANN’s performance and compliance with the agreement every three years.
Theresa Swinehart, vice-president of global and strategic partnerships at ICANN, said the new agreement is good news for ICANN as an organization, and also for the entire Internet community.
“Having reached the conclusion of the JPA and having the Affirmation of Commitments document is an important opportunity for the organization to move forward to demonstrate its multi-stakeholder function and engagement with the community,” Swinehart said. “We’re no longer controlled by or have to report to any one entity because now we have to report to the community overall.”
In a previous interview with CDN , Byron Holland, president and CEO at the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA), said if the DOC were to relinquish all oversight over ICANN, the organization would then be put “at some risk.”
“Organizations and people (would) attempt to rush in and change the balance of power and governance over the Internet,” Holland explained.
Tim Ruiz, vice-president of corporate development and policy at The Go Daddy Group Inc., an Internet domain ICANN-accredited registrar, also suggested in a previous interview, that some sort of review panel should be put into place to help oversee regulations involving ICANN.
Perhaps ICANN listened to comments like this one which is why review panels will soon be formed. Swinehart says the selection process for the review panels have not yet started, but will begin soon. Before any decisions are made, the selection of the members will also be put up for public comment too, she explained.
The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) is one of the world’s five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs), which make up the Number Resource Organization (NRO). Richard Jimmerson, CIO at ARIN, said the RIRs work with ICANN to obtain IP address spaces when they need it.
“ARIN is very happy with the Affirmation of Commitments agreement between ICANN and the DOC,” Jimmerson said. “When the JPA was in place, ICANN’s operations were overseen by the DOC. This new document moves ICANN away from that and levels the playing field for other governments around the world because it opens up the door for them, end-users and organizations like ARIN to have some oversight.”
Bob Parsons, CEO and founder of The Go Daddy Group Inc., is supportive of the Affirmation of Commitments agreement.
“We’re very pleased to see ICANN’s commitment to this new review process which will ensure we maintain the private sector-led bottom-up policy development,” Parsons said. “We’re also encouraged by the positive message this sends to the global Internet community, that international interests are important to ICANN and its community. This is a healthy move for the Internet.”
Swinehart said the Affirmation of Commitments document is designed to be a long-standing agreement between ICANN and the DOC.