auDA report on ICANN 49

Posted by auDA on 3 April 2014

1. ICANN 49 dominated by transition of IANA oversight discussions

ICANN 49 may have been the first ICANN meeting held since almost 200 new gTLD strings had been delegated, but it was the NTIA’s news of the transition of IANA oversight that captured the ICANN community’s attention. ICANN CEO, Fadi Chehadé and the NTIA’s Larry Strickling toured the various ICANN community groups throughout the week to answer questions and to gracefully respond to any criticism and conspiracy theories thrown their way. More technically minded members of the community repeatedly stated a preference for a more low key approach to the IANA transition, pointing out that it was only the political oversight of IANA that was being changed and that under the NTIA’s current oversight of IANA, there had never been any meddling in the IANA’s purely technical functions. Those with a focus on the political dimensions of Internet governance, however, preferred to discuss the oversight transition as an integral part of a larger shift in Internet governance – one that would include the need for change at ICANN itself. At the NonCommercial Users Constituency (NCUC) conference on Friday 21 March, the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) preparatory meeting on Sunday 23 March and the community-wide IANA Accountability Transition session on Monday 24 March, there was a clear message from both Chehadé and Strickling that the IANA oversight transition was separate from ICANN accountability issues and that IANA would not be discussed at NETmundial at the end of April. Pushback by the community, however, resulted in a softening of their positions by the end of the week, with there being public acknowledgement that there was a relationship between ICANN accountability and the IANA transition and that there was clearly community interest in discussing IANA at NETmundial.

Stakeholder groups within ICANN began discussing their own views on the IANA transition during ICANN 49 and will continue discussions within their own communities between ICANN meetings. The Country Code Names Supporting Organisation (ccNSO), which does not include all ccTLD operators, has stated that it will actively conduct outreach to ccTLDs outside the ccNSO to engage them in the IANA oversight discussions. As the appointed facilitator of the IANA transition process, ICANN is encouraging each of the “affected parties”[1] to begin their own processes to define what any new oversight mechanism should include in order to continue to meet their own needs for interaction with IANA. Given many of the “affected parties” may not have meeting schedules that allow for timely onsite discussions amongst their communities, ICANN is also investigating region-wide engagement activities through events such as regional IGFs and Network Operator Group meetings.

While many ICANN 49 participants wanted to jump straight into discussing what the final oversight mechanism should look like, ICANN staff are encouraging the community to first consider how the process for discussing the oversight mechanism should look. For example, to ensure that all views are considered on an equal basis, there may need to be principles of equity and inclusion. Discussions after ICANN 49 will therefore first focus on getting community agreement on what processes should used to engage the community and guide the dialogue towards developing a consensus solution. Note that this involves not just ICANN community agreement, but wider agreement amongst all stakeholders with an interest, whether political or technical, in IANA oversight. While the strong focus on process may seem bureaucratic, given the highly political nature of discussions around IANA, if agreed processes are not put in place, there is the risk that some stakeholders may try to capture the process, or may be accused of trying to capture the process, destabilizing the legitimacy of any solution that reaches consensus during the process. When the community has reached agreement on the process, then the more substantial work of developing a future model of IANA oversight can begin.

2. Internet governance discussions

Internet governance discussions tended to circle back to the IANA oversight issue, often held up as a beacon of hope (“Let’s show how multistakeholderism can solve real issues”) or as a potential warning about the perils of multistakeholderism (“How can a global committee oversee IANA when it would be accountable to nobody?”).

NETmundial was discussed both in the NCUC event on Friday and the Cross-Constituency Working Group on Internet Governance (CCWG-IG) public session on Monday, as well as in various other stakeholder-specific groups, including the GAC. Key information that emerged on NETmundial during the week:

  • To ensure maximum transparency, organisers want outcome texts to be negotiated in main plenary, with no parallel drafting working groups. This doesn’t rule out informal discussions out of plenary to resolve any particularly difficult areas that can’t be solved in plenary.

  • Organisers have been identified a number of key Internet governance players who did not apply to attend NETmundial. These players are being directly invited to attend NETmundial. This news has upset many of those who applied to attend NETmundial, but have not been given a seat at the meeting. 

  • NETmundial organisers hope to have draft discussion versions of the proposed outcome documents available within the first two weeks of April.

  • Organisers have not yet decided whether to allow additional submissions in response to the draft outcome documents or to limit responses to interventions from the floor (or remote participation room) of the two-day meeting in April.

The CCWG-IG session demonstrated how difficult it is for a wide range of stakeholders to reach agreement on topics in a short period of time. The CCWG-IG developed a brief submission for NETmundial, but due to the short time available, had to write the submission at a high level, with broad statements supporting the multistakeholder model used at ICANN. The ICANN community, usually better known for its passionate debates on topics, was surprisingly understanding about the difficulties faced by the CCWG-IG, and very gentle in providing critiques of the NETmundial submission. It is worth noting that the problems faced by the CCWG-IG will be mirrored at the NETmundial meeting itself, where up to 800 people in a room will be attempting to use consensus to develop Internet governance principles and a roadmap for the future in only two days.

As often happens, some members of the ICANN community questioned whether or not it was appropriate for ICANN and the ICANN community to be engaging in Internet governance discussions outside ICANN’s defined scope of names and numbers. As Internet governance discussions continue to crop up in more and more places in the lead-up to the 10th anniversary of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) next year, this is a criticism that is being seen in venues outside ICANN as well. For example, there has been a robust debate on the APNIC-talk mailing list during March about whether the APNIC Secretariat is exceeding its remit by participating in external Internet governance activities not directly related to APNIC’s core Internet number management functions. When organisations like ICANN, APNIC, the Internet Society and others participate in Internet governance discussions, there is often an inference that their statements represent their communities’ values and positions. As costs involved in participating in the myriad of Internet governance discussions rises, however, there is the risk that more community members may begin to question the value of secretariats speaking for whole communities. This may particularly be the case when a secretariat’s statements in Internet governance forums have not been preceded by clear community agreement to engage in such discussions and to develop consensus positions for the organisation’s secretariat to represent. The ongoing criticism by a few vocal members at ICANN and the recent debate at APNIC may indicate a need for more dialogue between the secretariats and boards of Internet organisations and the communities they serve—and now also represent in wider Internet governance discussions.

3. Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC)

One new member from the Asia Pacific has joined the GAC since ICANN 48: the Solomon Islands.

Transition of IANA oversight to the global community

Most members of the GAC welcomed the news of the transition of IANA’s oversight from NTIA to some form of global oversight. China stated it was “willing to work with all parties, all countries” on the IANA transition and “engage in the relevant international discussion”.  “Relevant international discussion” could be China’s diplomatic way of saying it still prefers to pursue its Internet goals in intergovernmental forums such as the ITU and the United Nations General Assembly. India said, “efforts to frame a transition proposal are an initial move towards addressing only one aspect of internet governance”, indicating that it still believes that the wider Internet governance system needs overhauling and that IANA’s oversight is not a core issue.[2] Brazil clearly stated that it believed IANA was the perfect issue to discuss at NETmundial.

New gTLD issues

The GAC’s latest Communiqué continues to include unclear “advice” on .ram and .indians. The advice merely “recognises” that religious strings are a sensitive issue and “notes” that India requests that the applications not be proceeded with. In contrast, the advice on .wine and .vin urges the Board to reconsider its decision to let the applications proceed, explaining that the GAC needs more time to discuss the issue. However, based on the long-running division between GAC members on whether or not to protect geographic indications (which is the issue at the heart of the .wine debate), it is not clear that the GAC could ever reach consensus on the issue.

Brand name TLDs wishing to use country names and country codes at the 2nd level domain

Given many States are not members of the GAC, the GAC decided it had no collective authority to make decisions as a group on brand name TLDs wishing to use country names. Instead, brand name TLDs should contact the governments of countries directly. Brand name TLDs are welcome to request the assistance of GAC representatives of those countries. The GAC has also asked ICANN to consider establishing a register of countries that do not require individual requests to be made, but are happy for any brand name TLD to use their country name or code at the second level.[3]

High Level GAC Meeting at ICANN 50 in London

The GAC agreed to convene its second High Level Meeting in London on 23 June 2014. The meeting will discuss:

  • ICANN’s role in the evolving Internet ecosystem

  • Enhancing the role of governments in the ICANN model

  • The future role of the GAC

Given similar discussions about the role of governments in Internet governance are currently taking place in intergovernmental forums,[4] the outcomes of the High Level GAC meeting should be followed closely. Funding is already available for GAC members from developing countries to attend ICANN and GAC meetings. To assist Ministers and their staff from developing countries attend the High Level Meeting, in its ICANN 49 Communiqué, the GAC has asked ICANN to make additional funds available for ICANN 50.

4. Other ICANN 49 highlights

ICANN Engagement with Asia Pacific

During the poorly attended Asia Pacific engagement session on Thursday 27 March, it was reported that the new ICANN Singapore hub had increased ICANN’s presence in the region from two staff a year ago to 14 staff now. The Oceania-ICANN Engagement Working Group established after ICANN 47 now has 14 members from across the region, including Cheryl Langdon-Orr, Paul Szyndler, and Yasmin Omer from Australia, and reported during the Asia Pacific engagement session that it is working to increase participation from Oceania in ICANN processes.

Data retention requirements in the 2013 version of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA) are still causing concern

GAC members from Europe and registrars raised this issue throughout the meeting. ICANN Board Member, Kuo-Wei Wu, also noted that the data retention requirements conflicted with data privacy laws within the Asia Pacific region. Chehadé explained that ICANN had always been aware of the conflict and had built in a waiver option for registrars located in jurisdictions with privacy laws that conflicted with the RAA data retention requirements. Akram Atallah President, Global Domains Division, however, reported that use of the waiver will be a last resort, and that ICANN would first attempt to use other ways to resolve such jurisdictional conflicts.

Managing name collision risks

Efforts to reduce the risk of domain name strings potentially colliding with use of the same strings in non-DNS or private DNS environments has resulted in a Draft Name Collision Occurrence Management Framework, open for public comment until 21 April 2014. At ICANN 49, a number of new gTLD applicants were strongly critical of the strings included in the second-level-domain-name (SLD) block list, stating that a large number of them had nothing to do with being a security risk.

Reports of the Strategy Panels

The reports of the four ICANN Strategy Panels[5] were bold efforts by leaders in their fields to reframe and re-energise a number of activities close to the ICANN community’s heart. However, they met with some criticism by the community, who felt that the efforts were too top-down and esoteric for implementation. There was also criticism from the business community that the Strategy Panels had spent ICANN budget on issues outside the core business focus of ICANN and that there was no point sending the reports out for public comment if there was no intention to revise the reports based on community feedback. Ultimately, however, the aim of the Strategy Panels was to inform the ICANN strategic planning process (2016-2020). The Panels’ success or otherwise will become apparent when the Draft Strategic Plan is released for public comment during April.

5. Key ICANN 49 takeaways for Australian stakeholders

1. Help shape ICANN’s strategy for the Asia Pacific and Oceania

Australians have the opportunity to help influence the strategic direction of ICANN’s new Asia Pacific hub located in Singapore. In particular, Australia can help ensure that ICANN’s Oceania focus more fully engages the Pacific region, which currently has little participation in Internet governance issues. The engagement of the Pacific region is particularly important in the context of intergovernmental forums (ITU, UN, etc.), where each country has one vote. As a block, the Pacific region has significant voting power to exercise, but to date has often not engaged in Internet-related decision-making at the intergovernmental level.

ICANN is not the centre of Internet governance discussions, but it does provide one of the most easily accessible ways into the Internet governance ecosystem. The ICANN fellowship system in place enables both members of the community and GAC representatives from developing countries to attend ICANN meetings and meet a wide variety of participants who also participate in other Internet governance spheres. If Australian can help ensure ICANN’s regional strategy better suit the needs of stakeholders in the Asia Pacific, and more specifically in Oceania, it should encourage deeper regional engagement in broader Internet governance issues in both other multistakeholder forums—such as Internet Society chapters and the Internet Governance Forum—as well as in intergovernmental forums such as the ITU.

2. Participate in discussions about the transition of IANA oversight… and encourage non-ICANN community members to do the same

NTIA announcement’s on the IANA oversight transition states that any proposed replacement mechanism must demonstrate that it has broad community support and can meet the needs and expectations of the global customers and partners of the IANA services. To achieve this, it is vital that there be wide participation in the process, and that as many non-ICANN community stakeholders be involved as possible. Dialogue will take place not only within ICANN processes, but also through other avenues such as local IGFs, Internet Society chapters, ccTLD and RIR discussions. IANA-related discussions are also likely to turn up in intergovernmental forums, making it equally important to share Australian stakeholders’ views with Department of Communications and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials who represent the Australian government in intergovernmental forums.

6. Important upcoming events and deadlines

TBA April

ICANN draft strategic plan open for public comment

Keep an eye on the ICANN Public Comments - Open web page for the announcement.

7 April

ICANN to publish a summary of ICANN 49 discussions on IANA oversight transition

Wider engagement with stakeholders outside ICANN will follow.

9 April

Deadline for submission of workshop proposals for APrIGF 2014

See the call for proposals.

15 April

Deadline for submissions of workshop proposals for IGF 2014

See the call for proposals.

23-24 April

NETmundial, the Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance, Sao Paolo, Brazil

For those who won’t be attending in person, there will be remote participation options available. Details will be made available closer to the event.

9 May

Deadline for applications to become an auIGF 2014 Ambassador

22-26 June

ICANN 50, London, England

As well as ongoing discussions about the transition of the IANA oversight function throughout the week, there will be the High Level GAC Meeting on 23 June.

3-6 August

APriGF, Delhi, India

26-27 August

auIGF, Melbourne, Australia


[1] “Affected parties” are the direct clients of IANA’s daily functions and include the ccTLDs, gTLDs, RIRs and the IETF.

[2] For example, in India’s submission to NETmundial, it states that, “Given the pace of ICT development and the scope of the threat, States need to enhance common understandings and intensify practical cooperation through regular institutional dialogue with broad participation under auspices of the United Nations, as well as regular dialogue through bilateral, regional and multilateral fora, and other international organizations.”

[3] New Zealand was the original proposer of the register concept in Buenos Aires, where it wasn’t picked up by the GAC. When New Zealand reminded the GAC of its suggestion in Singapore, however, it was received far more enthusiastically.