Elon University

Plenary Panel – ICANN and the Internet Assigned Names and Numbers Authority Transition: What’s Next and What’s at Stake?

IGF USA LogoBrief session description:

Thursday, July 14, 2016 – The last phase of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) transition from the U.S. Department of Commerce to the global auspices of ICANN is taking place now. This panel was set up to summarize steps to date, to examine the next steps and to tackle questions and concerns that have persisted throughout global efforts toward making the transition. It became a debate over the transition. This page carries a print news account and video highlights. You can watch the full archived video of the NTIA statement followed by this full panel session on this page, beginning at 16:50.

Details of the session:

The session was moderated by Shane Tews, consultant at Vrge and visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute’s Center for Internet Communications and Technology Policy. Panelists included:

  • Gordon Goldstein, managing director and head of external affairs, Silver Lake Group
  • John Kneuer, president and founder of JKC consulting; senior partner, Fairfax Media Partners
  • Kristian Stout, associate director for innovation policy, International Center for Law and Economics
  • Steve DelBianco, executive director, NetChoice
  • Berin Szoka, president, TechFreedom
  • Jonathan Zuck, president, ACT | The App Association

Following NTIA administrator Larry Strickling’s official statement in support of the IANA transition, a heated 35-minute discussion about the role of the federal government and potential future threats under a multistakeholder model ensued when moderator Shane Tews, president of Logan Circle Strategies, asked six panelists to explain their position on the final steps being made toward transitioning oversight for Internet address and domain name functions from the U.S. government to global stakeholders.

Berin Szoka, president of TechFreedom, argued the Obama administration and ICANN have rushed the IANA transition plan to meet a political deadline. The existing contract between ICANN and the NTIA is set to expire in September. (NTIA administrator Larry Strickling announced at IGF-USA that his department has OK’d the transition, and the next step in the plan’s vetting process will take place in the U.S. Department of Commerce in August.)

Szoka added that the plan could have unintended consequences by giving too much power to stakeholder communities. For these reasons, he proposed extending the existing contract (under which the U.S. retains oversight over IANA) until a better transition plan can be developed.

Opponents to the current plan request more time, consideration

Berin Szoka Speaking at IGF 2016 Photo“We haven’t actually empowered the community adequately, and in this respect, the transition is being rushed,” Szoka said.

While Kristian Stout, founder and executive director of the International Center for Law and Economics, said he supported the idea of less government involvement in the future, he said the transition plan should be delayed one year with “provisions for NTIA to make sure things are going well.”

Steve DelBianco, executive director of NetChoice, Jonathan Zuck, president of ACT, and John Kneuer, president and founder of JKC Consulting LLC, engaged in several arguments with Szoka and Stout throughout the discussion, specifically about the notions of the transition being rushed and ICANN being ill-prepared for unintended consequences. DelBianco said the proposal to privatize the Domain Name System has had bipartisan support for the last 20 years and has gone through several tests.

John Kneuer Speaking at IGF 2016 Photo“This is a transition that has crossed several administrations,” Kneuer said adding to the argument in support of transitioning IANA functions in 2016. “This has been a very long-term, well thought out and expected transition.”

Zuck added that the IANA transition away from U.S. government involvement is not meant to solve all future problems, instead it would serve as a platform where future issues could be better addressed.

“We gave the community the last word, and why that’s important is because this notion of reform was not meant to end at this point,” Zuck said. “It’s meant to be a continuous process of reform.”

Session too short to get beyond the arguments already being aired in public

Due to a delayed start to the panel discussion and a significant amount of time spent on arguing back and forth with one another, there was a lack of substantive dialogue about the details of the new accountability mechanisms for ICANN.

After the event, DelBianco said the biggest takeaway from the discussion is there are still lingering fears despite years of support for and efforts toward decreased government involvement in Internet governance.

“What you heard today is that the most passionately held concerns about the transition that were articulated here have to do with potential risks in the future and that generates from a fear that we may not have built something that can handle all potential risks in the future,” DelBianco said. “And the answer is we haven’t because nobody can.”

– By Bryan Anderson

Click here to return to IGF-USA 2016 homepage.

The multimedia reporting team for Imagining the Internet at IGF-USA 2016 included the following Elon University School of Communications students, staff and faculty:

Bryan Anderson, Janna Anderson, Bryan Baker, Elizabeth Bilka, Ashley Bohle, Courtney Campbell, Colin Donohue, Melissa Douglas, Mackenzie Dunn, Maya Eaglin, Christina Elias, Rachel Ellis, Caroline Hartshorn, Paul LeBlanc, Emmanuel Morgan, Joey Nappa, Diego Pineda Davila, Alyssa Potter, Kailey Tracy, Andrew Steinitz, Anna Zwingelberg