ICANN Accountability Takes Center Stage at Dublin Meeting

Posted by J. Scott Evans, Trademark Director and Associate General Counsel

Note: This article first appeared in CircleID on October 19, 2015

With the ICANN 54 meeting in Dublin in full swing, the internet stakeholder community should be assessing where the IANA transition and ICANN accountability proposals stand and where they will need to go before a transition occurs.

At the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group meeting in Los Angeles last month, the consensus seemed to be all systems are go for launch. The responses received during the public comment period that ended September 8th largely expressed support for the transition proposal to advance as planned. As for the accountability proposal, less unanimity seems to exist around the measures outlined by the Cross Community Working Group (CCWG). Adobe commends the CCWG for its continued efforts to build a strong framework for governing the post-transition internet, but there are still key details that need to be addressed this week in Dublin.

The CCWG needs to clarify details to create a better understanding as to how the proposal will work. As NTIA Administrator and Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information Lawrence E. Strickling pointed out in a recent blog post, there are not enough details in the current accountability proposal for NTIA to determine if it meets the necessary criteria outlined by the administration when the process started more than a year ago. Strickling writes, “The questions asked by stakeholders in the public comments demonstrate significant confusion and uncertainty as to exactly how portions of the plan would be operationalized and some apprehension as to whether all possible consequences of this proposal have been fully thought through.”

Adobe believes ICANN accountability is crucial to ensure that a safe and open internet endures once NTIA has stepped aside. To ensure this happens, certain powers should be enshrined in ICANN’s bylaws before the IANA transition occurs. The stakeholder community needs the power to independently review ICANN board decisions, reject budgets and strategic plans, approve changes to bylaws, and recall individual board members – or the entire board if necessary. These reforms will ensure the internet remains a secure place to conduct business and share ideas.

Adobe urges the CCWG to carefully review the comments submitted by the Business Constituency and others to address these concerns. The comment period needs to be viewed as the beginning of a new stakeholder engagement process – not the end. Everyone who uses the internet has a stake in this endeavor, and should be part of the process. There is no need for the CCWG to rush the process. NTIA’s decision to renew the IANA contract for another year has given the multi-stakeholder community time for a thorough debate. We should take our time because we only have one shot at getting this right.