The US Commerce Department renewed its purchase-order with ICANN for “the IANA function” on August 15. The renewal is guaranteed for only one year. The contract gives the U.S. the option to keep renewing the contract for four more years, but does not require the U.S. to do so. The IANA function contract is separate and distinct from the ICANN-DoC Memorandum of Understanding, which provides political oversight over ICANN's policy making functions and is set to expire on Sept. 30. Whether the ICANN MoU will be renewed and if so, how it will be redefined remains to be seen.

The IANA function involves “coordination of the root zone of the domain name system with 24 hour-a-day/7 days-a-week coverage. It includes receiving requests for and making routine updates of the country code top level domain (ccTLD) contact (including technical and administrative contacts) and nameserver information. This function also includes receiving delegation and redelegation requests, [and] investigating the circumstances pertinent to those requests…” It also involves overall responsibility for delegating allocated and unallocated IPv4 and IPv6 address space and Autonomous System Number space. These functions are crucial to the operation of the Internet, and their delegation to ICANN by the US government is what gives ICANN all of its policy leverage over the Internet.

Predictably, the US action shows no sign that it took any account of the 600-odd comments submitted to its own Notice of Inquiry in July. Despite overwhelming calls from the technical community, industry and civil society for relaxation, amelioration or relinquishment of its unilateral, essentially arbitrary authority over modifications to the root zone file, the new IANA contract specifies that whenever ICANN attempts to modify the root zone file, “Within thirty (30) calendar days of the date that the request was deemed completed and confirmed, Contractor [ICANN] shall complete all processing and issue a report with a recommendation to the U.S. Department of Commerce regarding whether the proposed changes should be authorized.” (Appendix A, PROCESS FOR IANA ROOT MANAGEMENT REQUESTS). In the NTIA proceeding, hundreds of commentors from the US and over 30 other countries expressed concern or opposition to the current US arrangement.

Somewhat less expectedly, the new IANA contract shows no signs of approving or requiring automated updates of root zone file changes by ccTLDs — the so-called “e-IANA” capability. The full text of the IANA contract is available here.