One of the looming milestones in Internet governance is the impending renewal of ICANN's contract for the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions. The IANA contract is the mechanism through which the US government delegates control of the name and numbers space to ICANN. As such, it is the source of all of ICANN's real authority over domain name industry and IP address policy; take away that contract and ICANN is a shell. Thus, the contract could be used as a fairly heavy accountability club to wave around ICANN's head (“behave or we'll give IANA to someone else!”). Also, other governments and civil society are deeply interested in the fate of this contract, as the contract-granting authority could be used to either internationalize or de-nationalize the governance of the Internet. In her opening speech at the ICANN meeting in Brussels, European Commission Vice President Nellie Kroes, with some encouragement from various sources (wink), pointedly said, “I am hopeful that the expiry of the IANA contract next year will be turned into an opportunity for more international cooperation serving the global public interest.”
Kroes is not the only one eagerly anticipating the rebid. Late last month the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) announced a program related to “IANA evolution.” The memo was released July 28 (sorry for the slow reporting, but it's summer and even IGP gets to have holidays!).
The IAB is, effectively, the governing board of the IETF. The IETF has felt bereft by the US commerce Department's assertion of control over the IANA function back in 1997 and its delegation to the circus that is ICANN. With this program, IAB announces that it is a major stakeholder in the future of IANA (“The IETF has very specific needs with respect to the protocol parameter registries and the Internet technical community has a strong interest in stable evolution of all IANA functions…”). It also announces that it will appoint a team to offer advice on this topic and to develop and implement a position for the IAB that it can take into “the context of the IANA functions contract rebid by the US Department of Commerce.”
It will be interesting to see what position the IAB develops. IGP will continue to track and monitor this issue.