Trevor Little

While ICANN’s management of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions has been extended by six months, the organisation has effectively been put on notice following the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s (NTIA) announcement that it is rejecting all the bids it received to run the authority beyond March. Commentators have suggested the move could strengthen the objection powers of the Government Advisory Committee (GAC).

IANA oversees global IP address allocation, autonomous system number allocation and root zone management, as well as other internet functions. The authority has been managed by ICANN for almost a decade, under contract to the US Department of Commerce.

The looming renewal of the IANA contract has been viewed by some as offering leverage in the fight against gTLDs and, on Saturday (just as delegates were arriving in Costa Rica for ICANN’s latest meeting), the NTIA announced it was rejecting all the bids it received to run the authority beyond this month.

In a statement, it explained: “On November 10 2011, the Department of Commerce issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a new IANA functions contract with a deadline of December 19 2011. The government may cancel any solicitation that does not meet the requirements. Accordingly, we are cancelling this RFP because we received no proposals that met the requirements requested by the global community. The Department intends to reissue the RFP at a future date to be determined so that the requirements of the global internet community can be served.”

To allow the time required to re-run the bid process, ICANN’s governance has been extended until September 30 2012.

As part of the bid process, NTIA previously announced new requirements as part of IANA, including “the need for structural separation of policy-making from implementation, a robust company-wide conflict of interest policy, provisions reflecting heightened respect for local country laws, and a series of consultation and reporting requirements to increase transparency and accountability to the international community”.  

The day after the IANA announcement, ICANN announced it was seeking expressions of interest to serve on a committee of independent experts to review ICANN's accountability mechanisms, and opened a public comment forum on revisions to the conflicts of interest policy, code of conduct and expected standards of behaviour.

While the move seems designed to head off concerns over the new conflict of interest policy requirement of the IANA contract, on Domain Incite, Kevin Murphy suggests that the demand that the manager of IANA must document that all new gTLD delegations are in “the global public interest” is the key sticking point. If included, this would strengthen the objection powers of the GAC.

Last week WTR reported on ICANN’s response to calls for the removal of the availability of the ‘.bank’ and ‘.fin’ gTLDs, with the organisation telling the European Banking Authority to look towards existing objection mechanisms, including the additional processes available through the GAC. Those processes seem to have a strong backer in the NTIA.

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