18 August 2016 – On 16 August 2016, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced its intention to allow the IANA Functions Contract to expire, representing the final step in an almost 20 year process to transition the Internet’s domain name system (DNS) to the private sector.
ICANN has informed NTIA that it has completed or will complete all the necessary tasks called for in the transition proposal by the end of the contract term. Based on its review of this report and barring any significant impediment, NTIA intends to allow the IANA functions contract to expire as of 1 October 2016.
NTIA has contracted with ICANN to perform the IANA functions (administering the Domain Name System (DNS), numbering (IPv4, IPv6 address space and Autonomous System Numbers (ASNs) and protocol parameters) since 1997. The IANA functions are the critical aspects that allow the Internet to function.
The NTIA has held an oversight role for this time. It has always been the US Government’s intention to transition out of this role, which is purely administrative, and hand over oversight to the multistakeholder groups that coordinate in order to manage the Internet’s critical resources and functions. These groups include the private sector, civil society, academics, engineers, and governments.
When the Internet was in its infancy, the key administration functions necessary for the Internet to work were performed by Jon Postel. Postel was a Computer Science researcher who had been involved with the creation of ARPANET, the predecessor to today’s Internet. As the Internet grew, these administrative functions needed to be formalized. In 1997, ICANN was formed by private sector organizations as a non-profit entity. In 1998, ICANN entered into an agreement with the U.S. Government to oversee the operation of the authoritative root server system, establish policy for IP address allocation and adding new top-level domains (TLDs) to the root system, coordinate technical parameters and oversee activities necessary to coordinate the management of the DNS functions.
In March 2014, NTIA announced that it was ready to put the final steps of the transition in place and hand over full oversight of the Internet to the private sector. The global multistakeholder community worked for two years to come up with a transition proposal that would maintain the openness, stability and resilience of the Internet, enhance ICANN’s accountability and ensure that the Internet remained free from the unilateral control of any one government or entity.
Author: Susannah Gray