19 May, 2015

ETNO ThinkDigital Interview – ICANN and the transition of the IANA stewardship: Ensuring a unified, global Internet for all

ETNO’s #ThinkDigital team interviews Jean-Jacques Sahel, Vice-President, Europe at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN): “A successful transition would ensure the continuation of the Internet as a global platform for innovation, by maintaining its open, secure, stable and interoperable nature for all users across the globe."

In your view, how important is it that European business contributes to the debate on the transition of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) stewardship?

Almost $8 trillion exchanges hands each year through e-commerce. The European Union just unveiled plans to set up for a single digital market, with European Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip saying EU-wide GDP could be increased by £300bn a year if a harmonised market is established.  European businesses are well aware of the immense potential of the Internet for innovation and economic opportunities, and how business is the most important driver and beneficiary of the global Internet. With this outlook the importance of allowing for a unified, global Internet to continue and thrive is imperative.

The ongoing expansion and growth of the Internet, has made it clear that sole US oversight of some key functions is no longer optimal.  The process in place here with the transition of the IANA Stewardship to the global multi-stakeholder community is an important evolution in governance. It makes it imperative for the European business community, and all global stakeholders to pay attention, join this conversation and actively get involved in facilitating a successful transition. A successful transition would ensure the continuation of the Internet as a global platform for innovation, by maintaining its open, secure, stable and interoperable nature for all users across the globe.

Can you describe some of the community work that has taken place so far, and in particular the areas of broad agreement or areas that are proving more difficult?

Since the US government announced over a year ago its intent to transition stewardship of the IANA functions, the community has displayed impressive determination and dedication to develop a transition proposal.  Hundreds of hours of virtual meetings, a dozen face-to-face meetings, thousands of emails, input coming from all corners of the globe, and notably from Europe.  

The Numbers and Protocol Parameters communities very quickly developed and delivered proposals concerning their interaction with the IANA functions.  The Naming community’s work was seen as more complicated but it has now posted a second draft for public comment.  And there’s a separate track of work on ICANN accountability of which a proposal also is now available for public comment.  That seems to be generating great interest as it outlines providing the community with new powers to hold ICANN accountable absent ICANN’s historic contractual relationship with the US government.  They include power over budget and strategic plan decisions, over changes to ICANN’s bylaws, the ability to remove individual members of the Board of Directors and to recall the entire Board. 

We are in the midst of two important public comment periods and we’re encouraging everyone to get involved – become familiar with the proposals and provide comment.1

How likely is it that the NTIA will have approved a proposal before the IANA contract expiration date (30th September 2015) and what are the contingency plans if this is not possible?

To date, the process is actually progressing very well. We now have the making of a final proposal, with all four drafts submitted for community input. Today we are getting nearer to bringing all this together into a cohesive proposal that meets the US Government’s criteria come the target date this autumn, through bottom up consensus work for delivering a proposal. 

It is important to keep in mind that the transition involves not only approval of the plan but also the implementation of the proposal, and for that purpose the NTIA has requested the communities to submit by end of June the timeline envisioned for the implementation to take place.

Now, should the proposal need further input and the community need more time to complete the transition, then the NTIA and ICANN would be able to mutually decide to extend the IANA contract by an agreed period.

How do you see ICANN’s role in the Internet governance field more generally, and what are the important milestones for your organisation?

ICANN will always be part of the global multistakeholder community, and within that community will continue to play its role in the coordinated running of the core functions behind the Internet.  And as part of the community we will also continue to participate actively in global policy discourse with all interested parties, not least within the Technical Community, in furtherance of our mission to maintain an open, secure and interoperable Internet.

The processes of Internet governance have organically evolved since the inception of the Internet to be both global and ‘multi-stakeholder’ in nature, which resulted in a pioneering effort – the Multistakeholder approach - to enable the community to tackle the different emerging challenges of the global Internet as it grows, in a novel way.

Moving forward, ICANN will continue to support the global multistakeholder model for Internet governance, as the only way to coordinate the Internet smoothly and efficiently.  

Today, we have achieved a major Internet governance milestone in our historic journey on the transition of the US government stewardship of ICANN to the global community, through this very same multistakeholder process.  As for ICANN, this in itself stands as a testament to ICANN and what it has accomplished over the past 16 years, coordinating the DNS successfully and smoothly and with increasing operational excellence, as it grew from 147 million users then to over 3 billion and counting today.

Which areas of ICANN’s work would you recommend to telcos specifically, if they are interested to get more involved in the community?

The best way to start would be to look into the constituencies of the Commercial Stakeholders Group (CSG) within the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GSNSO), one of the key pillars of ICANN. Joining the Internet Service Providers and Connectivity Providers (ISPCP) constituency2 can help companies to both stay up to date on the impact that changes in the Domain Name System may have on their business, and shape their development. Members of the ISPCP include the likes of AT&T, BT, or Orange, to name just a few.

As commercial users of the Internet, telcos’ interests are also represented by the Business Constituency (BC).3 The BC’s focus is on developing policy that promotes end user confidence, competitiveness, and a secure, stable and reliable Internet. 

Security and stability are also a key remit of ICANN’s work and telcos have many spaces to participate in this area: through our Public Safety Workshops or Tech Day during the ICANN meetings, or through participation in structured bodies like the Security and Stability Advisory Committee or the Technical Experts Group.

To learn even more ways your company can get involved in ICANN’s work, read our post on the ICANN blog: Okay, My Business is Interested in ICANN. Now What?

By ETNO #ThinkDigital, Brussels, 19.05.2015

Note: Next week, on 26 May, ICANN President and CEO Fadi Chehadé will meet EIF members and friends in the European Parliament to discuss Internet Governance and the IANA stewardship transition: https://www.eifonline.org/events/525-eif-debate-with-icann-ceo-fadi-chehade-on-internet-governance-iana-stewardship-transition-process.html


Jean-Jacques Sahel, Vice-President, Europe (Global Stakeholder Engagement), ICANN

Jean-Jacques is a strong advocate for the open Internet and multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance, in Europe and beyond. For over 15 years in both the private and government sectors, Jean-Jacques has been involved in international government and regulatory affairs. He leads ICANN’s strategic plan for outreach, support and engagement with governments, private sector, civil society and user groups throughout the region. Working closely with the Internet community across Europe, he is focused on enhancing awareness, capacity and participation of all stakeholders in ICANN.

More information at https://www.icann.org/stewardship and https://community.icann.org/category/accountability

ETNO is a member of the ISPCP

ETNO is a member of the Business Constituency

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