On Oct. 1, the contract between the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the U.S. Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), to perform the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions, officially expired. This historic moment marks the transition of the coordination and management of the Internet’s unique identifiers to the private-sector, a process that has been committed to and underway since 1998.
Attorneys general in Arizona, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Texas filed a lawsuit the day before the transition to block the turnover, citing that it was unconstitutional and required congressional approval. But, a federal judge in the Southern District of Texas denied that request for a temporary restraining order. A day later, ICANN assumed control of the Internet's address book.
ICANN is a non-profit organization responsible for coordinating the maintenance and procedures of several databases related to the namespaces of the Internet, ensuring the network's stable and secure operation. The U.S. government has been the primary manager of the Internet since 1988, largely because it was invented in this country. ICANN performs the actual technical maintenance work of the central Internet address pools and DNS root zone registries pursuant to the IANA function contract. Much of ICANN’s work to date has concerned the Internet's global DNS, including policy development for internationalization of the DNS system, introduction of new generic top-level domains (TLDs), and the operation of root name servers. The numbering facilities ICANN manages include the Internet Protocol address spaces for IPv4 and IPv6, and assignment of address blocks to regional Internet registries. ICANN also maintains registries of IP identifiers.
ICANN's primary principles of operation have been described as helping preserve the operational stability of the Internet; to promote competition; to achieve broad representation of the global Internet community; and to develop policies appropriate to its mission through bottom-up, consensus-based processes.
Now that the transfer is complete, ICANN is being governed by a collection of academics, technical experts, private industry and government representatives, public interest advocates and individual users around the world. Federal officials began discussing a plan to move ICANN under international oversight in the 1990s, and rolled out a formal plan in March 2014.
Supporters continue to ensure the move preserves an open Internet.
"This transition was envisioned 18 years ago, yet it was the tireless work of the global Internet community, which drafted the final proposal, that made this a reality," ICANN Board Chair Stephen D. Crocker said in a statement this fall. "This community validated the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance. It has shown that a governance model defined by the inclusion of all voices, including business, academics, technical experts, civil society, governments and many others is the best way to assure that the Internet of tomorrow remains as free, open and accessible as the Internet of today."
The Internet Governance Coalition, a group of companies that includes Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Verizon, also expressed approval of the move but offered a more measured assessment.
"A plan has been implemented that includes strong accountability measures and upholds the bottom-up approach that embodies the very nature of the open Internet we experience today," the group said in a statement just before the official transition date. "Although this is an important step in the transition process, there is still much work that needs to be done to ensure the accountability and transparency of ICANN. We look forward to working with the multi-stakeholder community on these ongoing efforts."
These reports summarize findings from ICANN’s first Annual General Meeting and the new Meeting Strategy. This meeting information is part of ICANN’s commitment to transparency.
ICANN was created in 1998 in California, where its headquarters remains today near Los Angeles.