Towards Global Internet Governance: How to End U.S. Control of ICANN Without Sacrificing Stability, Freedom or Accountability
15 Pages Posted: 14 Mar 2014 Last revised: 28 Aug 2014
Date Written: August 27, 2014
For 16 years, ICANN has been a US government contractor rather than an independent, multi-stakeholder governance institution. This special status became increasingly controversial as many stakeholders felt that it was incongruous to allow one national government to have exclusive authority over aspects of Internet governance that are critical to all states and all peoples. The Snowden revelations re-ignited indignation over the privileged U.S. role leading to calls for the “globalization of the IANA functions.” In March 2014 the U.S. Commerce Department announced that it would be willing to end its oversight role and transfer control of the IANA functions to the “global multistakeholder community.”
The problem of how to create a global governance regime that is neither intergovernmental nor a form of unilateral hegemony by one government is one of theoretical as well as practical interest. One of the key obstacles to altering the special U.S. position has been the absence of a viable alternative governance structure. Many observers have feared that without the tether to the U.S. government, ICANN would be unaccountable, and also possibly subject to manipulation by other states. This paper addresses a key issue in Internet governance by setting out a blueprint for the globalization of the IANA functions. It also provides a supporting analysis by articulating four principles that should guide the transition.
The proposal was originally released in March 2014 as a submission to the “Netmundial” Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance in Sao Paulo, Brazil, April 23-24, 2014. In this longer paper, the proposal has been revised in response to feedback received both prior to and at the meeting. In essence, it proposes to: Structurally separate the IANA functions from ICANN’s policy process; create a new, independent “DNS Root Oversight Committee” (DROC) which would assume the contractual role currently retained by the NTIA.
In addition to describing and justifying the proposal, the paper conducts a stakeholder analysis of the responses to the IANA transition in the global Internet governance community. It tracks how the economic and political interests of various stakeholder groups are reflected in their ideas for the governance of ICANN and IANA.
Keywords: Internet governance; ICANN; IANA functions contract; global governance; Domain Name System
JEL Classification: F02, L33, O38
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation