Policy | News

Syracuse U Researchers Propose Independent Oversight for Domain Name System

Researchers from Syracuse University's School of Information Studies (iSchool) have released a proposal to eliminate the United States government's special relationship with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

ICANN "coordinates the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions, which are key technical services critical to the continued operations of the Internet's underlying address book, the Domain Name System (DNS)," according to information on the organization's site. ICANN fulfills that role as part of the IANA Functions contract with the U.S. government.

"While the contracts are an understandable legacy of the Internet's origins in the U.S. Defense Department and National Science Foundation contracts, the U.S. has maintained control of ICANN long after it promised to let go," according to a Syracuse news release. "This has invited other governments, including authoritarian ones, to demand equal oversight authority over the DNS."

The iSchool proposal would take root zone management functions from ICANN and hand them to a newly created, independent consortium from the private sector by September 2015, when the current IANA Functions contract expires.

"Unless we take a consistent and principled approach to non-governmental Internet governance," said Milton Mueller, iSchool professor and co-author of the proposal, in a prepared statement, "it is only a matter of time before other governments succeed in bringing the coordination and management of the Internet under the control of intergovernmental treaty organizations."

In addition, according to a Syracuse news release, the plan would:

  • "Structurally separate the IANA functions from ICANN's policy process, and ensure that the IANA functions are never used for political or regulatory purposes;
  • Integrate the DNS-related IANA functions with the Root Zone Maintainer functions performed by Verisign, and put them into a new, independent 'DNS Authority' (DNSA); and
  • Create a nonprofit controlled by a consortium of TLD (top-level domain) registries and root server operators to run the DNSA."

"It's important/essential not to conflate policy with the operation of the root zone," said Brenden Kuerbis, co-author of the proposal and postdoctoral researcher at the iSchool, in a prepared statement. "It makes sense to put operational authority in the hands of an entity comprised of the registries and root server operators, as they are directly impacted by operation of the root, and have strong incentives to ensure its stability and security."

"We think this plan provides the roadmap for making ICANN into a truly global and multistakeholder institution," added Mueller.

The plan "will be presented at the Singapore ICANN meeting March 21, and then formally submitted to the 'NET Mundial' Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance in Sao Paulo, Brazil, to be held April 23 and 24," according to information released by the university.

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