US: We Will Not Give Up Oversight Of Internet Domain Name Root Zone31/07/2008 by Monika Ermert for Intellectual Property Watch 1 CommentShare this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)IP-Watch is a non-profit independent news service and depends on subscriptions. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. You may also offer additional support with your subscription, or donate.By Monika Ermert for Intellectual Property Watch The Bush administration has no intention of giving up United States oversight role of the management of the central root zone of the internet domain name system (DNS), the essential database storing information on how to reach domain names on the global internet.In a letter to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) clearly knocked down plans presented by the ICANN President’s Strategy Committee at the organisation’s June meeting in Paris for a full privatisation of ICANN. The letter is available here.For years there has been a back and forth on the issue of complete privatisation and internationalisation of the DNS core resource management. The topic nearly led to a failure of the United Nations World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) because of demands by governments from the Arab world, Asia and Europe to end the privileged oversight role held by the United States.The US government, which established ICANN, still has to give its blessing to every change in the root zone file which not only includes the introduction of new top level domains (TLDs), such as .com, but also possible changes of the so-called country code TLDs, from .us to .fr for France, .cn for China or .ir for Iran.Confronting international calls to respect sovereignty in cyberspace, NTIA immediately before the second WSIS in 2005 made a similar statement with regard to its determination to keep “its historic role in authorising changes or modifications to the authoritative root zone file.”Yet the new statement posted Wednesday to the ICANN public forum on ICANN’s transition plans and signed by Acting Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information Meredith Baker, made a distinction between ICANN oversight and the oversight over the sensible resource of the root zone.All-Important IANAThere are two distinct legal arrangements that govern the relationship of the US government and ICANN, writes the NTIA. The joint project agreement (JPA), a follow-up to a series of earlier memoranda of understanding, is to facilitate “the transition of the technical coordination of the management function related to the internet domain name and addressing system (DNS) to the private sector,” the NTIA said.Yet the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) function is assigned to ICANN in a separate, not JPA-related contract. IANA is responsible for the management of the DNS root zone – and therefore the heart of the internet DNS. Whether ICANN is private or not in the future, it is only the contractor of the IANA and might be stripped of its role as manager of the core resource. It would then be left to develop policies for the generic TLD name space, yet would have to apply for any changes with a possible new IANA manager and the US Commerce Department.The publishing of the changed root zone file to the 13 authoritative root zone servers of the DNS worldwide moreover is done by another US government contractor, VeriSign, also registry for .com and .net. domains.In Paris, ICANN Board Chairman Peter Dengate Thrush explained ICANN’s intention to streamline this relationship by taking over distribution of the root zone file to the root zone server operators. NTIA reacted immediately by denying any intention to take VeriSign out of the game.This is repeated in the new statement sent to ICANN: “The department believes strongly,” the NTIA letter reads, “that it is important to clarify that we are not in discussions with either party to change the respective roles of the department, ICANN or VeriSign regarding the management of the authoritative root zone file, nor do we have any plans to undertake such discussions.”So even if ICANN, which has also presented plans to set up a second legal entity in another region, becomes a completely privatised body governed by its so-called multi-stakeholder structure, the heart of the DNS would stay where it is.And furthermore, NTIA also points out in its statement that ICANN still has some conditions to fulfil before the JPA that runs until September next year can really be ended. ICANN’s transition action plans, NTIA said, fall short with regard to ensuring continued private sector leadership – pointing to fears that an international body might take over – increased contract compliance of the bubbling DNS service providers and enhanced competition. There has been past tension between ICANN and some in the United Nations who have considered increasing the UN’s role in internet governance.An ICANN that is completely privatised and does not behave well afterward also might easily be stripped from the IANA contract and therefore its grip on the root zone. It will be watched to see how the international community will react to the NTIA announcement. Monika Ermert may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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