Ensuring the Safety, Security and Stability of the Internet

April 8, 2014

It has been an eventful few weeks since the NTIA announced its intention to transition the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions from U.S. control to the global multi-stakeholder community. (As background for those who have not been following this closely, the IANA allocates and maintains unique codes and numbering systems that are used in the technical standards [“protocols”] that drive the Internet.)

While this announcement has resulted in much discussion, it is important that we not get too far ahead of ourselves and focus on the core issues at hand. The focus now is to develop an oversight transition plan.  Before this plan can be created however, we need to agree on the process that will be used to develop the plan.

Effectively we need a plan to create a plan.  This may seem silly, but it is an important step in a multi-stakeholder-based system.   Creating this plan ensures the community is on the same page regarding the scope and the definition of the problem we have been asked to solve.  Only when there is agreement on the plan can we get to work on proposing a solution.

This will take time, effort and resources – in fact, Congress is examining these issues this week — but we have some time. The current contract does not expire until September 2015 and everyone has said the expectation is to extend the contract if the necessary pieces are not in place.

While the community is working toward these goals, we must keep several core issues in mind.

First, no matter what happens, we must maintain and ideally improve the safety, security, stability and resiliency of the Internet.  As this relates to IANA we must keep the potential impact on the “customers” of the three IANA functions in mind.  Specifically the Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) for the IPv4, IPv6 and Autonomous System Number (ASN) resource management; the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and Internet Architecture Board (IAB) for the protocol parameter management; and the Registries, Registrars and the rest of the Internet community for the management of the DNS Root Zone.  All of these functions must continue to work seamlessly, transparently and without interruption.

Second, the NTIA transition would leave an accountability hole which must be filled.  The debate on how to fill this hole, and what or who will fill it, has just started, and I can’t predict how this will end up.  However, whatever decision is made must be developed and agreed to by the global multi-stakeholder community.

Finally, we must have broad participation from the Internet community at-large.  Input is required from the technical community (IETF, IAB, W3C, etc.), the user community, the content creators, governments and all of the other stakeholders.

I suspect the next eighteen months will be a very interesting, and perhaps even historic, time for the Internet.  Personally I welcome and look forward to participating in the process.