NTIA and the IANA

Somebody has to keep track of all the names an numbers used on the Internet an the source of all that record keeping is "the IANA" the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority". That was a name Jon Postel had made up for a task he was performing where he kept track of what all the IP addresses were used for and what top level domains exist. It fit on a couple of sheets of paper although in the ninties Jon kept these on a laptop.

When Jon's role was institutionalized as ICANN, the IANA was kept separate, both these organizations derive their authority from the US Department of Commerce (DoC) National Telecommunications Infrastructure Administration (NTIA). Since 2000 when ICANN was formed the NTIA wrote the check for IANA every year. IANA had two customers: 1) the regional IP address registries - these obtain large blocks of IP addresses from IANA which they'd then chop up and sell in smaller amounts to ISPs, and 2) ICANN - if and when they ever actually create new top level domains these will be added to the list of top level domains IANA maintains per a contract with the US government. This is where the legacy root zone comes from. Other root zones start with this list and add additional top level domains to them.

NTIA has for years pretty much let ICANN and IANA do their thing so the news that IANA would not be renewed and would not even be putting the contract out for bid came as quite a shocker. In one sense it's a slap in the face for ICANN to show up in their four start spring break junket in Costa Rica this week and be told "oh, yeah, and um, we're not renewing your IANA thing and in fact it's not even out for bid. Enjoy your strawberry daquiri, bitches." in that that appear to have lost the confidence or respect or something, of the government.

Leaving aside one moment all the arguments that could surround this, there's one point that stands out in the NTIA announcement.

Here's the entire announcement:

March 10, 2012

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) remains committed to preserving the stability and security of the Internet's domain name system (DNS). Critical to the DNS is the continued performance of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions. In anticipation of the impending expiration of the IANA functions contract, NTIA, via two public notices in February and June 2011, consulted on how best to enhance the performance of the IANA functions. Based on the input received from stakeholders around the world, NTIA added new requirements to the IANA functionsí statement of work, including the need for structural separation of policymaking from implementation, a robust company wide conflict of interest policy, provisions reflecting heightened respect for local country laws, and a series of consultation and reporting requirements to increase transparency and accountability to the international community.

On November 10, 2011, the Department of Commerce issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) SA1301-12-RP-IANA for a new IANA functions contract with a deadline of December 19, 2011. The government may cancel any solicitation that does not meet the requirements. Accordingly, we are cancelling this RFP because we received no proposals that met the requirements requested by the global community. The Department intends to reissue the RFP at a future date to be determined (TBD) so that the requirements of the global internet community can be served. Interested parties are encouraged to visit www.fbo.gov for updates.

Ok so what's the actual change here then? This part:

Based on the input received from stakeholders around the world, NTIA added new requirements to the IANA functionsí statement of work, including the need for structural separation of policymaking from implementation, a robust company wide conflict of interest policy, provisions reflecting heightened respect for local country laws, and a series of consultation and reporting requirements to increase transparency and accountability to the international community.

Specifically:

  1. separation of policymaking from implementation
  2. conflict of interest policy
  3. provisions reflecting heightened respect for local country laws
  4. consultation and reporting requirements

1 and 2 were always suppsed to be there. At what point did amything think conflict of interest was ok within IANA? We need it in writing now?

IANA is done, they have no more IP addresses to hand out and ICANN can do the domain stuff.

Have we lost sight of the fact IANA was a part time task done by one guy? Even a couple of ICANN staffers should be able to keep a list of TLDS on a piece of paper.

Is there anything else IANA needs to do? If there is, I'm sure somebody would be happy to do it. I trust Brian and Paul over at ISC, maybe they're not too busy.

I note that, just as it was 16 years ago, this stuff still isn't interesting to people in the general sense. OTOH, interest in DHT based DNS seems to be increasing, so maybe Fleming was right, the sun will set on this crap while they argue it to death in the empty chambers of meatspace.