ICANN 52 and the IANA transition date: where does multi-stakeholderism go from here? – II

(The views expressed in this post are the author’s alone)

Part I in this series can be read here

Arun Sukumar

The IANA transition is notable for its policy development process –its outcome is already constrained by the US government’s requirements. One could even argue the IANA simply executes naming and numbering policies that have been developed by ICANN, so the transition is not quite a radical overhaul of existing internet governance structures. Nevertheless, the success or failure of this transition bears implications for the process which seeks to achieve it, namely, multistakeholderism (MSM). If ICANN – with its elaborate, complex and “bottom-up” framework – cannot agree on the terms of the IANA transition, several questions would be asked of the multistakeholder model’s capacity to effect policy changes, however incremental. But first, a few caveats. I refer here to global multistakeholderism and not to regional, national or sub-national models (those are not analogous to ICANN). Second, this post is not about some of the more existential, principle-based challenges to MSM that usually pits it against other intergovernmental models.  Based on the experience so far of the ICANN community in deliberating the IANA transition, I outline some of the practical concerns that global MSM throws up:

  1. Governments as stakeholders: Government is the elephant in the ICANN room. It’s easy to dismiss their role as attempting to “take over” the internet but as GAC discussions at ICANN 52 highlight, governments are as divided on the IANA transition outcome as other stakeholders are. GAC also appears to be an insular organisation within the ICANN universe – rare exceptions aside, government representatives are hardly found in other community sessions, for reasons both of time and mandates to speak. The ICANN multistakeholder framework is designed to elicit consensus from within the community of governments, rather than cross-pollinating their views with those of others. Global MSM organisations would find it difficult to effect policy without synergising governments’ views with that of other stakeholders and the GAC’s “least common denominator” response to the IANA transition – as evidenced in the ICANN52 communiqué – reveals the problem of cultivating them as a “separate” community.Admittedly, some governments do not have a stellar record as responsible stakeholders in the internet governance debate. MSM should also be sensitive to the Tunis Agenda’s mandate to encourage participation of all stakeholders “within their respective roles and responsibilities.” Multi-stakeholder models must, however, complicate the internet governance narrative by acknowledging governments that are willing to engage, negotiate, co-opt and be co-opted on substantive concerns. Currently IG processes swing between the cut-and-dried bargains of international politics (e.g. the ITU Plenipot) and open-ended but meandering deliberations (e.g. ICANN). MSM must provide room for smaller, lesser empowered constituents to use their governments (or others’, for that matter) as a negotiating platform.  On the other hand, due protection must be afforded to stakeholders to disagree with their governments at international venues within such models. The ICANN model provides for neither — there is no incentive for governments to reach out to domestic and foreign stakeholders, who could potentially move the GAC in unexpected ways through back channels. Where GAC representatives are present, both governments and other stakeholders appear to defend entrenched positions.
  1. Diversity and institutional culture: An MSM organisation may be normatively desirable but the working of ICANN indicates such models should be wary of an institutional culture that makes it prohibitive for communities on the margin to engage with it. The abysmal number of women on the ICANN Board at any given point of time (currently 4 out of 20) is an oft-quoted statistic, but the staggering lack of representation – by region, gender, age,  community, income, disability — is by no means confined to ICANN leadership. The lack of resources of several such communities to participate in online and physical ICANN meetings feeds into this institutional culture.  This is not purely a problem of “elite capture” which is a concern for any multi-stakeholder organisation.  Regrettably, certain narratives and forms of discourse have become dominant at ICANN at the cost of others, especially around the IANA transition.  For instance, Ira Magaziner’s — not an ICANN representative but an influential member of the community — comment this week that “all the voices in the room must be allowed to speak, even the crazies” does not bode well for inclusiveness and alternative proposals that challenge what is kosher within a closely knit community. An MSM organisation that creates silos for communities must also acknowledge and accommodate the deep differences within them.
  1. Accountability: ICANN is discussing its accountability to the larger community at an inordinately late stage in its 17 year-old existence. One could even argue the imperative of enhancing transparency is now being driven by the IANA transition, since it was not flagged by the NTIA in its original March 2014 announcement. The ICANN Accountability and Transparency Review Track (ATRT) too is a recent creation in the organisation’s timeline, based along an Affirmation of Commitments principally and unilaterally decided by the United States government. While reserving comment on the final recommendations of the Cross-Community Working Group on this subject, the lesson for MSM organisations here is that accountability structures have to be framed at the time of their inception before policy changes can be debated and implemented. It is expected the ICANN Board and the CCWG will work together to enhance the Corporation’s accountability to stakeholders, but this late intervention has exposed the IANA transition to competing and entrenched interests within the organisation.

The third and last post in this series will focus on the Indian role and position on global internet governance given the likelihood of the IANA transition date extending beyond September 2015.


ICANN 52: Where does the IANA transition and internet governance go from here? – I

Arun Sukumar

The views expressed in this blog post are the author’s alone.

Midway through ICANN 52 in Singapore, it seems safe to speculate the IANA transition will not be complete within its stipulated date of September 30, 2015. Indeed, there is chatter in the hallways of the Fairmont Hotel that the “deadline” will be extended by a period of six months or so. Much depends on the draft proposals currently being deliberated by the three cross-community working groups – on names, numbers/ protocols, and accountability.

The most contentious of the lot seems to be the naming proposal – details of the proposed Multistakeholder Review Team that will receive the baton from the US government after the transition are far from clear. At the time of writing, it appears almost certain these working groups will be unable to break new ground at ICANN-52. Simply put, the extension of the IANA transition deadline is set to become an integral part of the politics and process of transition itself. If the date is pushed beyond September 2015, it is important to analyse its impact on

  1. ICANN
  2. Multistakeholderism
  3. The Indian “position” on the IANA transition in particular and internet governance in general

For ICANN, extending the IANA transition date is definitely a setback. It reflects the reality that the Corporation’s supporting organisations and advisory committees have not been able to field a unified vision of what the post-transition scenario must look like. Internal differences among CWG-Names members, as I’ve written here, persist. The ICANN Board, on the other hand, has expressed its desire to become the permanent, institutional custodian of IANA functions, rather than leaving it to a “separate, contracting entity”. The CWG-Names draft proposal is an “overreach”, the Board has suggested, revealing deep divisions between the ICANN “bottom-up” community and its leadership. Several ICANN stalwarts here told me that extending the date is not a watershed moment in itself – their reasoning seems to be that any policy proposal of the sort that the IANA transition entails requires long, drawn out negotiations between competing stakeholders. While this is arguably true, the future role of ICANN also depends on the political timeline that the US government is sensitive to.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s decision of March 2014 to hand over IANA oversight to a multistakeholder entity has been met with opposition from some quarters within the United States, especially among Republicans. Protests have reached a crescendo in recent months, leaving the US government with little choice but to complete the transition as soon as possible – especially before the current administration begins to wade into its “lame duck” period. The US Congress has already passed legislation that prohibits the government from using budgeted money for the purposes of effecting the IANA transition before September 30, 2015. It is no surprise then that the US government delegation has made its presence visibly felt at ICANN 52 (prompting one commentator to say NTIA is “overplaying its hand”).  Clearly, Washington D.C. is aware what the potential implication of a non-transition might be. On the first full day of ICANN 52, Ira Magaziner, the Clinton administration’s pointsman during the creation of ICANN, went on record to ‘warn’ that “an alternative universe was possible in 1998, and it is still possible now.”

The ICANN is a multistakeholder organisation, and now finds itself in a very delicate situation. Its views can neither be (or perceived to be) dictated by the imperatives of one organisation, nor can it afford to come up with a half-baked transition proposal. The first situation would lead to the question “Are some stakeholders more equal than others in internet governance” while the second one poses the more vexing one “where does multistakeholderism go if ICANN fails to deliver”. The second part of this series on ICANN52 will focus on the latter.

Indian statement on ITU and Internet at the Working Group Plenary

Statement from Indian Head of Delegation, Mr Ram Narain for WGPL

Chairman of Working Group Plenary, Mr Musab Abdulla, Head of Delegations, delegates, ladies and gentlemen, good morning to you all. I was indeed impressed with the camaraderie with which discussions were held inspite of the fact that delegates discussing the issues have different cultures, languages, nuances, impressions and sometimes, interests.
Governance of Packet switched data Telecom Networks based on Internet Protocol (IP), popularly known as Internet, has become an important and contentious issue due to several reasons known to all of us. We proposed a draft resolution to address some of these key issues pertaining to IP based networks. When we put up the proposal, I had thought that the proposal would contribute in diminishing some of the differences. These issues and their probable solutions are given in our draft resolution, document 98, about which we were ready to take constructive inputs.

Information is power these days. The wise Lord Acton said about hundred and fifty years ago that Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The countries in modern times have become great on the principles of equality, liberty and justice. As and when these principles were compromised great powers lost their hold. Broadband penetration and connectivity has been the important running theme of this conference. We believe this, like great empires, can only be built on the principles of fairness, justice, and equality. No Telecom Network whether IP based or otherwise can function without naming and numbering, which is the lifeline of a network. Their availability in a fair, just and equitable manner, therefore, is an important public policy issue and needs to be dealt that way. We believe that respecting the principle of sovereignty of information through network functionality and global norms will go a long way in increasing the trust and confidence in use of ICT.

There are number of existing Internet related resolutions, but they only touch the issue in general and, therefore, without focus concrete action does not happen. Our Resolution was with a view to deal with the issues in a focused manner. Some countries supported our draft resolution, while some others were not able to support it. Some stated since the proposal is a comprehensive one, dealing with a number of important issues, more time is needed for them to develop a view on it. Due to the number of proposals with Ad-hoc group lined up before our draft resolution, there was no time left for detailed discussion on the proposal. Therefore, India agreed not to press the resolution for discussion due to paucity of time, with an understanding that for these issues of concerns for many Member States, contributions can be made in various fora dealing with development of IP based networks and future networks, including ITU. India would like that discussion should take place on these issues and we look forward to these discussions. We would request that this Statement is included in the records of plenipotentiary-14 meeting.

We would like to express our thanks for the cooperation extended by various Member States, particularly USA, for appreciating our concerns and all those who shared our concerns and supported the draft resolution. I would also like to thank Mr Fabio Bigi, Chairman of Adhoc Working Group for giving patient hearing to all us and tolerating all our idiosyncrasies and still arriving at consensus. This is because of his wisdom, which comes with experience.

Thank you all.

Re-drafted resolution from India at the ITU Plenipotentiary

ITU’s role in Improving Network Functionalities for Evincing Trust and Confidence in IP based Telecom Networks

The Plenipotentiary Conference of the International Telecommunication Union (Busan, 2014),


Resolution 101 (Rev. Guadalajara, 2010) of the Plenipotentiary Conference, on ‘IP-based networks’, in which Member States resolved to vest ITU with the mandate to collaborate and coordinate with relevant organizations involved in the development of IP-based networks and the future internet;

Resolution 102 (Rev. Guadalajara 2010) of the Plenipotentiary Conference, on ‘ITU’s role with regard to international public policy issues pertaining to the Internet and the management of Internet resources, including domain names and addresses’;

Resolution 130 (Rev. Guadalajara 2010) of the Plenipotentiary Conference, on ‘Strengthening the role of ITU in building confidence and security in the use of information and communication technologies’;

recalling further,

Paragraph 39 of the Tunis Agenda, on building confidence and security in the use of ICTs by strengthening the trust framework;

Paragraph 46 of the Tunis Agenda, on ensuring respect for privacy and the protection of personal information and data;

Action Line C5 of the Geneva Plan of Action, on ‘Building confidence and security in the use of ICTs in realizing Information Society’, of which ITU is the sole coordinator;

the ongoing work under SG17 of ITU-T on ICT Security Standards Roadmap and under other questions, and SG13 on Next Generation Networks;


that equitable, fair and just allocation and assignments of resources related to packet networks are necessary for telecom/ICT development, and require facilitation and collaboration among relevant organizations and member states for planning, implementation, monitoring and cooperation in its policies;

that for proper functioning of a telecom network, resources namely, among others, naming, numbering and addressing are necessary;

that, Council Resolution 1305, identified public policy issues related to International Internet (telecom/ICT management), such as security, safety, continuity, sustainability, and robustness of the Internet (telecom/ICTs), and Council Resolution 1336 adopted at its 2011 session established a working group of the council on Internet Public Policy (CWG- Internet) whose terms of reference are to identify, study and develop matters related to International Internet Public related issues including in resolution in 1305.
that for security and safety of telecom/ICT services, member states need to develop appropriate legal, policy and regulatory measures, which need to be supported by technical capabilities of networks;

that the private sector should play an active role in day-to-day operations, innovation and value creation;

that a multi-stakeholder approach should be adopted, to the extent possible, at all levels to improve the coordination of activities of international and inter-governmental organizations and other institutions involved in telecom/ICT networks based on IP technology;


that all future networks are likely to be packet-based, delivering several telecom services presently based on IP technology;

that modern day packet networks at present have many security weaknesses, including those relating to records of network transactions;
that at times, even for local address resolution, the system has to use resources outside the country, which makes such address resolution costly and to some extent insecure, and may result in violation of privacy by other State, even without any recourse to address the privacy violation issue citing non applicability of privacy protection laws to non-citizens or by having different laws for citizens and non-citizens;

that at times, communication traffic originating and terminating in a country also flows outside the boundary of a country making such communication costly and to some extent insecure, and may result in violation of privacy even without any recourse to address the privacy violation issue citing non applicability of privacy protection laws to non-citizens or by having different laws for citizens and non-citizens;
that IP addresses are not contiguously distributed, which makes the tracing of communication difficult in case of need as per national laws;


to address systematically the issues in the considering part of this resolution, seeing their criticality to deliver ICT-based services through public telecom networks, in view of ITU’s role in “Building confidence and security in the use of ICTs”, fulfilling of which is a fundamental need in realizing Information Society,

instructs the Director of the TelecommunicationsStandardization Bureau,

to undertake study in collaboration with relevant organisations蜉 involved in the development of IP-based networks and future networks:

to explore the development of naming and numbering system from which the naming and numbering of different countries are easily discernible;
to develop principles for allocation, assignment and management of IP resources including naming, numbering and addressing which is systematic, equitable, fair, just, democratic and transparent;

to make recommendations on network capability which ensure effectively that address resolution for the traffic originating and intended to be terminated by the user in the same country/region takes place within the country/region;

to undertake study in collaboration with relevant organisations1 involved in the development of IP-based networks to recommend a system that ensures effectively that traffic originating and intended to be terminating in the same country remains within the country;

to undertake study in collaboration with relevant organisations1 involved in the development of IP-based to recommend effective ways for maintaining faithful records of transactions through the network;

to undertake study in collaboration with all stakeholders involved to study the weaknesses of present protocols used in telecom networks, and develop and recommend secure, robust and tamper-proof protocols to meet the requirements of future networks in view of the envisaged manifold increase in traffic and end-devices in the near future in the light of IoT and M2M needs.

invites Member States and Sector Members

to participate actively in the discussions around these issues and to make contributions.

On the international politics of ITU negotiations

Heading into the last week of the International Telecommunications Union Plenipotentiary in Busan, the fault lines on crucial Internet-related issues appears fairly clear. The ad hoc group on Internet governance, set up by the Working Group of the Plenary, has sought earnestly to churn out a final, agreed text of Resolutions 102, 103, 133 and 180 (see background here) but consensus has been far from elusive on substantive issues. At the time of writing, the Indian proposal on the ITU’s role in realising a secure information society is yet to be introduced (early indications are it will be moved tomorrow morning). For the most part of this week, India has carefully stayed away from some of the more contentious issues that have consumed the ADHG’s time. At the heart of this debate is the ITU’s role in Internet governance which the Plenipotentiary has the power to modify, if it so chooses. Russia has been at the forefront of a small, but vocal group of countries (the Arab states being an important constituent of this group) that want the Union to play a significant “policy-oriented” role in Internet governance. This includes, but is not limited to:

1. An enhanced role played by the ITU secretariat and the Council Working Group-Internet in submitting reports to the UN General Assembly on Internet-related public policy issues (Res 102)
2. Acknowledging at the ITU that the “management of the registration and allocation of domain names and IP addresses must fully reflect the international and multicultural nature of the Internet”. (Res 102)
3. Acknowledging at the ITU that all governments “should have an equal role and responsibility for international Internet governance” (Res 102)
4. Encouraging ITU member states to “protect their Internet Protocol-based networks from unlawful surveillance….through the development of international Internet-related public policy” (Res 101)
5. Getting the ITU to express concern about the “lack of international legal norms, elaborated under the auspices of the United Nations…with binding force for States and other stakeholders, for governance and use of the Internet” (Res 102)
6. Asking ITU member states to “refrain from using ICTs involving the extraterritorial interception and monitoring communications in a way which violates the privacy of communications and users’ personal data protection” (Res 130)

The response, or to be more precise, opposition to proposals of the sort mentioned above have come from an equally vocal group led by the United States (with UK, some EU states, Australia, Japan and Canada being constituent members). Broadly speaking, their response has followed these lines of argumentation.

1. The ITU does not have the regulatory capacity or mandate to take on substantive themes in Internet governance.
2. IG principles have already been agreed upon in avenues like the NETMundial and ICANN dialogue processes, and do not need rephrasing or articulation at the ITU.
3. Amendments mooted (on issues such as submission of reports to UNGA, regional and international cooperation on cybersecurity measures) already find place in ITU text in some version or the other.

The reason or motive behind each specific proposal (or rebuttal) may vary but the underlying narrative is the same. On one hand there are those who believe that the ITU must take on greater IG responsibilities, while on the other there are those who want no change to the Union’s mandate. In the larger debate on a “multistakeholder” model of Internet governance on issues including, but not limited to the IANA transition, this schism is important to take note of. Some countries are clearly comfortable with the ITU, whether on account of their principled opposition to multistakeholderism or concerns regarding accountability in the MSM model. Sample, for instance, this debate on Resolution 130 on Friday night regarding “regional and international cooperation” on cybersecurity measures. The original proposal by Cuba read:

…invites Member states

to strengthen regional and international cooperation, taking into account Resolution 45 (Rev. Dubai, 2014), through the conclusion of agreements and implementation of measures to facilitate the reduction of risks and threats to confidence and security in the use of ICTs;

In addition to the several objections it had on this specific proposal, the United States at the end of a long (and exhausting!) debate suggested that member states be invited to strengthen ….cooperation with “all stakeholders”, which the Russian and Iranian delegations took immediate exception to. Russia was of the opinion that issues concerning national security is a matter to be handled by States and not non-governmental entities, while the Iranians were more direct. “Who are these stakeholders?” asked the Iranian diplomat, “would any person on the street be considered a stakeholder?” Iran elaborated its point further, suggesting that domestic agencies that are in charge of cyber-issues should consult internally with stakeholders but that ITU member states cannot be held to a resolution that “invites” (and thus puts a legal-moral imperative on) them to cooperate regionally and internationally with them.

The merits of these proposals and counter-proposals aside, it is clear countries that are mooting Internet governance reform proposalsnat the ICANN-level are making careful interventions to ensure that the ITU and ICANN universes do not collide.

For instance during a discussion on Resolution 180 (Facilitating the transition from IPv4 to IPv6), Russia led a proposal asking the Plenipotentiary to facilitate the transition “considering that”

c)that many developing countries want the Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITUT) to become a registry of IP addresses in order to give the developing countries the option of obtaining IP addresses direct from ITU, while other countries prefer to use the current system;

The United States raised its objections to this proposal, suggesting Res 180 is on transition from IPv4 to IPv6, and “has nothing to do with registries.”

On the other hand, states that have raised objections to the NETMundial/ICANN dialogue have made a concerted effort to voice their IG priorities at the Plenipot. India has not offered a hint as to where it stands on this debate, but more should become clear as the delegation moves its draft proposal tomorrow (post on that to follow).