February 17, 2006

Disappearing Act

People are asking whether it is time to replace ICANN.

Apropos of that thought here is something I said back in 2002 in my testimony before a US Senate committee:

What Would Happen To The Internet If ICANN Were To Vanish?

Much of the debate over ICANN is colored by the fear of what might occur were there to be no ICANN.

ICANN does not have its hands on any of the technical knobs or levers that control the Internet. Those are firmly in the hands of ISPs, Network Solutions/Verisign, and those who operate the root DNS servers.

Were ICANN to vanish the Internet would continue to run. Few would notice the absence.

Were there no ICANN the DNS registration businesses would continue to accept money and register names. With the passage of time the already low standards of this business might erode further.

The UDRP (Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy) system runs largely by itself. The Federal ACPA (Anti Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act) would remain in place.

ICANN has already established a glacial pace for the introduction of new top-level domains. ICANN's absence will not cause perceptible additional delay in the creation of new top-level domains.

ICANN has already abrogated the making of IP address allocation policy to the regional IP address registries; those registries will continue to do what they have always done with or without ICANN.

ICANN has no agreements with the root server operators; the root servers will continue to be operated as an ad hoc confederation, as has been the case for many years.

The only function that would be immediately affected would be the IANA function. IANA is an important clerical job, particularly with regard to the country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs.) IANA is not a big job, nor does it have real-time impact on the Internet. (In fact there is a credible body of evidence to suggest that ICANN delays certain clerical tasks on behalf of ccTLDs for months on end in an effort to coerce ccTLDs to sign contracts with ICANN.)

There are those who will try to divert outside reforms of ICANN by asserting that touching ICANN will cause the Internet to collapse or otherwise be damaged. The truth is quite the reverse - ICANN's ties to the technical and operational stability of the Internet are tenuous at best. A full inquiry into ICANN, a full reform of ICANN, or a complete rebid of the agreements under which ICANN operates would not damage the Internet.

Posted by karl at February 17, 2006 11:18 AM