14 September 2016
The Internet Architecture Board (IAB) provides long-range technical direction for Internet development, ensuring the Internet continues to grow and evolve as a platform for global communication and innovation. As individuals, we’ve devoted decades of effort to building software and infrastructure that serve as the basis for today’s Internet. Our interest in the IANA Functions contract comes from both a direct role as a user of the IANA functions, and a broader concern for the continued growth of the Internet.
Our assessment, as the oldest technical community using the IANA functions, is that the transition plan is fit for purpose and that the IANA stewardship transition should go forward as planned on September 30, 2016.
We note that recent attention to the transition has sometimes engendered misunderstandings about the nature of the existing system. Some have presumed that the effort is one that relates to control of Internet infrastructure, speech, content, or security. None of those are within the purview of IANA staff. Rather, support of open standards development is one of the core IANA functions. IANA staff, under the supervision of the Internet Engineering Task Force and the Internet Architecture Board, record and publish technical registries (the “protocol parameters”) used by software developers and network operators to make the Internet work.
We also note that some have claimed that the end of the contract between ICANN and the US Government could create a political challenge to the way the Internet works and grows, but this is a misunderstanding of both the history and the status quo. Just the opposite is true: there is growing pressure to use the US role in IANA functions as an excuse to create a government role in other Internet technical activities like standards development. Today, there is no special role for governments, and there should not be one. If the US does not now follow through on its public commitment to let the IANA Functions contract expire as scheduled, then other governments may take it as an invitation to interfere in technical processes.
The Internet is a voluntary system. It works because the parties who run and oversee the infrastructure choose to work together and trust each other of their own accord. The US government has been and should remain a strong supporter of this voluntary cooperation. Maintaining the IANA transition to a fully cooperative system supports the Internet as a voluntary, open collaboration platform that is not centrally led by governments.
Misunderstandings of the role of the IANA functions should not further delay the end of the US government contract for the IANA functions. We urge the completion with a strong belief that on the day after the transition, the Internet will function exactly as it did before, with strong community oversight and accountability for IANA seamlessly replacing the previous system. The IAB believes that the transition is ready to take place.