The U.S. government has rejected ICANN’s bid
to renew its contract to run the IANA function, in a surprise move that raises the stakes in the ongoing tussle over ICANN’s governance.
AMENDMENT 0003 – Request for Proposal (RFP) SA1301-12-RP-IANA is hereby cancelled. The Department of Commerce intends to reissue the RFP at a future date, date to be determined (TBD)— Rejection notice
Although ICANN is most prominent (and controversial) for its role in deciding which domains are created in the top level of the DNS, its operation of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) is arguably the more technically important contribution to the Internet’s underlying infrastructure. ICANN is charged with running the whole gamut of services collectively known as “the IANA function” under a contract with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce. This contract was due to expire on 31st March 2012.
The best known part of the IANA function is to assign blocks of IP addresses to Regional Internet Registries such as RIPE NCC (Europe, Middle East and Western Asia) and ARIN (North America), as well as to manage the operation of the DNS root zone (actually implementing the creation of top level domains). It also encompasses managing the root certificate for DNS-SEC, the .arpa top level domain used for reverse DNS and the .int top level domain used by international treaty organisations like the United Nations. Finally, IANA also covers managing sundry obscure but important technical registries.
NTIA launched an “Request for Proposal” to run IANA under a new contract on 10th November 2011. Nobody seriously expects anyone other than ICANN to take on IANA, so although the RFP process has the form of a US government procurement process it is really a highly stylised contract negotiation between ICANN and the NTIA. In deciding to cancel
the RFP days before an announcement was due, NTIA has publicly stated that it considers ICANN’s proposal – the only proposal for running this vital function – unacceptable.
Because the RFP is run under US government procurement rules, ICANN was not informed of NTIA’s decision before it was made public yesterday.
NTIA has promised to reissue the RFP “at a later date”: in the meantime, ICANN’s existing contract has been extended until 30th September 2012.