We have previously covered the problems with the planned relinquishment to the international community of certain Internet oversight functions. That planned relinquishment is moving forward in the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is under contract with NTIA to handle the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions. Essentially, these functions are what ensure that when you go to a URL in your browser that you reach the correct website.
If the planned relinquishment of the NTIA role occurs, then ICANN will have greater independence. This begs the question of whether ICANN is a responsible and worthy vessel into which we should place our trust. Should ICANN be given more responsibility and autonomy? In an attempt to shed some light into ICANN we’ve researched the organization and its operations.
Today, Americans for Limited Government Foundation is releasing a report on ICANN which details a few of the problems with the organization and its U.S. government contracting partner, NTIA.
The report details the corporate structure and financial information of the organization, reports on transparency, accountability and problems with greed that have been alleged, and shows some shortcomings.
Other areas are explored as well, such as why the organization, despite having obtained tax-exempt status under Sec. 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, is engaged in quite a bit of lobbying. It told the IRS it would not lobby when it filed for exempt status.
Disturbing connections to and statements regarding the repressive Chinese government are discussed.
Additionally, despite originally telling the IRS that its board would not be compensated other than reimbursements, ICANN has since changed course and the board is well compensated.
If ICANN is pushing the boundaries and thumbing its nose at the Congress now, imagine how it will behave if the U.S. government oversight role is relinquished. This is not an outcome we can afford as there are no do-overs once the relinquishment occurs.
The report also discusses problems with NTIA, ICANN’s U.S. government contracting partner. Over the last couple years NTIA has continually demonstrated a flippant willingness to disobey a command in law that was duly passed by Congress and signed by the President. This command is in the form of an appropriations rider which prohibits NTIA from spending taxpayer funds on the relinquishment discussed above. In addition to their internal work, NTIA personnel are traveling the world in high style, attending international events at exotic locales, including those hosted by ICANN, all in their efforts to complete the relinquishment. Some of this travel also appears to violate the federal travel regulations. In some instances, NTIA personnel spent much more on the travel than was necessary, paying for “premium” travel at a cost many multiples of coach travel.
The continued effort of NTIA to relinquish its oversight responsibilities is a perverse reverse mission-creep which needs to stop.
The U.S. role in Internet oversight works. It’s not a perfect system, but the alternative is untenable. The reasons propounded by those who favor an alternative international oversight are make-weight at best and generally have nothing to do with the actual issues.
Perhaps keeping the status quo in place is the most advisable course to take as there are many issues with ICANN which give any serious observer pause. Additionally, NTIA needs to be placed on a shorter leash and forced to actually comply with the requirements Congress has set for it.