Critics of The Internet Corporation of Assigned Names
and Numbers (ICANN) came out swinging this week, in reaction to the group’s
Nov. 6 proposal to The Commerce Department
outlining plans to transfer the Domain Name System from government to
On Tuesday, a consortium of international country-code top level domain
administrators (ccTLDs) banded together to protest ICANN’s proposal. The
consortium formed The International Association of Top Level Domains
(IATLD), a group of 12 nations, including Lao People’s Democratic Republic,
Mexico and Mauritius. The organization also claims to have the support of
66 countries around the world.
IATLD said it fears statements made by ICANN recently indicate
significant policy changes that “could threaten the smooth functioning of
ccTLDs and the Internet.”
Specifically, IATLD points to RFC
1591, the Internet domain name policies authored for the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority by the
late Jon Postel in 1994. RFC 1591 governs the assignment and management of
Top Level Domain name registries.
The group sent a letter on Nov. 6 to ICANN Interim Chairperson Esther
Dyson and Michael M. Roberts, interim president and chief executive officer
of ICANN and the ICANN Board of Directors, which said 62 administrators of
country domains have agreed to support RFC 1591. Those representatives want
RFC 1591 to be included in ICANN’s bylaws and serve as the foundation for
how the group administers the country-code domains.
The administrators want ICANN to agree to use RFC 1591 as the basis of any
action taken on the country-code domains.
According to IATLD President Antony Van Couvering, ICANN released a
statement, also on Nov. 6, that said, “ICANN will respect each nation’s
sovereign control over its individual top level domain.”
He said that represents a marked change in Internet policy.
“This would be a major departure from the current
administration of top-level domains,” Van Couvering said. “Until now, the
domain system, like the Internet, has functioned as an international
private network, using RFC 1591 as its framework. While governments should
and do have an interest in the administration of top-level domains, they
are not the only source of authority, nor should they be. At worst, this
could nationalize and segment the Internet, breaking it up into parcels of
“The whole stated purpose of the formation of ICANN was to get government
out of the direct administration of the Internet. We don’t understand this
move at all,” Van Couvering said.
VanCouvering said RFC 1591 provides an objective code of conduct all
nations should use. He said the flexibility and stability of the Internet
could be seriously compromised if every country oversaw its top-level
domain. He also criticized ICANN’s board for supporting that proposal.
Calls made to Dyson were not returned and Roberts is traveling, according
to his office.
Stafford Guest, administrative manager for the .NU domain of the tiny
island nation of Niue, cautioned against any radical change.
“Today there are over 220 ccTLDs worldwide up and running under the
requirements of RFC 1591, many with decades of experience. A radical
change, such as implementing arbitrary national authority over private
businesses and organizations, could put the whole Internet in jeopardy.
You’d have to be concerned about the Internet’s stability, continuity and
basically the ability to maintain the current Internet system and policies.”
IATLD’s members include Van Couvering, who is former president of
NetNames USA, Brian Cartmell, Cocos & Keeling Island (.CC); Juan Edgar
Nunez, Dominican Republic (DO); Niggel Roberts, Guernsey (.GG) and others.
ICANN will hold a public meeting Saturday in Cambridge, Mass. for comments
on the domain plan.