Progress Being Made, but Still Many Big Issues for ICANN

July 10, 2015

The House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology held a hearing Wednesday during which several members continued to raise questions about the transparency and accountability of ICANN. The aim of the hearing, Internet Governance Progress After ICANN 53, was to gain more understanding about the timeline for the IANA transition process and to give members a chance to hear firsthand from ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé and NTIA Administrator Larry Strickling about progress being made by ICANN.

Mr. Strickling assured Congress that NTIA is confident in the transition and its potential to promote a stronger ICANN. Furthermore, the transition timetable, which has been a source of contention in recent months, was more clearly delineated. The current IANA contract with ICANN, which is due to expire September 30, 2015, will likely be extended at least through July of next year. The timetable provides several months for the U.S. Congress to review the transition process. According to Strickling, this oversight will be granted to Congress even if the DOTCOM Act, which recently passed the House, is not a law by that point. The DOTCOM Act would grant Congress oversight of the IANA transition before the transition is finalized.

ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé, stressing transparency and the importance of dialogue around the world, claimed that the multi-stakeholder model is working and is the right model for his organization. He stated, “We will not move forward with any loopholes on accountability.” Also, Chehadé answered questions from Members about the role of governments through the ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC). Several committee members had expressed concern about “governments taking over the internet,” and both Strickling and Chehadé said they were confident proposals would not permit that to occur. ANA also has concerns about the potential for excessive influence of the GAC on ICANN decision-making, and we will continue to monitor proposals made by the GAC to increase its power within ICANN.

Furthermore, questions were raised about so-called “undesirable” domains, in particular by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). Rep. Blackburn highlighted the fact that ICANN is required to enforce prohibitions on illegal activity by domain names. Mr. Chehadé said that the ICANN compliance department investigates the complaints they receive and tries to take steps to ensure that they work within their contracts’ provisions. While Mr. Chehadé indicated that ICANN is doing all it can to protect against abusive domain names, ANA is concerned about domain names such as “.sucks” that seem designed to place immense pressure on major trademark holders to defensively purchase secondary domains to assure that sites like “.sucks” cannot be used to hurt one’s trademark or category. We urge our members to join us in communicating to Congress, the Department of Commerce, and ICANN concerning the potential damages these offensive domain names can impose on businesses and the greater internet ecosystem before the transition process is finalized.

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