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IANA and the Automation of the Root Zone Management

As an unwavering stalwart of ICANN’s obligation to honor its commitments under the bylaws to “operate to the maximum extent feasible in an open and transparent manner” I make it a point to read the minutes of its board and committee meetings in large part because I spent most of my three years on the ICANN Board trying to get these documents timely published. In reviewing the recently published IANA Committee minutes the following item caught my attention:

Root Zone File Management and Implementation: The IC discussed challenges and unforeseen results arising from the automation of Root Zone Management, in relation to the automated use of ISO-3166 official short names in the Root Zone database and addresses.

Hopefully ICANN will be providing more detail into the “challenges and unforeseen results” in connection with the automation of the Root Zone Management as part of the new generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) update. Clearly the automation of the Root Zone Management is a key cog in ICANN’s new gTLD machinery if it hopes to add up to five hundred new TLDs to the root per year. However, this also raises legitimate questions into what other “challenges and unforeseen results” might arise in connection with the new gTLD process and whether an unlimited number of new gTLDs in the first round is the most prudent course of action. While ICANN staff believes that it has designed the perfect black box solution that allows it to turn the crank and process up to five hundred new gTLDs a year, what happens if they are wrong and there are “challenges and unforeseen results” such as those which arose in connection with the automation of the Root Zone Management?

Instead of immediately filing a Documentary Information Disclosure Policy Request with ICANN, I will wait and see if it does the right thing and make this information publicly available. Hopefully ICANN’s General Counsel John Jeffrey will not attempt to sequester this document under some business privilege or security and stability concern. If the ICANN Board elects to follow the advice of its general counsel, then at the very least those registry operators that rely upon ICANN to provide it with IANA services should be provided a copy in confidence. Because the “challenges and unforeseen results” in connection with the Root Zone Management automation may also raise important public policy concerns in connection with the operation of a nation’s ccTLDs, the GAC should also be provided a copy of this document in confidence.

Another important action item in connection with the October IANA Committee meeting was the reference to “a document prepared by an IC member directed to the issue of IDN ccTLD delegations and the requirement of community consultation, with proposed solutions to address governmental representations of community support, which could be used as guidance by the Board.” The action item in connection with this issued called for “Staff to create documentation to be used as guidance for the Board in the evaluation of IDN ccTLD delegation requests, using the IC member-created proposal as base principles.” Given that ICANN is suppose to be a bottom up consensus driven organization it strikes me as a little odd that this policy document appears to be rather top-down in its origin and it is unclear when the community and the GAC will be able to comment on it, if at all.

Hopefully ICANN will honor its requirements in the bylaws and those obligations which it affirmed to in the Affirmation of Commitments regarding these issues.

By Michael D. Palage, Intellectual Property Attorney and IT Consultant

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