Close this menu

Keeping ICANN Focused on the Job Ahead

Picture this: Your child struggles academically. He is always sleep-deprived and barely gets his assignments in on time. He’s going into a new semester facing his toughest course-load yet … and he asks you if he should take a 20-hour-per-week after-school job.

Would you even hesitate before you rejected the idea?

Well that’s the situation facing the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The body that oversees the Internet’s Domain Name System faces the biggest challenges in its 10-year history. ICANN plans to review applications of hundreds of new Internet domains next year; it continues a massive project to “improve institutional confidence”; and it plans to sever its legacy ties with the U.S. Government.

And now ICANN wants to wade into uncharted territory, taking the technical lead on a critical Internet security issue.

The U.S. Commerce Department recently asked for public comments about who and how to do DNSSEC, a technology that will play a critical role in the broad global effort to increase the security and stability of the Internet.

As NetChoice wrote earlier this year in “Hardening the Security Stack“, DNSSEC has significant limitations, and must be part of a much larger security effort that involves stakeholders at every level of the security “stack.” Still, there is broad agreement that it’s time to implement DNSSEC, starting with the root zone.

In my comments to the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), I left the arcane technical implementation questions to the hardworking technologists who have been developing DNSSEC for more than a decade.

Instead, I focused on whether ICANN should be the one that implements DNSSEC at the root, when a) there are other viable options, and b) ICANN is already clearly overburdened with its current slate of obligations and challenges.

The strain on ICANN is clear to anyone involved with Internet governance. Deadlines are routinely delayed, documentation arrives late, and constituency groups grow increasingly restive that their issues are not being adequately addressed. Meanwhile, outside forces, including an increasingly hostile International Telecommunications Union (ITU) threaten to destabilize ICANN from the outside.

ICANN will face enough difficulty just surmounting the challenges it MUST face. The organization should be discouraged from tackling new challenges and assuming new risks at this volatile time in its history.