At a standing-room-only meeting on the evening of June 21, 2015 – at the ICANN 53 global meeting in Buenos Aires – Assistant Secretary Larry Strickling, administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (“NTIA”), gave his comments on the current timeline for the transition of the IANA (i.e., technical) functions of ICANN. The bottom line is that transition will probably happen sometime in spring 2016 under the best-case scenario.

By way of background, before transition (also called “stewardship”), a number of milestones need to be achieved. The Cross-Community Working Group on Stewardship – Naming (“CWG”) needed to complete its report and have it approved, which was done on June 24. The report forms part of the larger IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (“ICG”) process. It was made clear at the other meetings here that the CWG report (part of the ICG effort) will be contingent on certain criteria being established in the parallel work of the Cross-Constituency Working Group on Accountability (“CCWG”), which has two major workstreams – one relating to the transition (stewardship) and one on more general issues. The CCWG intends to hold a face-to-face meeting in Paris in July and hopes to have its work on transition accountability completed by the ICANN 54 meeting in Dublin in October 2015. When the ICG and the CCWG have completed their reports, NTIA will need to review the completed unified proposal which, by the current timeline, could not happen before the Dublin meeting.

In his remarks, Mr. Strickling provided several important principles to speed up the process. The general principles are:

  1. Focus on the stated NTIA criteria for approval. Do not go off on tangents since this will slow approval.
  2. Make sure the supporting record validates the recommendations in the proposal. Also, the record should demonstrate community support for the proposal and answer as many expected questions ahead of time, including issues regarding bylaw changes.
  3. Keep the proposal as simple as possible. The more complex it is, the more time it will take to analyze all of the aspects and ramifications of the changes.
  4. The process will obviously go beyond the current end of the contract of September 30, 2015. Although NTIA could go up to a two-year extension, Mr. Strickling indicated that he did not want to reduce the level of intensity of the current workstreams or give the wrong impression that the United States was losing interest in transition. Thus, the length of the extension would depend on the progress made within ICANN.

The timeline thus would be approval of the transition proposal, at the earliest, in October 2015. Then, if pending legislation in the U.S. Congress is enacted into law, NTIA would need to certify to Congress that the proposal met its criteria after the NTIA finished its review. Congress would then have 30 legislative, not calendar, days to comment, after which the plan would proceed if there were no objections. Mr. Strickling estimated that this approval process after receipt of the proposal by NTIA would take about four to five months at the earliest. After final approval (NTIA and Congress), ICANN would then start implementation of the transition. Of course, any problems during the process could easily delay transition until later in 2016.