Archived—Government of Canada Statement to NTIA Public Meeting on ICANN's Mid-term Review

Delivered by Len St. Aubin

Thursday, Feb. 28, 2008

Canada is pleased to take part, once again, in public consultations organized by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration on the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN. We commend the NTIA for organizing this public meeting. Canada's contribution represents a continuation of our interest in the naming and addressing of the Internet.

As early as 1998 Industry Canada issued a discussion paper on the reform of the Domain Name System. We have been an active participant in ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee, including a period of time as vice-chair of the GAC. We have made numerous submissions on ICANN issues in that forum, in addition to submissions to the NTIA in its consultations on DNS reform.

Frequently, Canada's submissions have focussed on the issues of accountability, transparency and good governance.

Canada was an early supporter of the United States Government decision to privatize responsibility for the technical coordination of the Internet naming, numbering and addressing system. Like the U.S., we continue to believe that this technical function can most efficiently and effectively be managed by a private-sector led, not for profit corporation, with international participation and representation, transparent processes, and bottom-up input.

This approach holds the greatest promise for carrying forward the characteristics which have underpinned the Internet's great success as a rapidly evolving and dynamic source of innovation, productivity and economic growth world wide.

The Government of the United States set an ambitious target when it called for full privatization of ICANN by 2000. In hindsight, this deadline was too ambitious — it is no easy feat to establish a new order of thing — though we recognize the courage and foresight inherent in identifying, and acting upon, the need for timely progress toward the stated objective.

At this point, with the benefit of hindsight, we believe the important questions to be asked are not about dates but rather:

  • Have we made progress toward the stated objective?
  • Is the objective still appropriate?
  • Are we still on the right track to meet the objective?

Canada believes that the answer to all three question is: yes.

Our main concern has been, and continues to be, the evolution of ICANN to an accountable and transparent steward of the DNS with global representation — because these characteristics are critical to its long-term success.

Accountability remains a challenge. The review of ICANN's processes has generated greater awareness of accountability issues. Measures identified must be put into practice — demonstrating results to the satisfaction of the various constituencies and stakeholder groups that make up ICANN.

ICANN has made good progress in improving transparency. Minutes of board meetings are now published; the web site has improved; and issue papers are being developed and issued to enable more informed public discussion.

Global, multi-stakeholder participation in ICANN policy development has been a feature of the organization from the start. ICANN has made good progress in dealing with the many challenges inherent in such broad-based, global participation. But again, more needs to be done with respect to accountability.

At this juncture, our main message is that there needs to be a clearer vision of what ICANN will look like, how it will work, how it will be accountable, and how it will continue to pursue its governance objectives in the absence of the current form of U.S. government oversight. A plan must be developed on how to get there from here, with appropriate targets and benchmarks.

During the second half of the current Joint Project Agreement, discussions should be initiated within the ICANN community toward clarifying that vision.

Has the time come to end ICANN's links to the US Government? In our view this is not the pressing question.

More important than fixing a "date certain" for privatization is achieving agreement on the future form and nature of ICANN's accountability as a fully-privatized entity with sufficient buy-in from its global stakeholders, including governments, to fulfil its mandate and continue its important contribution to maintaining the stability and security of the Internet.

The Internet is an open, global, communications network that enables people from round the world to communicate freely across borders and time zones. Concerns about stability and security will be ever-present. Under ICANN's watch, the Internet has remained a remarkably stable environment. And ICANN has made contributions to Internet security.

These are achievements for which everyone involved in ICANN — from engineers to lawyers, board members and management, constituencies, NGOs, governments and individuals around the world who participate — have reason to be proud.

The Internet is a truly global phenomenon and the naming, numbering and addressing system must continue to work on a global basis. We encourage the NTIA and ICANN to persevere, and we look forward to ICANN's successful future.

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