The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is the private sector, non-profit corporation set up in 1998 to help co-ordinate certain key aspects of the Internet's technical infrastructure.
ICANN is essentially a consensus-based model, depending on the continuing and
voluntary support and involvement of the key private-sector actors in the
Internet world-wide. Its original mandate - to facilitate technical
co-ordination in order to ensure the continued stability of the Internet - was
deliberately narrow, not least to avoid ICANN engaging in activities which are
the proper domain of public authorities.
The ICANN CEO recently published a proposal for a restructuring of ICANN. It
proposed a more direct involvement by governments, less direct involvement of
individual Internet users, and the restriction of participation in ICANN to
those who would fund ICANN.
In the short period since the ICANN proposal was published, the Commission has
had an initial consultation with Member States and received support of the
majority for a "reasoned" response, involving an indication that the EU is, of
course, willing to participate in any discussion on ICANN's future and on the
need for an appropriate role for public authorities in the process. Any
radical redefinition of the relationship between the public and private sector
actors in the Internet would however require substantial and in-depth
A first broad public discussion on the proposed ICANN reform took place at the
ICANN meeting in Accra, Ghana, last week. This included participants from
Internet naming and addressing organisations and governments. There was some
agreement on the need to improve the ICANN performance and discussions on how
this should be achieved. Public consultation has now officially started. A
proposal will then be submitted to the ICANN Board for consideration at the
next ICANN Meeting in Bucharest at the end of June. Decisions on changes to
the ICANN structure are not expected to be taken before the ICANN meeting in
Shanghai in October.
EU position to date:
In both Commission Communications on this subject, the European Commission has
proposed support to the principle of private sector self-regulation, and to
the need for the eventual privatisation and internationalisation of DNS
management. The European Parliament and the Council have endorsed the
Commission's approach in various resolutions.
At this Council
Commissioner Liikanen will inform the Council about developments, including
the conclusions from the ICANN meetings in Ghana.