NTIA calls ICANN on the carpet over new gTLD process #icann #newgtlds #ntia

NTIALess than a year after ICANN gained its “independence” by signing an Affirmation of Commitments with the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Now, on Dec 2 2010, ICANN has received a sharply critical letter from NTIA head Larry Strickling, suggesting it has not backed up its promises.

The main issue bothering Strickling appears to be the imminent finalization, after 4 years of painstaking gestation, of the new generic Top Level Domain process. He cites half-baked economic analysis of the effects, and a lack of justification, particularly with regard to the decision of the Board to swing from a policy of absolutely no vertical integration between registries and registrars (Mar 2010) to laissez-faire (Nov 2010). In the NTIA’s opinion ICANN is not honoring its commitment to ‘fact-based policy development’, and to ‘provide a thorough and reasoned explanation of decisions taken’.

It can safely be said, on the latter point, that the NTIA are not alone in this assessment, if the efforts of its own Accountability & Transparency Review Team are to believed.

While internationally many probably share the NTIA’s concerns this may well, coming on the heels of the COICA effort, and recent DNS redirecting by the US in the name of  IP protection, be seen as a reminder of American influence, providing fuel for those governments that would like to see control of the domain system passed to the United Nations via the ITU.

It’s sure to be a hot topic at next week’s ICANN Meeting in Cartagena. It seems probable that ICANN will be forced to take the safe course, and yet again delay the gTLD process.