ICANN had no idea IANA rejection was coming

In a worrying turn of events, it appears that ICANN had no idea about the rejection of its bid for long-term running of the IANA contract prior to an announcement being posted on the NTIA's website today.

The organization - which has run the IANA functions for over a decade - is also waiting to hear why the US government feels it has failed to meet the RFP criteria that defined a new, more open approach to the contract.

In a series of sudden and unexpected announcements earlier today, the NTIA first announced it was canceling the entire rebid process for IANA, then that it was canceling it because no one had met its criteria, and then that it was extending ICANN's IANA contract for six months to give it time to re-run the RFP process.

ICANN was aware of the IANA contract extension, having held some discussions in recent days but it appears it was completely unaware that its RFP bid had been rejected - alongside any others that may also have bid - and still has no idea what the reasons are for the rejection.


Update: According to a USG representative we spoke to, since the RFP was run under Federal procurement rules, there are strict laws prohibiting the sharing of information about contract bids, so the USG/NTIA was not in a position to give ICANN forewarning of the rejection of its bid.


Breakdown

The situation is just the latest manifestation of an almost complete breakdown in communication between ICANN and the NTIA.

Normally it would be expected that ICANN was given confidential feedback or at least a heads-up about the rejection of its bid for such a crucial part of the Internet's infrastructure.

Such is the level of mistrust however, particularly surrounding ICANN's CEO Rod Beckstrom and his immediate team, that the organization was apparently given no notice of the decision.

The relationship between ICANN and the NTIA has never been good - it reached an unimpressive peak just prior to the ending of the Joint Project Agreement. But given the importance of the IANA contract not just to the two parties but also to the overall stability of the Internet, a second short-term extension to the contract solely in order to deal with failures in the tendering process is beginning to make it a matter of real concern.

From the NTIA's perspective, it is trying to force ICANN to up its game and start treating the IANA contract like a professional contractor; from ICANN's perspective, it thinks the NTIA is using the IANA contract as a blunt tool to force it to make the changes that it wants to see.

What the outside world is increasingly looking at however is the dangerous politicization of a crucial technical function. Behind the puppet show of Internet governance, the hidden hands of influence are popping into view.

Comments

Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR)

At least you have the "Update" material, though I think that you have soft-pedaled it. It would be a violation of the Federal Acquisition Regulations for ICANN to be "given confidential feedback or at least a heads-up" prior to the decision. To say "the USG/NTIA was not in a position to give ICANN forewarning of the rejection of its bid" is a pretty mild way of saying "the contracts people at USG/NTIA didn't want to lose their jobs and possibly go to prison for violating the law by giving ICANN forewarning." There may be mistrust and there may be politicization, but ICANN not having prior notice of the announcement cannot be taken as evidence of either - the absence of a heads-up is simply compliant with the governing law.

Without knowing anything about the details, I would expect that now that the decision has been made and announced, ICANN can request, and will probably be granted, a debrief by NTIA. Whether they'll gain any useful information is another question, but that's when feedback can be given, not before the decision is made.

admin's picture

Many other options

So you are right re: soft-pedaling and there was a reason for that. Because the argument isn't entirely convincing.

Whether it was a case of just bad communication, or whether the NTIA really felt legally constrained, the fact is that there is no way that the USG was not aware of the enormous repercussions of its decision.

It said that ICANN's bid to run the IANA contract did not meet the RFP criteria. And then it shutdown the RFP process. That is a huge negative signal and an explosive response to a delicate matter.

Here's an alternative route that could have been taken with far less heat and light:

* An extension could have been granted on the procurement process
* ICANN could have been informed that its application was found to be lacking in some elements and invited to resubmit with improvement in particular areas
* NTIA put out a release saying it is continue with its IANA improvement project

That would have been a very much cleaner and more helpful way forward. There are many other possible permutations and combinations of course.

Kieren McCarthy

"the hidden hands of influence are popping into view"

"the hidden hands of influence are popping into view"

Some people might call those the "hidden hands" of the FREE Market.

When ICANN was founded, they agreed to never run a Registry and compete with the other players. ICANN is now planning to run a $25,000 per year Registry for anyone foolish enough to buy a franchise.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has warned people about ICANN.

ICANN is clearly for-profit, and not public-benefit.

People should ask ICANN what they are selling and what authority they have to sell gTLD franchises.
People should also ask about what guarantees ICANN provides in making the gTLDs widely available.

The U.S. NTIA is attempting to avoid embarrassment down the road when people scream they were taken to the cleaners. As Bernie Madoff said: "EVERYONE had to know..."