selected as references, either because they appeared to be the most representative or because they were the most readily accessible. The committee’s use of these references should in no way be considered an endorsement of the point of view expressed.


Issues: How should the DNS be governed? What should be the role of the U.S. government, international organizations, and ICANN?

As explained in Chapter 3, the U.S. government currently possesses the final authority to make key decisions affecting the DNS. Specifically, it must approve all changes in the root zone file and, thereby, controls the designation of top-level domains (TLDs) and the assignment of responsibility for their operation. In this way, it functions as the steward of the DNS, exercising its authority and making decisions for the larger Internet community.

Through a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed in November 1998, the U.S. government delegated day-to-day operational authority to ICANN, which makes recommendations to the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) for its decisions affecting the DNS. In this capacity, ICANN recommends the addition of new TLDs and redelegations of existing TLDs. (As noted in Chapter 3, ICANN has additional responsibilities for Internet Protocol (IP) addresses and protocols.) ICANN might be thought of as the registry for the root, sponsored by the U.S. government. ICANN nominally has the same responsibilities as other registries: it registers entries into the zone file and sees to the distribution of that zone file to the name server operators. However, as noted in Chapter 3, unlike the TLD registries, ICANN does not directly contract for operation of the root name servers, nor does it have contracts with all the TLDs. In fact, in June 2005 it had agreements with only 10 of the 15 gTLDs and 12 of the 243 ccTLDs. However, because it recommends any new and revised entries into the root zone, because its agreements with the largest gTLDs set the rules for their operations and those of their accredited registrars, and because those rules strongly influence the operations of the other TLDs, ICANN is generally perceived to be the manager of the DNS.

Against this background, the issue of the proper form of DNS governance can be divided into two separate but closely interrelated issues: (1) Where should the stewardship—the final authority for key decisions—of the DNS reside? and (2) How should management authority—the registry function for the root—for the DNS be exercised? Although these roles are distinct at present, one possible answer is that they be combined.

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