New US Commerce Dept Chief Faces Domain Name Challenges

“If former Washington State Gov. Gary Locke (D) is confirmed as the new U.S. Commerce Secretary, he’ll face several Internet policy issues that require immediate attention and decisive action in 2009,” says Network World. But whoever is confirmed in the position will face the same challenges as outlined by Network World.

“One challenge for Locke”, says Network World, “is appointing a forward-thinking, tech-savvy leader for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which is the arm of Commerce that handles most Internet infrastructure-related issues.”

“The most important thing for transition is for the new leadership to get a handle of the core functions of NTIA, which include authorizing changes to the DNS authoritative root and overseeing the entire NTIA, ICANN, VeriSign triangle,” says John Kneuer, a former NTIA administrator for President George W. Bush who operates a public policy advisory group in Washington D.C. and whom the article quotes extensively.

“‘Responsibility for the DNS along with spectrum management for critical government functions are the most important things that NTIA does,” Kneuer told Network World.

“Kneuer says the new Commerce leadership team needs to understand the consensus-based process that NTIA and ICANN use to operate the DNS.

“NTIA must ‘continue the role that the U.S. government has played as a back-stop for ICANN to make sure that ICANN is transparent, fully functional and responsive to all constituent voices,’ Kneuer says. ‘It’s going to be important for NTIA to keep an appropriate focus on these core functions when there are going to be a lot of competing issues.’

The article then goes on to list “five issues related to Internet infrastructure that Locke will need to address as soon as he takes office.” These are:
1. Signing the DNS Root Zone
The deployment of DNSSEC, which “prevents hackers from hijacking Web traffic and redirecting it to bogus sites”, is awaiting Commerce Department approval for deployment on the root zone. The deployment can only be authorised by the Commerce Department “across the 13 server clusters that carry the DNS root zone data, which is at the pinnacle of the DNS hierarchy. These server clusters resolve requests from the top-level domains, which in turn handle DNS queries for names registered in those domains.”

2. ICANN Relationship
The article discusses whether ICANN should be free of US government oversight, something ICANN favours. Support for independence comes from many internet engineers while “some conservative think tanks and technology industry executives favour continued Commerce Department oversight.”

3. New Top-Level Domains
Support comes for the introduction of new gTLDs from VeriSign but is question by Kneur. “They are now undergoing the sorts of analysis on the impacts for security and stability on the core routers. They are asking some of the questions that one would have thought would have been asked and answered by this point in the process,” Kneuer says. He adds that ICANN’s gTLD plan “does not stand out as a sterling example” of ICANN being a competent, functional organization ready to be independent of U.S. government control.

4. Promoting IPv6
IPv6 will be a big issue for ICANN, the Commerce Department and the entire U.S. government and Kneur suggests the Department of Commerce encourage U.S. industry to adopt best practices in cybersecurity by sharing its experiences with emerging technologies such as IPv6.

5. Spectrum for First Responders

To read this Network World report in full, see: