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ICANN Community Priorities and the COVID-19 Pandemic

29 April 2020

Earlier this year, Supporting Organization (SO) and Advisory Committee (AC) leaders met to outline their priorities for 2020. This exercise provided a starting point for current discussions about prioritizing ICANN community work in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. ICANN org will continue to work closely and proactively with SO and AC leaders, ensuring that its support for ongoing community projects meets expectations and adapts to the pressures of the global public health crisis.

Much of the ICANN community is already accustomed to conducting its work virtually. However, policy development processes (PDPs) and other high-profile ICANN community projects rely extensively on in-person interactions at ICANN Public Meetings and other intersessional gatherings to advance discussions. ICANN org recognizes this and continues to plan with the ICANN community in preparation for the ICANN68 Virtual Policy Forum.

The Address Supporting Organization (ASO) conducts most of its policy development work on regional community mailing lists and at Regional Internet Registry (RIR) meetings. Upcoming meetings of the Latin American and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry (LACNIC) and Réseaux IP Européens (RIPE) communities will be held virtually. The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) meeting has been postponed until June 2020 and will also take place virtually. Working with ICANN org, the ASO continues to contribute to the Identifier Technology Health Indicators (ITHI) project.

The Country Code Names Supporting Organization (ccNSO) is conducting simultaneous PDPs for the first time. ccPDP3 is being conducted in two phases: Phase 1 focuses on the retirement of delegated country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs) while Phase 2 will tackle the development of a review mechanism pertaining to decisions regarding the delegation, transfer, revocation and retirement of ccTLDs. The ccNSO recently hosted a series of webinars to preview its Phase 1 Interim Paper. The ccNSO is also preparing to approve an Issue Report for ccPDP4, which will kick off policy work on the selection of Internationalized Domain Name (IDN) ccTLD strings and eventually replace the current Fast Track process.

Earlier this month, the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) Council decided to review each element of its draft work plan, re-evaluate urgency, and identify preparatory steps for any new projects. With three major ongoing PDPs — the Expedited PDP on the Temporary Specification relating to gTLD Registration Data (EPDP), New gTLD Subsequent Procedures, and Review of All Rights Protection Mechanisms in All gTLDs (RPMs) — the GNSO Council is concentrating on concluding these PDPs before initiating new projects that may require significant ICANN org and community resources. For example, the GNSO Council had anticipated initiating the Intergovernmental Organization (IGO) Work Track within the RPMs PDP just after ICANN67, but the Council will likely engage the GAC in additional discussions in order to determine when this additional work should commence.

The At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) has also prioritized its projects in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the next month, the ALAC will continue to work on Domain Name System (DNS) abuse and review results from a recent geographic names survey used to derive consensus among At-Large members for their work in the GNSO New gTLD Subsequent Procedures PDP. At-Large is also prioritizing the outcomes of the successful third At-Large Summit (ATLAS-III) held in late 2019. This includes adapting policy advice development, capacity building, and outreach and engagement activities. Completing the At-Large Review Implementation Final Report is also a priority.

Leveraging its existing communications tools, the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) continues a steady pace of intersessional work. The GAC is working with ICANN org to maintain community engagement activities through targeted regional webinars on topics of interest to governments. If successful, this pilot effort will be expanded. ICANN community concerns regarding abusive domain registrations related to the COVID-19 pandemic have prompted dialogue between GAC members and contracted parties to share information and resources. Mindful of time zone challenges experienced during ICANN67, the ICANN68 Virtual Policy Forum will provide another opportunity for GAC members to collaborate on important internal GAC discussions as well as participate in cross-community discussions.

Earlier this month, the Root Server System Advisory Committee (RSSAC) approved two new RSSAC Caucus work parties. The RSSAC Caucus is composed of DNS experts who have an interest in the Root Server System, broadening the base of diverse, technical expertise available for RSSAC work. The primary role of the RSSAC Caucus is to conduct research and produce publications on topics relevant to the RSSAC mission. The work parties will study tools to gather a local perspective of the Root Server System and the effects and mitigations of a rogue root server operator. At the same time, the RSSAC continues its discussions related to evolving the governance of the Root Server System.

The Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC) continues to shepherd the Name Collision Analysis Project (NCAP). Moreover, the ICANN org recently published the summary report of the Public Comment proceeding on Study 1. The SSAC is active in cross-community discussions related to Phase 2 of the GNSO EPDP, DNS-over-HTTPS (DoH), DNS-over-TLS (DoT), and DNS abuse. The SSAC DNS Abuse Work Party seeks to deliver an advisory that provides a framework for ICANN community deliberations on DNS abuse.

Despite the challenging circumstances, the ICANN community remains focused on its core priorities of policy development and advisory work. ICANN org appreciates this sustained commitment and will continue to ensure that we support the ICANN community in prioritizing its essential work. Now more than ever, it is imperative that the global Internet remains secure, stable, and resilient.


David Olive

David Olive

SVP, Policy Development Support & Managing Director - Washington, D.C.