The end of the year trillion dollar plus omnibus spending bill passed by Congress to keep the government open provided a temporary solution to the Commerce Department proposal to end the U.S. Government oversight role over the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) function of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). 

In March 2014 the Assistant Secretary for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) of the Department of Commerce proposed to conclude the oversight role by contract over the ICANN administration of internet numbers in favor of some undefined international authority. 

So since the spring ICANN has been looking for an approach that NTIA would accept that would provide for international oversight outside the traditional framework of the United Nations specialized agencies, including the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). 

The United States has been particularly wary of the ITU since authoritarian governments forced a vote on new and restrictive international telecommunications regulations in Dubai in 2012.   

There has been little or no improvement since that time with the ITU Member States selecting a new Secretary-General from the People's Republic of China (PRC) in October 2014 to replace the departing Soviet-trained engineer from Mali. 

After the conclusion of this most recent ITU Plenipotentiary Conference at Busan ICANN nevertheless seems to have thought it had found the solution it would need to convince NTIA to proceed with a transfer of authority overseas through a Brazilian-sponsored NetMundial initiative for what some have described as a sort of “United Nations Security Council for the Internet.”   

One problem, of course, was that Brazil is not a member of the United Nations Security Council.  Another problem was that the initial idea was to identify a solution without the United Nations.  

A third problem was the whole idea was to avoid having the Internet governed by certain permanent members of the Security Council, most notably Russia and China.   

The more immediate problem for ICANN, however, is that a critical stakeholder in its initiative, the Internet Society, was not on board with the ICANN proposal to set sail from Marina Del Rey. 

Events, however, now show that ICANN has an even bigger problem. 

On November 14, 2014, the Internet Architecture Board stated that “the capabilities of hackers are greater and more pervasive than previously known” and it urged “protocol designers to design for confidential operations by default” and encouraged “network and service operators to deploy encryption where it is not yet deployed.”   

Simply put, as the recent attacks on the Department of State, Sony and on ICANN itself demonstrate, there is a new security reality in cyberspace.  More, rather than less oversight, will be required. 

A new regime will be required, but it should not be provided by the United Nations or the ITU. 

Instead, the Internet community, which looks with disdain at the legacy telephone companies, should look to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for the solution. 

For several decades the FCC has overseen the administration of a North American Numbering Plan (NANP) that provides for number portability by an independent and impartial non-government entity that administers NANP resources in an efficient, effective, unbiased and non-discriminatory manner. 

Now as the FCC moves with all deliberative speed to provide for common carrier regulation of 21st Century data services similar to the regulatory prohibition on “no unjust or unreasonable discrimination” or “no unjust or unreasonable rates” for telegraph or telex services that prevailed for much, if not most, of the 20th Century, Congress, NTIA and the FCC have a model to work with for the ICANN IANA transition. 

No, it does not involve the ITU or the United Nations.   

We remember that back in the day the ITU did not increase staff resources for making international telephone numbers more available as competition increased and calling prices came down. 

As they say, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice.... 

No, it is the North American Numbering Plan Administrator approach that provides the solution to the ICANN IANA issue raised by NTIA. 

NTIA and the FCC can take steps, based on the breathing room that Congress has provided,  to work towards a transition for ICANN to a publicly traded company subject to oversight by an IANA Council chartered under the Federal Advisory Committee Act and subject to minimal FCC review.   

Or the Congress, NTIA and the FCC can take steps to work with a publicly trade company that is a successor to ICANN.   

Either way, ICANN's number, as a non-profit administering the IANA function, is up. 

In the future a better funded and more secure corporate approach will be required.   

The sooner NTIA and the FCC get started, the better.

Kirsch is a former FCC and USTR staff official and was a member of U.S. Uruguay Round and NAFTA trade delegations.