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The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is an agency for the United States Department of Commerce (DOC) that acts as the Executive Branch, responsible for recommending the United States President on various telecommunications and information policies. NTIA was formed in 1978 with an aim to work with other Executive Branch Agencies on crucial issues regarding telecommunications and information policies and also to report on the administration’s current role and position as related to these policies and issues.
NTIA has always been at the forefront of critical issues and has played an important role in providing the guidelines to create and execute new policies to address these issues. It also represents the Executive Branch of the government in national and international telecommunications and information policy activities. NTIA oversees Federal use of the radio frequency spectrum, and does research on various telecommunications and engineering-related fields. It also manages the resolution of issues between the government and the private sector related to telecommunications and also provides grants to infrastructure and public telecommunications facilities.
- 1 Goals
- 2 Organizational offices of NTIA
- 3 Relation with ICANN
- 4 Remarks from Larry Strickling on Principles of Internet Governance
- 5 Proposed Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights
- 6 References
NTIA has many goals for the development of the Telecommunication and Information sector, including the following:
- To provide U.S. citizens with internet, phone and cable services at an affordable rate.
- To provide information infrastructure grants for the development of under-served areas within the country.
- Providing scope for international competition in the telecommunications sector.
- To promote the adequate distribution of spectrum to various fields such as national defense, public safety, and businesses according to their demands and needs.
- Providing the infrastructure for the radio and television broadcasters to efficiently maintain and expand their services.
- Negotiating with other governments across the globe to provide platform for the U.S. companies to have a global outreach and provide their services internationally.
- To perform a long term research to find new possibilities in using the higher frequency spectrum for telecommunication.
- Partnering with national, state and local public safety agencies to understand the necessities of the future spectrum on the grass root level.
Organizational offices of NTIA
- Office of the Policy Analysis and Development (OPAD): OPAD looks after various domestic policies and is responsible for advising the Executive Branch on various issues and policies after performing adequate research and analysis.
- Office of International Affairs (OIA): OIA is responsible for creating policies that help U.S. companies compete internationally in both the fields of Information Technology and Communications.
- Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS): ITS is the research and engineering laboratory of the NTIA. ITS provides technical assistance in the fields of Information Technology and Telecommunications to develop and implement various updated technologies. It assists NTIA in the development of infrastructure for telecommunications and information technology, in order to provide efficient services across the country.
- Office of Telecommunications and Information Application (OTIA): OTIA provides a platform for the public and non-profit organizations to collaborate and work on various telecommunications and information technologies for the benefit of the national development and prosperity.
- Office of Spectrum Management (OSM): OSM is responsible for supervising the use of the radio frequency spectrum provided to the Federal Government. It is also the part of the Department of Commerce (DOC) which oversees ICANN.
Relation with ICANN
NTIA maintains a relationship through ICANN through the latter's role of managing IANA for the former. In November, 2011, NTIA put the IANA Contract up for bid. The move was largely seen as symbolic, and the general consensus was that ICANN was assuredly to be awarded its authority once again. The rewrite in the contract changed language related to gTLDs, no longer requiring proof of consensus but rather proof of process and proof that the new gTLD is in the global public interest; this could be read as a vague strengthening of the role of the GAC within ICANN. It also required that a clear Conflicts of Interest and Ethics policy be adopted. There was also an increase in deadlines and mandatory reports in the new contract, which quashed speculation that the U.S. government would continue to allow ICANN to act with greater independence and accountability.
Following the departure of Chairman Peter Dengate Thrush from the ICANN Board, and his immediate hiring by Minds + Machines in 2011, The U.S. Government and other Internet stakeholders began calling for greater ethics controls and a clear policy to be put in place. The European Commission, in one of its 6 non-papers of 2011, called for the USG to enforce such stipulations via its IANA contract. U.S. Senator Ron Wyden also called for ethics rules to be put in place via a letter to National Telecommunications and Information Administration. In September, 2011, the head of NTIA, Lawrence Strickling, responded to Wyden with assurances that it is “actively exploring how to best meet this requirement” for “a clear and enforced ethics and conflict of interest policy”. This came at a time when NTIA says it was undertaking its first comprehensive review of its IANA contract with ICANN since it was awarded in 2000.
The U.S. Government had been involved in the 6 year process that created the 2011 gTLD Application Program, and NTIA's Lawrence Strickling has been both a vocal critic and ally of ICANN, its processes, and the new gTLD program. In January, 2012, Mr. Strickling wrote to ICANN following multiple recent hearings in the U.S. Congress regarding ICANN's new gTLD program; this was a time of widespread concern on behalf of poorly-informed trademark owners, and also calls for the delay or cancellation of the program by trademark lobby groups ANA, CRIDO, and CADNA. What little media attention the program received was almost wholly negative, including Op-eds in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. In his letter, addressed to Chairman Steve Crocker, Mr. Strickling urged ICANN to more successfully showcase their new gTLD expansion program, and especially emphasize the number of built-in protections for trademark owners.
Mr. Strickling notes that NTIA has no plan or desire to actually interfere in the process after the 6 years of work and the imminent launch, but he does lament the number of problems that have been created largely by ICANN's poor outreach and education. NTIA identified 3 specific things to address: to educate trademark owners about measures in place allowing them to forego defensive registrations; to immediately implement consumer protections it has already devised; and to generally better educate all stakeholders. However, NTIA did suggest and open up the possibility of adding further protections once the application pool is closed and NTIA, alongside ICANN's GAC, had a chance to review the pool of applicants and reflect on what further steps could be taken in the second level.
The full letter can be seen here.
In November, 2012, the three entities most responsible for the Internet's Root Zone, ICANN, NTIA, and Verisign, confirmed that they were prepared with enough resources to launch up to 100 new gTLDs per week.
October 2012, Follow-up
On October 4, 2012, a week prior to the start of ICANN's 45th meeting in Toronto, Sec. Larry Strickling followed up his January 2012 letter to ICANN. He first noted that NTIA had noticed recent progress within the organization citing the progress on incorporating the law enforcement concerns via the GAC within negotiations for a new Registrar Accreditation Agreement; the recent announcement that the Contract Compliance Division will now report directly to the ICANN CEO; and the possibility of moving quickly on recommendations from the Whois Review Team. He stressed that implementation of the latter item was important.
However, Sec. Strickling also noted NTIA's concerns over the limited progress on the Trademark Clearinghouse and the Uniform Rapid Suspension (URS) policy. Larry Strickling noted that ICANN has issued an update on the clearinghouse and a request for information searching for a URS services provider. NTIA encouraged ICANN to continue to allow stakeholders to evaluate and provide input on the the information presented by the applicants. It stressed that the URS was originally envisioned as an effective and low-cost alternative to the UDRP, and encouraged ICANN to ensure that cost concerns were kept in mind throughout their evaluation process.NTIA also encouraged ICANN to not stop working on the Intellectual Property mechanisms as is, but continue to explore other ways of ensuring that trademarks and brands remain safe within the landscape of current and new TLDs.
NTIA Transition Announcement
Main article: IANA Functions Stewardship Transition
In March 2014 NTIA released a statement that they are intent on transitioning their part of the IANA functions away from NTIA and to the global stakeholder community. The first step in this process is for ICANN to convene stakeholders and create a proposal for how the IANA functions will remain secure and unwavering. The press release outlined a number of principles which the ICANN-community drafted proposal must meet:
- Support and enhance the multistakeholder model;
- Maintain the security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet DNS;
- Meet the needs and expectation of the global customers and partners of the IANA services; and,
- Maintain the openness of the Internet.
The current NTIA contract with ICANN expires on 30 September, 2014, and members of the ICANN community took that date as a deadline for drafting and agreeing on a proposal.
ICANN subsequently published their own press release that applauded NTIA's announcement and called it a recognition of the U.S. government to ICANN's "maturation in becoming an effective multistakeholder organization".
Global media outlets picked up on the NTIA press release, with many United States media reporting that the United States Government was "giving up control of the Internet".
On February 5th 2013, Just two months before ICANN is to be ready to recommend TLDs for implementation, the organization suggested the creation and implementation of Public Interest Commitments (PICs) via a proposed Registry Agreement posted for public comment. PICs seem to have been devised to allow applicants to respond to potential negative government reactions to their applicants, as highlighted via GAC early warnings, and write binding amendments to individual applications to highlight their various commitments to creating safe and effective registries. For example, should a government have claimed that an applicant did not have enough safety mechanisms in place, the applicant could create a PIC to highlight a new policy that would restrict registration to a certain group of verifiable professionals. NTIA took the public comment period to recommend that all applicants submit PICs as a way to restrict eligibility to relevant registrants, enforce Whois accuracy, and protect intellectual property and other creative content from online piracy.
Remarks from Larry Strickling on Principles of Internet Governance
During a session hosted by Darrell West and the Brookings Institution on principles of Internet Governance, NTIA Assistant Secretary Larry Strickling strongly pointed out the importance of supporting the multistakeholder model in internet governance to maintain a free and open internet and icontinuous growth.
He said that despite the call of some entities for a unilateral action by the U.S. government to overturn the decision of ICANN to implement the new gTLD expansion program, NTIA would not give in. According to him, the multistakeholder process which was applied by the global internet stakeholders in developing the policies to implement the program, should be respected even if some do not approve of the outcome. He emphasized that he is aware of the concerns raised by the critics of the new gTLD program and responded by encouraging ICANN to resolve all the issues, and recommended some specific actions to improve the program, including additional protection protection mechanisms for new gTLDs, implementation of a stronger Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA), etc. He said, "What I did not do was demand that ICANN abandon its multistakeholder processes to deal with these concerns." Furthermore, he said that challenging ICANN's multistakeholder process will mean providing "ammunition" to other countries who are actively advocating for an internet controlled by governments." Moreover, Strickling encouraged the internet stakeholders to step up, and actively support and participate in the multistakeholder process of internet governance to ensure and open and free internet and continued growth. The same internet governance principle was adopted and articulated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in developing global internet policy, which was described by the secretary as a major achievement in 2011.
On December 2nd, 2012, Lawrence E. Strickling of NTIA, along with Julius Genachowski of the FCC and Phillip L. Verveer of the State Department, issued a letter stating, "The Internet’s decentralized, multistakeholder processes enable us all to benefit from the engagement of all interested parties. By encouraging the participation of industry, civil society, technical and academic experts, and governments from around the globe, multistakeholder processes result in broader and more creative problem solving. This is essential when dealing with the Internet, which thrives through the cooperation of many different parties... Our commitment to the multistakeholder model is based on the fact that transparency, inclusion and participation are the 21st century standards governing discussions related to modern communications. This is a view shared by many around the world and was most recently reiterated by a statement of civil society members and groups from around the world who participated in the “Best Bits” pre-Internet Governance Forum (IGF) meeting held earlier this month in Baku, Azerbaijan. The U.S. Government wishes to lend its support to the spirit of the recommendations contained in the statement."
Proposed Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights
On February 23, 2012, The Obama Administration revealed the proposed "Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights," as part of United States government's commitment to improve consumer privacy protection and to ensure that the internet remains a tool for innovation and economic growth. In his statement, President Barack Obama said, "American consumers can’t wait any longer for clear rules of the road that ensure their personal information is safe online. As the Internet evolves, consumer trust is essential for the continued growth of the digital economy. That’s why an online privacy Bill of Rights is so important. For businesses to succeed online, consumers must feel secure. By following this blueprint, companies, consumer advocates and policymakers can help protect consumers and ensure the Internet remains a platform for innovation and economic growth."  
The Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights is a component of the report,Consumer Data Privacy in a Networked World: A Framework for Protecting Privacy and Promoting Innovation in the Global Digital Economy. The proposed bill provides consumers with the following rights:
- Individual Control- Consumers have the right to choose what personal data is collected and how it is used.
- Transparency- Consumers have the right to access and easily understand the privacy and security practices of a company.
- Respect for Context- Consumers have the right to expect that their personal data is collected and used based on the purposes they approved.
- Security- Companies need to the handle consumers personal data properly and securely.
- Access and accuracy- Consumers should have reasonable access to their personal data and provide appropriate measures to correct inaccurate information.
- Focused Collection- Consumers should be able to set reasonable limitations with companies on the extent of personal data collected and stored.
- Accountability- Consumers have the right make sure that companies are held accountable and are responsible when handling their personal data and follow the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights.
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- US puts ICANN Contract up for rebid, DomainIncite.com
- DOC to ICANN Clear Ethics Policy, thedomains.com
- Expanding Internet Domains, NYTimes.com
- Whats the Rush, WashingtonPost.com
- NTIA Letter on gTLD Program Jan 3 2012, ntia.doc.gov
- ICANN Verisign and Ntia Ready for 100 New gTLDs per week, DomainIncite.com
- Strickling to Crocker, ICANN.org
- Press Release: NTIA Announces Intent to Transition Key Internet Domain Name Functions NTIA.doc.gov; Retrieved 09 July 2014
- [https://www.icann.org/resources/press-material/release-2014-03-14-en Press Release March 14, 2014
- NTIA fights big Contents Corner Tells All new gTLD Applicants To Submit PICs, DomainIncite Retrieved 4 Mar 2013
- Remarks by Lawrence E. Strickling, Principles of Internet Governance: An Agenda for Economic Growth and Innovation
- On Eve Of Start of The ITU Meeting In Dubai, The US Makes Issues A Statement In Support of ICANN, TheDomains.com. Published 2 December 2012.
- US data privacy: the hard work begins
- We Can’t Wait: Obama Administration Unveils Blueprint for a “Privacy Bill of Rights” to Protect Consumers Online
- Federal Register Notice: Internet Privacy Request for Comments
- Testimony of Assistant Secretary Strickling Regarding the State of Online Consumer Privacy