Internet Assigned Numbers Authority

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The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority is the entity that manages the allocation of global IP Addresses, root zone management related to DNS (Domain Name System) and other Internet Protocols (IP).

Short overview

As the Internet evolved, there was a need for a centralized organization which would fulfill the followings tasks/needs:

  • To take responsibility for managing parameters
  • To make sure that everyone uses the same protocols and parameters
  • To coordinate the assignment of identifiers
  • To ensure that the creation and allocation of addresses and domain names is done accurately, based on principles which are acceptable for everyone.

The organization which was responsible for these tasks/needs is IANA. Due to the Internet growth during the 1990's there was also the need for an organization that would take responsibility over the central registration of domain names and addresses. This is how ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) was created. [1]

ICANN is responsible for the centralization of registration tasks related to IP addresses, DNS assignment and protocol parameters management, but ICANN does not replace IANA. There are many differences between ICANN and IANA, especially regarding their attributions, objectives and responsibilities.


  • IANA is the institution which runs TLDs (Top-Level Domains) and deals with the assignment of IP addresses and ranges, ports, and other related attributes.[2]
  • ICANN, based on the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), is the institution which runs IANA.

IANA objectives

  • Besides managing the DNS root zone, IANA also manages the .int registry, and the .arpa zone;
  • Regarding number resources, IANA is entitled to coordinate the global IP respectively AS number space, allocating these to RIRs (Regional Internet Registries);
  • IANA represents the main repository for number registries and protocol names. [3]

Domain Names

IANA is responsible for the administration of domain names which involves liaisons of TLD operators, with root name server operators, as well as operating with .int and .arpa zone.

In order to enable and better manage the allocation of Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs), IANA developed "IDN tables" which supply information related to admitted characters in different languages and other TLD related information. [4]

Protocol parameters

Based on IETF protocols, IANA is responsible with the administration of URI schemes (Uniform Resource Identifier) and character encoding for Internet use.

IP Address

IANA is responsible for the delegation of IP Addresses to RIRs. In their turn, each RIR (Regional Internet Registry) is responsible for the allocation of IP addresses depending on the zone/area they are managing. In the same way, when a RIR requests for more IP Addresses for allocation, IANA evaluates the request and is able to make an additional allocation for RIR. [5]

IANA Contract

Originally, the IANA functions were managed by the Information Sciences Institute (ISI) at the University of Southern California (USC) through the leadership of Dr. Jon Postel under a contract with the Defense Advance Research Project Agency (DARPA).[6]

In 1997, the United States government under Pres. Bill Clinton's administration, approved the transition of the technical management of the Domain Name System (DNS), including the IANA functions, to the private sector. On January 30, 1998, the Department of Commerce (DOC) released the Green Paper recommending the establishment of a new, private, non-profit organization to take over the management of the DNS. The global internet stakeholders shared their comments and recommendations regarding the Green Paper, which were compiled and studied by the NTIA. In June 1998, NTIA published the White Paper, which contains the policy statement of the U.S. government regarding the transition process for the technical management of the DNS to a new corporation to be created based on the principles of stability, competition, private bottom-up coordination, and representation.[7]

On November 25, 1998, the Department of Commerce formally recognized ICANN as the new organization responsible for administering the DNS through a Memorandum of Understanding signed by both parties.[8]

The Department of Commerce awarded a contract to ICANN to manage the IANA functions on February 9, 2000.[9] The agreement was renewed several times in 2001,[10] 2003, [11] and 2006 [12]. The contract in 2006 was modified several times. The latest modification extended ICANN's contract until September 30, 2012.[13]

DOC Notice of Inquiry on IANA Functions

On February 25, 2011, the DOC through NTIA issued a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) to review the IANA functions contract. ICANN's IANA functions contract was to on September 11, 2011. The internet community was encouraged to provide their feedback to the different questions posted by NTIA that aims help improve the operations of the IANA functions.The NOI was the first comprehensive review conducted by the DOC since ICANN took over the responsibilities of the IANA functions in 2000. The deadline for comments was March 31, 2011.[14] [15]

ICANN acknowledged the importance of a comprehensive review of the IANA Functions contract. ICANN suggested to change the conditions of the procurement contract between the U.S. government and Internet governing body into a Cooperative Agreement. In addition, ICANN also recommended including the principles of accountability and transparency in the next framework of the agreement and to restrict the scope of the IANA functions. ICANN wanted to continue to perform the existing IANA function by entering separate agreements with the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to perform the port and protocol parameter registry functions and the management of .arpa top level domain name (TLD).[16]

On June 14, 2011, the DOC issued a Further NOI to solicit public comments regarding its draft Statement of Work (SOW), which included the summary of comments submitted by the public to the first NOI, NTIA's responses, and the detailed work requirements for the IANA Functions.[17]

46 organizations within the global internet community submitted their comments and responses to the SOW.[18] A complete list of the respondents and the summary of their responses are available here

RFP for New IANA Functions Contract

Following the NOI, the DOC published a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the new IANA Functions contract on November 10, 2011. Interested entities were encouraged to submit their proposals until December 12, 2011. The next contract was set to commence on April 1, 2012 until March 31, 2015. The entity chosen to carry out the IANA function will have the option to extend the agreement for another 3 years. [19]

Some members of the internet community believe that ICANN is expected to win the IANA contract and view NTIA's decision to remove the "consensus report" as a softening of its language, while the inclusion of a conflict of interest policy seems to be one of the most significant changes.[20] The discussion of a conflict of interest policy was notably raised by the global internet community after the departure of Peter Dengate Thrush from his position as ICANN Chairman, where he was a strong proponent of the new gTLD expansion program, and immediately joined Minds + Machines, a domain name consulting company. Sen. Ron Wyden called this to the attention of the DOC and recommended the inclusion of "strict ethics guidelines" to prevent a revolving door in the next IANA contract.[21] [22]

One week after the publication of the RFP, the IANA contract was revised to include a "ban on dealing with groups classified as supporting terrorism". The DOC created a new section on data rights stating that the US government has unlimited rights in all data delivered by the contractor under the contract and all data produced through the performance of the contract. A minor revision was made to the wording of the new gTLD section; the old version states that IANA must show that ICANN “followed its policy framework” to approve a gTLD, the new version reads that it must have “followed its own policy framework.”[23]

Requirements for IANA Functions Contract Applicants

Entities interested in applying to become manager of the IANA Functions must meet the following qualifications:[24]

  • The organization/firm must be US-owned and operated or a fully accredited US college or university located within the 50 states or District of Columbia (DC)
  • Incorporated and organized under the laws of one of the 50 states or DC
  • Must be physically located within the United Stated during the entire duration of the contract
  • Demonstrate that all the primary systems and operations will remain in United States and all the core IANA functions identified in the contract must be performed in the US.
  • Show determination in carrying out its responsibilities in accordance with the standards of the FAR Subpart 9.1
  • Must be able to comply with all the applicable laws and regulations as well as the conditions and terms in the agreement pursuant to the solicitation
  • Demonstrate its capability to perform the required work and the ability to provide a "complete, reasonable and logical" cost data or projected funding

Aside from ICANN, three other organizations submitted their proposals to manage the IANA functions including:[25]

EC Reaction to IANA RFP

On November 14, 2011, the European Commission (EC) was pleased with the decision of NTIA to open the IANA Functions Contract to other interested parties. According to Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda, "The new IANA tender is a clear step forward for global internet governance. A more transparent, independent and accountable management of the Internet domain names and other resources will reinforce the Internet's role as a global resource."[26] The Commission noted that some of the changes implemented in the contract were based on the suggestions expressed by Kroes during the EU-US bilateral meeting with NTIA Assistant Secretary Larry Strickling in Brussels and during the IGF in Nairobi, held in May and September 2011 respectively. These changes include the provision mandating the next contractor to maintain a strict conflict of interest policy and to provide proper documentation demonstrating that the decision making process related to the introduction or modification of new gTLD is in the public interest.[27]

NTIA Rejects ICANN's Bid & Cancels RFP

On March 10, 2012, NTIA cancelled the RFP for companies to run IANA, stating that the submitted "proposals did not meet the requirements requested by the global internet community," presumably including ICANN's proposal.[28] Furthermore, NTIA announced that the RFP will be used at a future date, yet to be determined.[29] Given the circumstances, the agency decided to extend ICANN's IANA contract for six months, until September 30, 2012.[30]

NTIA Accepts ICANN Bid

On June 2, 2012, outgoing CEO Rod Beckstrom made signing the new IANA contract his last act as CEO. The new contract included additional requirements on "separation between the policy development associated with the IANA services, and implementation by the IANA functions contractor; a robust company-wide conflict of interest policy; a heightened respect for local national law; and a series of consultation and reporting requirements to increase transparency and accountability."[31]