By Nick Patience The interim president of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), Mike Roberts says that the work to develop the procedures by which the authoritative domain name root server will be switched from the current A server to the L server run by ICANN will take a few weeks. It […]
By Nick Patience
The interim president of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), Mike Roberts says that the work to develop the procedures by which the authoritative domain name root server will be switched from the current A server to the L server run by ICANN will take a few weeks. It is being undertaken by a combination of ICANN’s root server advisory committee (the make-up of which, it seems, is still a secret), the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and its agency, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
Once ICANN and the others have those procedures in place, it will wait for direction from Commerce to implement them. We have not been able to ascertain thus far when Commerce intends to do that, however. If it decides to do it before the end of Network Solutions Inc’s contract in September 2000, it would be highly controversial, but the agreement between Commerce and NSI appears to allow for that contingency, so it could well happen.
This issue is an emotive one for many in the internet community, some of whom worry about the extent of ICANN’s and the US government’s powers to alter the architecture of the internet. But, on the other hand, it is hardly a great surprise as it has been suspected for some time that NSI, a publicly-traded company, will not be able to retain control over a task that, however well it carries it out, gives it the potential to dictate which domains work and which don’t. That may be putting it a tad simplistically, given that NSI is still answerable to Commerce for the duration of its contract, but ICANN’s control of the primary root server is one of its principle tasks, as laid out in its agreement with the US government.
The switch is not a physical one, merely an instruction for the 13 root server operators around the world to take their updated root zone files, which contain all the details of all the current registered second-level domains in the .com, .net and .org name spaces from a different server than they do now. NSI runs the A server at present under a government contract, but the plan is eventually to shift the primary root to the L server run by ICANN.
ICANN is doing this in accordance with the Amendment 11 agreement NSI signed with Commerce in October 1998 and also in accordance with ICANN’s memorandum of understanding signed with Commerce in late November 1998, according to Roberts.
Amendment 11 states that NSI will continue to operate the primary root server and server as root zone administrator, until such time as the USG [US government] instructs NSI in writing to transfer either or both of these functions to NewCo [the placeholder name for what became ICANN] or a specified alternate entity. ICANN’s memorandum of understanding says ICANN should be working on formalizing the relationships with the various root server operators around the world, working on the technical requirements for making the network more secure and ensuring its optimum performance.