IANA contract is up for renewal, only to U.S. bidders

And a new clause means decisions on top level domains will have to be documented

The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) is aiming to strengthen requirements for transparency, independence and accountability in its next contract for the creation of top-level domains.

The contract, currently held by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), awards powers to create new top-level domains (such as dot.museum or dot.movie) and is due to expire in March 2012.

ICANN is likely to once again win the bid for the job. However, the new contract, or Statement of Work issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce, significantly tightens up the section dealing with approving new TLDs. The contractor will have to provide documented evidence of "how the process provided the opportunity for input from relevant stakeholders and was supportive of the global public interest."

The new also document includes clear and binding provisions on conflict of interest. The next IANA contractor will have to take measures to avoid any activity or situation that could compromise the impartial and objective performance of the contract.

"At a minimum, this policy must address what conflicts based on personal relationships or bias, financial conflicts of interest, possible direct or indirect financial gain from the contractor's policy decisions and employment and post-employment activities," accordng to the text. Penalties can include dismissal of the IANA contractor.

"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," said Neelie Kroes, European Digital Agenda Commissioner.

Despite welcoming the content of the new contract, however, the European Commission expressed regret that non-U.S. companies are not allowed to compete for the contract. The call for tender specifies that the IANA contractor shall be a wholly U.S. owned and operated firm, with all primary operations and systems remaining within the U.S. Nonetheless, although the contract is open to bidders other than ICANN, it seems unlikely that any other organization could realistically win it.

The anticipated period of the new contract is April 2012 to March 2015. The closing date for receipt of proposals is 4 p.m. Eastern Time, Dec. 12.

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Jennifer Baker

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