Rob Courtney, a policy analyst at the US Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT), a nonprofit public policy group, said talk of a possible challenge to ICANN was raised yesterday at a four-day session being held by ICANN in Shanghai to consider changes to its bylaws and structure.
Courtney is attending the meetings on behalf of the CDT, which has criticised ICANN's recently proposed reforms as not going far enough to bring needed changes. In June, the ICANN board unanimously approved the proposed reform blueprint.
The idea, Courtney said, is that a number of TLD holders may want to take over some of the Internet's administrative work now done by ICANN under a contract with the US Department of Commerce. The so-called Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) maintains administrative contacts for the Internet, updates name servers and completes other administrative tasks, he said.
Under an idea being floated at the ICANN meetings, some TLD holders are thinking of making their own bid for the next IANA contract, which expires at the end of March.
"I think it's potentially very significant," Courtney said of the concept. "ICANN has always done those functions and set the policies. Those things have always been paired since ICANN's creation in 1998. This would split that. It would require a real rethinking of how ICANN operates."
So far, Courtney stressed, this is just an idea, but it could develop into a firm proposal before ICANN's meetings conclude on Thursday. "None of the TLDs have come up with the detailed proposals needed yet to do such a thing," he said.
"The new proposal for the IANA function kind of posits a new world," Courtney said. "This is a new idea that has not been put forward before in practical terms."
A spokesman for ICANN was unavailable for comment.
ICANN will hold a public forum in Shanghai to collect opinions about its proposed reforms and other issues related to the group. Comments are expected from many parties, including regional Internet registries, TLD holders and others.
The ICANN board will meet today (30 October) to vote on the proposed reforms and changes. The group will then meet in Amsterdam in December to decide how to implement the coming changes.