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ccTLD Delegation and Administration Policies

One topic on the agenda for public discussion and comment, and possible Board action, at ICANN's meetings March 7-10, 2000 in Cairo is ccTLD delegation and administration policies. This page describes the past development of ccTLD policies and provides links to relevant background materials, proposals for revision, and the ICANN discussion forum.

Past Development of ccTLD Delegation and Administration Policies

The domain-name system was implemented in the mid-1980s and now employs approximately 250 "top-level domains" or "TLDs" (the string, such as .com, to the right of the last period in the domain name). These TLDs currently consist of two or more letters. Two-letter TLDs are referred to as "country-code top-level domains" or "ccTLDs," because those codes correspond to the two-letter abbreviations for countries (such as .dk for Denmark) or external territories (such as .gl for Greenland) that are presented on the ISO 3166-1 list. Longer TLDs are known as "generic top-level domains" or "gTLDs"; there are currently seven of these.

ccTLDs have been established to facilitate and promote the spread of the Internet globally. They are delegated by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) to designated managers, who operate the TLDs according to local policies that are adapted to best meet the economic, cultural, and linguistic circumstances of the country or territory involved. The global policies regarding the operation of ccTLDs, and concerning the circumstances under which a delegation will be made or changed, were originally developed by the IANA in the late 1980s. As the Internet has spread globally and shifted to commercial use, these policies have evolved at the IANA.

In March 1994, Dr. Jon Postel of the IANA published RFC 1591, which described the "Domain Name System Structure and Delegation" generally, including both ccTLDs and gTLDs. After issuance of that RFC, the IANA periodically adjusted the policies and, from time to time, issued memos (such as the ccTLD News series) that documented the evolving policies.

In the fall of 1998, ICANN was formed by the Internet community as a private-sector, not-for-profit corporation to assume responsibility for technical management of the Internet from the U.S. Government and its contractors. In November 1998, ICANN entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the U.S. Department of Commerce under which management responsibilities are gradually being transitioned. One of the requirements for completion of the transition is that ICANN develop appropriate relationships with other entities involved in the Internet's operation, to allow it to meet its technical-management responsibilities in a manner that ensures continued stable operation of the Internet. These entities include the managers of the ccTLDs as well as governments of the affected countries or territories.

Historically, the IANA was operated by the University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute (ISI). In December 1998, ICANN entered a transition agreement with ISI under which it assumed, subject to U.S. Government approval, responsibility for the IANA's operation. ICANN has recently entered a contract with the U.S. Government for the operation by ICANN of the IANA. Among other things, that contract approves the transition from ISI.

In May 1999, ICANN and the IANA jointly issued a document entitled "Internet Domain Name System Structure and Delegation", commonly known as "ICP-1." This document contains a statement of the policies then being followed by the IANA in connection with ccTLDs. Those policies are still in effect today, making ICP-1 both the best reference for existing policy and a starting point for consideration of ccTLD policy changes.

In early February 2000, the IANA issued a report on one ccTLD matter--a request for redelegation of the .pn (Pitcairn Island) top-level domain. The report concluded that redelegation was appropriate, and the U.S. Government has implemented the redelegation.

Issues Involved

ICANN's Cairo meeting will address the issues concerning what policies should apply to the administration and delegation of ccTLDs. Different aspects of this set of issues are:

  • Delegation issues. Under what circumstances should the designated manager of a ccTLD be changed? What principles should be applied in deciding what substititue manager to appoint? What is the role of the government of the affected country or territory in redelegation issues?
  • Allocation of global and local policy responsibility. As recognized in ICP-1, the operation of a ccTLD has effects on all parts of the Internet, yet the local community has a special interest in the manner in which a ccTLD is operated. The global interest suggests that certain topics (those concerning interoperability, for example) should be the subject of uniform, global policies. The local interest, on the other hand, can sometimes be served best by locally established policies that suit the economic, cultural, and linguistic circumstances of the country or territory involved. What policies for the operation of ccTLDs should be established globally, and what policies should be set locally? What is the relevance of laws of the country or territory associated with the country code to this allocation of policy-making responsibility?
  • ccTLD relationship to ICANN/IANA. What services should the IANA (and ICANN) provide to support the operation of ccTLDs? How can ICANN best work with ccTLD managers to promote the stable operation of the Internet?
  • Participation in ICANN funding. The White Paper indicates that ICANN should be funded by name and address registries. What role responsibilities should ccTLD managers have to assist in ICANN's funding? What should be done if a manager does not meet these responsiblities?

Proposals for Revision

Submission by Governmental Advisory Committee

Submission by CENTR

Submission by Intellectual Property Constituency

Submission by Quaynor, Van Couvering, DeBlanc, Robles, and Semich

ICANN Discussion Forum

Click here to enter the public comment forum on ccTLD issues.

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