The Regional Internet Registry (RIR) system has been established for over two decades. The five RIRs have grown into substantial and professional organisations, in the process creating a strong and collaborative framework that the world relies on for the provision of IP address registry services.
All RIRs have adopted approaches to risk management and business continuity planning, as part of their operational frameworks, to mitigate and prepare for any risks to their operations. Likewise the global RIR system needs to be protected by managing the risks of regional disruptions to the integrity of our Internet registry services, including the failure of any RIR.
Various agreements of mutual support have long existed between the CEOs and staff of all the RIRs, which have allowed cooperation in many activities. For the case of a serious threat to an RIR’s integrity or operations however, a more formalised agreement is needed, endorsed at the board levels of all RIRs. Therefore, the NRO Executive Council proposes this substantial formal commitment towards safeguarding the stability of the RIR system, in the form of a Joint RIR Stability Fund.
The motivation for establishing a Joint RIR Stability Fund is to guarantee the continued operation of all five RIRs and to ensure ongoing coordination support for the policy development communities of the five RIRs.
This initiative has not been triggered by any current events. On the contrary, it is a measure to better prepare for unforeseen events that may cause disruption to the RIR system. It is also intended to serve as a clear public declaration of the intent of the RIRs to maintain the global integrity of our services and functions, under any circumstances.
Naturally, the shared expectation and hope is that this fund will never be called upon. However, if any RIR encounters serious difficulties, there must be a substantial agreement and understandings in place to ensure that necessary actions are taken.
Implementation of a Joint RIR Stability Fund
During the September 2013 NRO retreat in Montevideo, the EC discussed and reaffirmed the RIRs’ joint responsibility for the global system Internet number registries. They committed to mutual assistance, in kind and financial, to ensure operational continuity, as a matter of priority.
During their documentation efforts in late 2014, working within the context of the IANA stewardship transition process, the RIRs performed a thorough review of their corporate governance structures. From the results of this work, it appeared useful to establish a Joint RIR Stability Fund as a prudent contingency measure towards long-term Internet number registry stability.
In the next stage of discussions, the NRO EC reviewed several possible options for a Joint RIR Stability Fund:
• Separate entity; or
• Formal commitment via (for instance) escrow; or
• Trust relationship in line with existing practice
After consideration, the NRO EC agreed to pursue the third option to reflect existing practices, and a preference for a lightweight, practical and pragmatic approach.
RIR Governance Measures
While the Joint Regional Internet Registry Stability Fund would exist as an emergency support measure, the RIRs would continue to ensure that they have strong measures in place to reduce the likelihood that the Stability Fund should ever be called upon.
Important measures which are agreed to be taken by the individual RIRs include the ongoing public assurance of at least the following:
• Good governance
• Risk management
• Community support
• Healthy revenue flow
• Ample reserves
• Suitable insurance policies
With these measures in place, and able to be assessed at any time by any interested party, the Joint RIR Stability Fund would essentially act as an extra insurance policy for all RIRs, against other threats to their operations.
The Stability Fund would be established through voluntary pledges of funds, publicly documented, from individual RIRs’ reserves. Individual RIR contributions to the Stability Fund would be made only when needed; there is no requirement for any RIR to transfer or manage their pledged funds in any way.
Activation of the Fund
The request for support from the Stability Fund must be a formal documented request by the Board of the affected RIR explaining the reasons why support from the Stability Fund is needed and outlining the requested support required. Support could be financial or in-kind, for instance through operational (staff) support to continue service provision.
Possible scenarios for the Joint RIR Stability Fund to be invoked include:
1. Financial distress
2. Sudden removal of critical staff members
3. Natural disasters
4. Military conflict, political instability, etc.
5. Criminal activity, e.g. cyberattacks, hacks, etc.
6. Serious structural/continuous infrastructure problems, etc.
RIR activities that are not registry- or PDP-related would generally not qualify for support from this fund.
Any approval of funds would be conditional on having concrete budgeted action plans, and regular reporting of audited financials.
The Stability Fund would be accessed only when there is unanimous agreement from the NRO EC, and any allocation from the Stability Fund would be managed and accounted for jointly by the CFOs of all RIRs, coordinated by the NRO EC Treasurer.
In case the fund is accessed, the apportionment of funding responsibility among the contributing RIRs would be determined according to circumstances; it may reflect the existing cost-sharing formula, or another distribution formula as agreed.
In case of RIR provision of in-kind support, the cost of that support would be considered as part of that RIR’s contribution to the fund, but only with the agreement of all RIRs.
Use of Funds
After fund allocation to affected RIR, the use of those resources will be contingent to the authorization of CFOs of (all contributing) RIRs. That authorization of use should take into consideration the relevance of the expenses, prioritizing those that could alleviate the affectation.
It is expected that governing body of the affected RIR will take necessary and relevant decisions to resolve problems that lead the crisis.
Stability Fund Pledges
As of August 2015, the specific pledges to the fund are:
AFRINIC: $50,000 (USD)
ARIN: $250,000 (USD)
APNIC: 5% of APNIC balance sheet equity, at this moment is around $900,000 (AUD)
LACNIC: $100,000 (USD)
RIPE NCC: €1,000,000 (EUR)