On the one hand, surely there's nothing wrong - indeed its probably laudable - to call for greater public participation and involvement in ICANN's affairs, and ICANN's efforts in that direction should surely be encouraged. |
The paper itself has a more-than-decent summary of ICANN's organizational structure - not a bad starting point, actually, for people coming into this debate who know little or nothing about what all the hubbub is about, what ICANN is and what it does, what these "supporting organizations" are, and the like. There's even an ICANN org chart - designed, I suspect, to counter the rather unpleasant connotations associated with the now-classic Tony Rutkowski version of ICANN's internal structure.
Of course, the rationale for greater public participation and involvement in ICANN's affairs, ultimately, is that greater public participation and involvement in ICANN's affairs will make some sort of a difference in the way ICANN operates. "ICANN's policy development process depends heavily on the voluntary participation of individuals and organizations from the communities it serves," the paper suggests, and the "best argument for getting involved in the ICANN process" is that
". . . it matters to the future of the Internet. The domain name and IP address systems on which most Internet traffic now depends have been remarkable technological success stories: the standards are open and non-proprietary, and they have proven capable of supporting the massive exponential growth of the Internet since the mid-1980s. . . . The ICANN structure is one in which an active, interested participant can make a real difference. . . . By getting involved in the ICANN process, you can help determine the future of the Internet's systems of unique identifiers."
Perhaps. Many of us, of course, believe just the opposite - that ICANN's decision are actually made by a handful of individuals, insulated from public view, and that the organizational complexity is just a kind of smokescreen that obscures this central fact.
And while we're on the subject, one other thing in this paper caught my roving eye (or actually the eye of my co-editor, Michael Froomkin, who passed it along to me with the electronic equivalent of the raised eyebrow): the paper describes ICANN's purpose in these words:
"ICANN is responsible for coordinating the Internet's three key systems of unique identifiers. Given that hundreds of millions of Internet users every day depend on the Domain Name and IP Address systems to route their communications, ICANN works to ensure that those systems operate and evolve to serve the global Internet community in a stable and reliable manner."
I've said it before - ad nauseum - and I'll say it again: all of the "action" here is in those words "evolve" and "stable." There is an element of instability in evolution that cannot be wished away, and the more ICANN thinks its job is to ensure Internet "stability" the less robust that "evolution" will be. Guaranteed.