Date: Fri, 15 Mar 2002 05:30:04 -0500
Subject: [icann-alsg] Substance over rhetoric - a constructive challenge
[sorry for any double-postings]
Substance over Rhetoric:
A constructive challenge to the ICANN board, staff and other involved
Yesterday the board of ICANN approved continued work on an At-Large
membership “mechanism” and stated that it “wishes to move forward with
energy and enthusiasm to build a meaningful structure for informed
participation by the full range of Internet users, and seeks avenues to
achieve these objectives that are bottom-up, self-organized, and
I would like to take these words at their face value and, before leaving
Accra, make some concrete suggestions for moving forward. It’s obvious that
ICANN itself has few resources (whatever its intentions) to move the ALM
forward, and indeed the major activity needs to come bottom-up, from the
community itself. There is no staff person with spare time to dedicate to
this effort, and from the community side, there are feelings ranging from
betrayal and hostility to indifference. How can we mend this situation?
For starters, this message is an attempt at transparency and
concreteness. Other than noncommittal discussions with Alexander Svensson
(more below) and a couple of the ALSC members, I have not lined up support
for these proposals. So these ideas are fresh and unvetted: I hope that
those of you I am addressing directly will respond in kind, with ccs to all…
The basic idea is to move forward in tangible ways with the formation of a
coherent, tangible At-Large membership, supported by a fulltime, committed,
paid individual staffer as well as volunteer efforts.
It will require funding from a variety of parties (we cannot depend on
ICANN alone) and some concrete actions. This does not require broad
consensus, but rather the actions of a few parties who I hope can
ultimately gather broad support for their efforts. The Board on its
side is lukewarm/negative on elections, but willing for the most part to
respond to evidence of a committed, transparent, issue-focused At-Large
that could provide constructive input representing the public interest in
ICANN policies (aside from its own role).
I’d like to suggest the following:
ICANN hires Alexander Svensson to manage At-Large outreach for the next
year. This position will be funded (here’s the challenge!) by my $10,000
pledge, matched by institutions such as Harvard’s Berkman Center (which
spent at least that much to send its own team to Ghana to observe the
recent meeting), Markle, Bertelsmann, and the like, and a variety of
interested companies who at least in principle have supported the notion of
an At-large membership. And perhaps even ICANN can allocate a small sum
with “energy and enthusiasm.”
I have talked with Alexander. He is a PhD student from Hamburg, Germany,
who is studying ICANN and is currently chairman of the DNSO General
Assembly. With some encouragement from a few more people, I think he would
be willing to serve. So far, he has demonstrated himself to be impartial
and sensible and has the calm, unassuming personality that should enable
him to do this job effectively. His first task would be to take over from
Denise Michel (the executive director of the ALSC) all the communications,
databases, lists of interested parties and other connections that will
enable the transformation of the ALSC At-Large Study Committee into an
At-Large Organizing effort. Denise has agreed to help with the transition.
Once settled in, he should get in touch with all the individuals and
organizations interested in furthering the At-Large and help them to
self-organize. In addition, he will manage the online discussion (my
suggestion is for one reference list, completely uncensored except for
spam) and one or two moderated lists that ideally will focus on ICANN
substance things such as name-registration policies and international
domain names as well as on the role of the At-Large.
Ideally, the At-Large discussion should be focused on ICANN policies rather
than just winning a seat at the table. Alexander may choose to present a
variety of topics, offering substance and questions for discussion (for
example, how should new TLDs be chosen, if at all?), making the At-Large a
forum for learning as well as expression of opinions.
Alexander should also act as a liaison/staff to those ICANN Board members
who wish to work with him, so that the At-Large can have an additional,
active channel/advocate with the Board.
What happens after that? A lot is still up in the air, with the board
meeting in a private retreat in the next month or two, followed by the
Bucharest board meeting at the end of June. At the same time, there will
be actions and statements by a variety of other parties, including various
governments, and responses to the Lynn “reform” proposal.
An incipient At-Large membership should be part of that mix. The
discussions moderated by Alexander should help determine where it all goes.
So, I challenge all of you to support such an effort…or to come up with
better or additional activities. Thank you for your attention.
Please reply with any questions or constructive comments.