The question was this: the Dept of Commerce MoU contains a requirement that ICANN have in place a process for adding TLDs by September 30 and the beginning of its implementation by December 2004. Yet, as far as I could tell there was no plan, much less a process underway, to meet this goal. So how could the deadline be met?
I really didn't know the answer to the question. I thought maybe I had missed something and Twomey would pull a rabbit out of his hat instantly, cleverly disposing of my query.
To my surprise, no immediate answer was forthcoming. Twomey asked Cerf, who was chairing the meeting, to defer the answer and allow additional questions. As the meeting droned on, I settled into a chair and Twomey used the time to search for the actual wording of the MoU.
A loooong time later, Twomey gave an answer worthy of the worst of the old ICANN. ICANN would fulfill this obligation, he said, by developing a "strategy" for the "development of a process" to define a policy for the addition of TLDs. To his credit, he seemed to know that he was uttering b.s. But it was all very complex, he explained: which SO would do it, GNSO, or ccNSO, or both? This would take time. Lots of time.
Then Pisanty intervened, labeling the requirement a minor technicality. and railing vehemently against anyone who would attempt to use that sort of trivial thing to get the U.S. government to intervene in ICANN's affairs. His answer was more depressing than Twomey's.
But wait. The news is not all bad. I zoned out for a while, talking to a reporter next to me. The next thing I knew I was being summoned to the microphone by Twomey. He wanted to ask me if I had any ideas about what kind of a TLD addition process could be adopted.
This was sort of like asking Karl Auerbach whether he has an opinion about Joe Sims.
I explained the basic procedure set forth in our TLD policy paper and indicated that given the OECD report it seemed like a good way to go. But even if one didn't like the auction idea, one should at the very least adopt a regularly scheduled process with defined boundaries.
And it seemed obvious to me that new TLDs would be gTLDs and thus the policy process should be run through the GNSO.
Twomey followed up with what seemed to be genuine questions and a sincere effort at dialogue, which continued until we were cut off by an exhausted Vint Cerf, who pointed out that it was past 7 pm and the session was an hour behind schedule.
Who knows what ICANN will do. Probably nothing, as usual. But it was good to see ICANN's CEO willing to discuss it openly in an uncontrolled environment.
As for Pisanty's paranoia, probably WSIS-inspired, how can anyone fathom it? It's obvious they're going to miss the deadline, and it's equally obvious that in the current political climate NTIA/DoC is not going to take ICANN out behind the woodshed and shoot it for missing one of the MoU requirements.