How ICANN Policy Is Made (II)
Date: Wednesday September 05 2001, @03:29AM
Topic: The Big Picture

A lot of people have been emailing to ask what we think about the .au redelegation. I've written a short essay explaining my personal view as to why I think this decision is a watershed moment in ICANN's history:
ICANN in effect simultaneously declared

  • that it can redelegate a functioning ccTLD over the opposition of the current delegate;
  • that controversial dictates of the so-called ICANN Government Advisory Committee (GAC) will be treated as ICANN policy even if they have never been voted on by any other part of the ICANN machinery;
  • that a major change on redelegation policies will be made in secret, without any public discussion;
  • that a major decision on the governance of a functioning TLD will be taken unilaterally and secretly by the ICANN staff, without either a publicly documented comment period or a vote of the DNSO or the ICANN Board.
  • that it's ICANN/GAC policy to support the creation of national mini-ICANNs as an end-run around ordinary government procedures.
There's a lot to be concerned about here. UPDATE: The Other Shoe Drops.

Because this is a slightly longer essay, I've placed the full text here. Meanwhile, here's the conclusion:

ICANN now takes the view that if a government wants to take a ccTLD, or wants it delegated to its mini-ICANN, "IANA" can do that, without a finding of fault on the behalf of the existing ccTLD operator.

There are three grounds for concern in this story. The first, as I've suggested in this narrative, is that ICANN persists with the fiction of IANA to the detriment of open processes. This is dangerous. The second, also set out above, is that ICANN creates new policies on the fly -- this time with the added bonus of turning GAC's advisory role into one of pure policymaking, unmediated by any other ICANN body. This too is dangerous. The third is that ICANN's new policy essentially puts governments in control of ccTLDs. That's complicated, but subtly dangerous too.

Ultimately, I think governments can, and should be, allowed to exert control over ccTLDs designed to serve their nations. RFC 1591 requires that the ccTLD operator have a local presence, and that means that governments will always have the power to regulate (or even jail) the ccTLD operator. But in democratic governments, regulatory decisions have to be made according to established and legitimate processes. Taking a functioning ccTLD from someone against their will is not something a democratic government would necessarily find it easy to do. Similarly, all sorts of ccTLD regulations -- the UDRP comes to mind -- may only be possible if enacted through ICANN, or a series of mini-ICANNs.

ICANN was already a means by which the US government did an end-run around ordinary government procedures. Now ICANN's taking the show on the road.

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Re: How ICANN Policy Is Made (II)
by fnord ( on Wednesday September 05 2001, @06:01AM (#2219)
User #2810 Info
Michael, thank you for your brilliant and perceptive (and, I fear, prophetic) analysis and conclusions. I had meant to say during the 300 milestone/millstone here that, while I appreciate the new slashdot-like format, I did miss the longer, more in-depth articles of the old format by such as yourself. I'm glad to see they're still around. :)

The slashdot discussion, which I've been following, makes clear that the local opposition to this redelegation is not by any means limited to Melbourne IT and Robert Elz. End-user stakeholders, as usual with ICANN, wake up and find their world has changed.

The supra-national government called ICANN is truly creating mini-ICANN's, supra-embassies around the world who will enjoy diplomatic immunity, free to come and go at will, unchecked, beyond the touch of national law, their namespace an inviolate sanctuary for multinatcorps. Thankfully the .ca redelegation was a little less messy, but I greatly fear that the end result will be the same. One wonders, and worries, how many more changes need to occur before the world wakes up. -g

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Re: How ICANN Policy Is Made (II)
by dtobias ( on Wednesday September 05 2001, @11:15AM (#2228)
User #2967 Info |
Shouldn't those be .org, if they aim for noncommercial commentary rather than making money off it? :)
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