It could be the most important thing to happen to ICANN this year: a bi-partisan letter to the U.S. Department of Commerce from the ranking members of the House Committee with oversight jurisdiction over the Commerce's relationship with ICANN. These Congressmen are not happy with what they see.
In addition to demanding that Commerce ensure a representative Board, accountability, adherence to ICANN's original mandate, and due process protections, the writers squash the idea which forms the cornerstone of the Lynn Plan -- that ICANN should be given full control of the root:
Finally, we want to strongly reiterate our support for continued Department of Commerce control over the so-called "A-root" server. We believe that any assumption of control over that asset by any outside entity would be contrary to the economic and national security interests of the United States. We hope you concur with our desire to see the Internet policy of the United States further promote the democratization of access to the processes and tools of Internet commerce and communications. Decisions made in the next few weeks must not put these important policy objectives at risk.
Here's the fulll text of the letter:
March 13, 2002
The Honorable Donald L. Evans
Department of Commerce
1401 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20230
Dear Secretary Evans:
We are writing with respect to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names
and Numbers (ICANN), with which the Department of Commerce ("the
Department") has a contract for performing certain limited technical
functions with respect to the Internet. We are deeply concerned about
proposals for structural changes to that organization.
The systems that the Department permits ICANN to manage are global in scope
and implication. The original policy goal the United States sought to
create with ICANN was to produce a non-governmental entity that could
coordinate core Internet functions and manage the technical aspects of its
naming and address allocation systems. According to the Memorandum of
Understanding between ICANN and the Department for implementing a
transition for ICANN's technical management of Internet names and
addresses, ICANN was to be founded upon the principles of "stability,
competition, bottom-up coordination, and representation."
Since its inception, however, ICANN has increasingly departed from that
limited role. Its unchecked growth into general Internet policymaking and
regulation of commercial rights and interests is very disturbing. As you
know, this Committee has repeatedly joined the chorus of critics from every
part of the Internet community in objecting to ICANN's lack of
transparency, due process, and accountability. It has been slow to create
new competition in the generic top-level domain (gTLD) marketplace and has
developed needlessly detailed, highly regulatory contracts for the number
of new top-level domains announced last year.
Recently, ICANN's president admitted that "ICANN in its current form has
not become the effective steward of the global Internet's naming and
address allocation systems" and that its current structure is
"impractical." We agree. The remedies that ICANN management is proposing
to address these fundamental problems, however, will only make matters
worse. ICANN management is proposing to eliminate direct representation of
Internet users on ICANN's board, place five representatives of national
governments on the board in their stead, and increase its own budget with
funding to be sought from governments and network operators.
It is our belief that such proposals will make ICANN even less
democratic, open, and accountable than it is today. The Department should
not allow ICANN management to retreat on any future prospects for open,
democratic, private sector-led management of certain limited technical
Internet functions. We fully support a "reform" of ICANN; however, we
believe ICANN reform should address and remedy, at minimum, the following
Finally, we want to strongly reiterate our support for continued Department
of Commerce control over the so-called "A-root" server. We believe that
any assumption of control over that asset by any outside entity would be
contrary to the economic and national security interests of the United
States. We hope you concur with our desire to see the Internet policy of
the United States further promote the democratization of access to the
processes and tools of Internet commerce and communications. Decisions
made in the next few weeks must not put these important policy objectives
- Create a Representative Board - The Department should ensure
that ICANN's Board of Directors is fully representative of all
stakeholders, including corporate stakeholders and members of the general
- Increased Accountability - The ICANN Board has been criticized by
both the Internet community and from within the board itself for the lack
of transparency in its decision-making processes;
- Adhere to ICANN's Original Mandate - ICANN should limit its
activities to its initial scope of jurisdiction, i.e., coordinating core
Internet functions and the technical aspects of naming and address
allocation issues; and
- Due Process Protections - There should be clear, written
procedures for approving new gTLDs, as well as any future technical issues,
including an impartial appeals process for those who have process or
We look forward to hearing your views on these matters and thank you in
advance for your time and attention in reviewing this important issue.
W. J. "Billy" Tauzin
John D. Dingell
Chairman, Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the
Edward J. Markey
Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet
Member, Committee on Energy and Commerce
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