Jamie Love writes from Bucharest:
I'm here at the ICANN meeting, having arrived in the
late afternoon. I briefly sat in on a meeting
about the .org bids, and in another meeting organized
by the "icannatlarge.com" organizing effort, which
featured quite surprising presentations by Esther
Dyson, followed by about 5 hours of gossip, drinks and
food in the Marriott Grand Hotel, where the meeting is
being held. . . .
Everything will lead up to the ICANN board meeting on
Friday, and so far it looks like a depressing week. Most people say the June 20 "Blueprint for reform"
document will be approved with a few changes on Friday.
Among other things, ICANN is seeking to eliminate any
possibility that there will ever be votes from the
general public for anything, and doing its best to pass
this off this as some consensus decision. ICANN
also proposes to abandon an independent review
board, and is seeking to adopt a statement on
policy making that opens the door to just about
The main thing here is about raising fears about what
will happen if people don't go along with the ICANN
"reform" proposal, no matter how bad it is. Many of
these are seemingly inconsistent, and appeal as much to
emotions as reason. Top on the list is the resentment
toward the US for its current perceived control over
the Internet DNS. Recent statements by members of
Congress are being used to work people up over the US
government taking over the ICANN functions. A large
number of persons here find this a compelling reason to
sign off on almost anything here, so that ICANN can
(drum roll) sign a new MoU with the US DoC.
Apparently having a really bad ICANN and DoC is
held out as much better than DoC running the DNS
without ICANN, as if this is something to worry about
(plausible as a sustainable alternative), or the likely
outcome of a failed ICANN.
Second on the list of feared things is the ITU, one
possible replacement for the US DoC if there was
international management of the DNS. The ITU is now
receiving some member government support for taking a
greater look a the DNS, particularly among developing
countries. One of the issues here would be the
redelegation issue for ccTLDs, an obvious role that ITU
could play. A number of persons here express fear that
this would lead to undesired national government
involvement in the way some ccTLDs are run, on the
theory that the current ambiguity of who controls the
ccTLDs has prevented some countries from being too
ambitious in regulating domestic Internet activity (or
taking away lucrative franchises). Clearly some ccTLD
operators are nervous about ICANN, and some ccTLDs are
nervous about national governments. For those who are
worried about domestic governments, they had hoped
ICANN would provide a buffer.
I asked people, if you don't want the US DoC to have
the DNS MoU, and you don't want the ITU, what do you
want? The GAC? The answer among many was, nothing -
they want ICANN without any government involvement.
What seems missing from this wish is any evidence that
governments will just turn everything over to ICANN and
give ICANN a blank check to do whatever it wants,
without any public accountability. Plus, ICANN is
asking goverments to take a larger role, and they are.
Meanwhile, ICANN itself looks more and more like a
cartel, or a quasi-government that seeks taxes and
unwanted supervision of a cartel. Verisigin doesn't
want an expansion of the name space, unless they can
run everything, and neither do the ccTLDs. ICANN is
doing approximately zero to introduce new TLDs. This
problem is so obvious that ICANN is being warned that
if can face antitrust law suits, an issue Joe Sims is
advising the ICANN board on, I was told.
The at large organizing meeting was small and even I
was surprised at how weak the support is here for
elections of any kind. Esther Dyson and Denise Michel
gave long presentations on how the board would not
tolerate anything that involved the general public
electing board members, and they described the new
official ICANN "reform" version of the at large, which
is a highly structured consultation system, that ICANN
controls from the top, and which is not capable of
holding votes from individuals. Esther went on about
how unpopular elections and were in Asia and parts of
Latin America, and how little support there was for
elections among the non US members of the ICANN board.
At one point I said "look, in the White Paper,
individuals were going to have 8 of 19 board seats. In
Cairo this was reduced to 5 elected members. Then
there was talk after Accra of having an at large as a
supporting organization, with 3 board members. Now in
the blueprint document, they will have 1 of 19 members
of a nominating committee. Can you tell me how that 1
member will be chosen?" At this point, Dyson told me I
should stop criticizing people, and be constructive.
The answer, of course, is that the ICANN board cannot
tolerate even the election of one person to a 19 member
nominating committee. Apparently the mere existence of
a system for having elections is a taboo, because it
might lead to demands that elections be used for more
important things, and could provide evidence that the
public doesn't agree with the decisions of the hand
picked board members. Of course, it is ironic that we
having this meeting in Romania, and headed next to the
People's Republic of China, to finish the job of
eliminating democracy input or mechanisms to express
dissent or popular opposition to ICANN Board policies.
Three members of the atlarge.com temporary steering
committee (Vittorio Bertola, Izumi Aizu, and Wolfgang
Kleinwaechter) and were at the at large meeting, and
to my suprise, each of them
signaled a willingness to accept the ICANN
proposal to abandon any voting from individuals, in
favor of a promise by ICANN to consulate with the
public on issues. The Dyson, Michel suggestion is to
be very docile, or the ICANN board won't even allow the
consultation process. It is of course also relevant
that the ICANN board wants to strip the ICANN General
Assembly from the right to elect its own chair or vote
on any motions.
I got into a debate with Denise about the value of
pushing for a harder line on a role for the public in
ICANN, mentioning the possibility that the US government
could protect the rights of individuals in the ICANN
process. Densie told us that she had 20 years of
policy experience, and she knew exactly what was going
to happen. She said:
The US Senate would do nothing. The US
House of Representatives would do nothing. The DoC
would accept a slightly modified MoU in the
fall, and the ICANN board would adopt the
blueprint, without elections, in Shanghai.
Tonite Andy Mueller told me the ICANN board had one of
its secret get togethers this evening, and agreed to
approve the blueprint on Friday, with a few changes.
The board is closing ranks, and trying only to cut
whatever deals it needs to get the registries to go
along. The $.25 per domain tax is not in the bag,
according to some, while others say it will go through.
There is an army of registry/registrars attending, but
very few domain holders are here to complain about the
tax, or to ask why they should have to pay, if they
have no voice in the organization. The tax was just
proposed on June 20. People have very low
expectations that the US DoC will do anything to back
consumer or civil society concerns about ICANN, and
seem willing to give up on lots of things.
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This problem is so obvious that ICANN is being warned that i[t] can face antitrust law suits, an issue Joe Sims is advising the ICANN board on, I was told.
This is exactly what I was speaking to in another thread. This isn't just my idle speculation, either. I consult for one company that is considering it, and my employers tell me that they know of others as well. In a nutshell, they're fed up with the delays and dealings. I can't say as I blame them.
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