When An Agreement Is Actually Polite Disagreement
Date: Monday November 12 2007, @05:47AM
Topic: ICANN Staff and Structure

The headline on ICANN's press release says, ICANN and NRO Reach Agreement on Formalization of Relationships.

From that you would think we have a done deal. You would be right and you would be wrong.

First, let's consider the formalities. As the press release itself notes, there's supposed to be public comment before anything is final,

ICANN is opening a public comment period on the formalization of its relationship with the Number Resource Organisation (NRO) and the Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) through an exchange of letters. At the ICANN meeting in Los Angeles, the negotiating teams reached agreement on the documentation of their relations and commitments under the exchange of letters, and agreed to seek approval of the arrangement from their respective Boards in accordance with the approval process of each of the parties.

Comments on the proposed letters may be submitted to nro-letters@icann.org until 23.59 UTC on 7 December 2007, and may be viewed at http://forum.icann.org/lists/nro-letters/.

So, as a formal matter, it's just a tentative deal, although if this comment period runs true to form, there will not be many and they won't matter much.

More to the point is the glaring disjunction between the views expressed in the two letters touted as "Agreement on Formalization of Relationships": The RIRs basically say that they want everything to go on as it is. Their contributions are voluntary and ICANN acknowledges their authority and autonomy. ICANN's letter does that, but qualifies it with this key language:

We seek to further enhance our relationship for the mutual benefit of our organizations and respective communities. For that matter we wish and will seek to establish an appropriate legal arrangement within one (1) year from the date of this letter.

The RIRs are, however, much too smart to make legally binding commitments, either now or in the future. And it's hard to see what leverage ICANN has to make them.

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