[kictanet] Food for thought : ICANN should be reformed before 'privatization']

alice alice at apc.org
Mon Mar 23 08:42:40 EAT 2009

Dear All,
This has just been released and is worth reading. Now, where do we, in 
Africa, stand in this debate? And how best could we promote the voices 
(if any?) of African business & Industry sectors and the Governments ?
Pierre Dandjinou
ICANN Should be Reformed Before "Privatization", Says New Study 


    * Mar 17, 2009 4:33 PM PDT
    * Comments: 1

    * Views: 568


By *CircleID Reporter* <http://www.circleid.com/members/501/>

The Technology Policy Institute (TPI), an IT and communications policy 
think tank, has just released a paper proposing that "ICANN's governance 
structure should be dramatically reformed to make it more accountable 
before the current tie with the U.S. Department of Commerce is allowed 
to expire." The paper titled /"ICANN At a Crossroads: a Proposal for 
Better Governance and Performance"/ is written by Thomas M. Lenard, 
President and Senior Fellow at TPI, along with Lawrence J. White, 
Professor of Economics at the NYU Stern School of Business. The 52-page 
study also asserts that ICANN must have a clear focus on encouraging 
competition with minimal role as a regulator with respect to the 
creation of new generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs).

* * *

*Executive Summary*

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)—the 
non-profit company that is at the center of the Internet—has operated 
under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Department of 
Commerce (DOC) since 1998. The MOU was replaced in September 2006 by the 
Joint Project Agreement (JPA) between ICANN and the DOC, which expires 
in August 2009. At that time, a decision needs to be made about ICANN's 
future. Should the JPA tie with the U.S. Government be retained? Or 
should the link be wholly severed, as ICANN advocates? And, in either 
case, what governance structure would best promote Internet efficiency 
and innovation?

This paper evaluates the structure and governance of ICANN to help 
inform the upcoming decision. In particular, it reviews ICANN's 
structure and functions, and also the structures of a number of other 
organizations that perform a roughly comparable range of private-sector 
and quasi-governmental coordination and standard-setting functions, to 
explore what might be applicable to ICANN.

We find that although ICANN has control over extremely important aspects 
of the Internet, it is largely accountable to no one. No organization 
with ICANN's level of responsibility operates with the independence that 
ICANN enjoys, even under the current arrangement of nominal oversight by 
the U.S. Department of Commerce. ICANN's proposal for complete 
privatization and termination of the DOC's oversight would make the 
accountability problem worse.

Virtually all of the organizations that we reviewed are governed by 
their direct users, and we believe that this would be a good model for 
ICANN as well; it would also be consistent with the reduced regulatory 
role that we envision for ICANN. Governance by its direct users—the 
registries and the registrars—would provide the external accountability 
that could allow for eventually ending ICANN's ties with the U.S. 
Government. However, we recommend that the new structure be permitted to 
operate for a while, to allow time for evaluation, before severing those 

We also address the issue of ICANN's status as a de facto regulator. 
ICANN's recent proposal to expand the number of generic top-level 
domains (gTLDs) highlights a distinct choice between alternative 
regulatory approaches: On the one hand, ICANN could proceed under the 
assumption that the market for gTLDs is not (and perhaps cannot be) at 
least workably competitive (as the U.S. Government apparently believes). 
ICANN would then assume greater public-utility type regulatory 
responsibilities. Alternatively, ICANN could allow relatively free entry 
into the domain space, in order to bring the benefits of a competitive 
gTLD market to consumers. We favor the latter approach, which is 
consistent with our proposal concerning governance reform. For free 
entry to work well, however, ICANN needs a less costly mechanism for 
protecting the intellectual property associated with domain names in 
order to address the problems of defensive registrations and 

Our specific recommendations are as follows:

    * The JPA should be extended beyond its current expiration date. In
      the absence of changes in governance along the lines that we
      recommend, the JPA is particularly important. If our recommended
      changes are adopted, they should be permitted to become
      established before allowing the JPA to expire.
    * ICANN should remain as a nonprofit organization, but its
      governance should be restructured, so that it is governed by and
      directly accountable to its direct users: the registries and the
      registrars. Seats on ICANN's board of directors could be rotated
      among the major operators in a manner that would reflect the
      diversity of viewpoints among registries and registrars.
    * ICANN should have a clear mission of encouraging competition. This
      implies a minimal role as a regulator with respect to the creation
      of new gTLDs. Instead, ICANN should adopt a relatively automatic
      way of introducing gTLDs, whereby any entity that meets a set of
      minimum technical and financial qualifications for being a
      registry should be able to be certified to become a registry for
      any gTLD that is not already taken.
    * For this "open entry" policy to be workable and beneficial, ICANN
      must also strengthen the protections for incumbent domain name
      holders, so that they are not subject to "nuisance" or "ransom"
      demands from new registries; adopting an IP registry and
      strengthening ICANN's "uniform dispute resolution policy" (UDRP)
      could be part of these improved protections.

These four recommendations are complementary, and combined they would 
significantly further the goals of Internet efficiency and innovation.

* * *

*Related Links:*
Lenard-White Study [PDF]: ICANN at a Crossroads: A Proposal for Better 
Governance and Performance 
Press Release: ICANN Should be Reformed Before "Privatization" - 
Lenard-White Study Proposes New Governance Structure 
ITU Website: The Technology Policy Institute 

*Other sources:*  UPDATED Mar 19, 2009 12:50 PM PDT
ICANN at a Crossroads: Please Choose Carefully 
Mike Plage, PFF, Mar.19.2009

*Related topics:* DNS <http://www.circleid.com/topics/dns>, Domain Names 
<http://www.circleid.com/topics/domain_names>, Internet Governance 
<http://www.circleid.com/topics/internet_governance>, Policy & 
Regulation <http://www.circleid.com/topics/policy_regulation>, Top-Level 
Domains <http://www.circleid.com/topics/top_level_domains>

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