[kictanet] Food for thought : ICANN should be reformed before 'privatization']
alice at apc.org
Mon Mar 23 08:42:40 EAT 2009
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 ?
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).
* * *
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
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.
* * *
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
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