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Dyson Again Comes to ICANN's Defense

The International Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers again finds itself the subject of criticism, this time from House Commerce Committee Chairman Tom Bliley.

Late Friday, ICANN Interim Chairman Esther Dyson responded to Congressman Bliley's questions, including those about its closed meeting policy, fiscal operations, authority over current registrar Network Solutions Inc. and intellectual property rights.

Defending the organization, Dyson asserted in a letter that ICANN has "no statutory or regulatory authority of any kind. It has only the power of the consensus that it represents and the willingness of members of the Internet community to participate in and abide by the consensus development process that is at the heart of ICANN."

Its policy is one of openness, she said, and although some board meetings are held behind closed doors in order to "make progress," all results of board meetings must be made available to the public, and public input is welcomed.

"As a global, consensus-based organization, ICANN needs the participation and support of everyone interested in keeping the Internet the vibrant and open environment that it is today," she said.

Specifically addressing the group's relationship to current registrar NSI, Dyson said that the group has no right to terminate NSI as a registrar, but said that NSI needs to apply to be accredited if it wants to continue registering domain names.

The two groups have had problems working together on the registration issue. In June, Dyson went so far as to accuse NSI of "mudslinging" and trying to stall ICANN's attempts to privatize the governance of the Internet and domain registration in particular.

ICANN's decision to charge registrars a $1 fee per registration was also questioned by Bliley. Dyson said the group is a non-profit organization that relies on private donations. In order to expand its operations as more registrars sign on, the group wants to raise money to hire a staff. She said the $1 fee will help fund those efforts.

Richard Forman, CEO of testbed registrar register.com, said the fee is justified.

"I think the whole industry. . .including NSI, needs to find the right way to fund ICANN, because ICANN is what's allowing the industry to thrive and grow," he said.

"If ICANN doesn't survive it goes back to the US government, and if it goes back to the U.S. government, we will have a trade war like no one's ever seen. The U.S. government can destroy the Internet if they don't make this succeed."

This is not the first time ICANN has been called to answer questions about its organization. Dyson released a Consumer advocate Ralph Nader along with James Love, head of the Consumer Project on Technology, sent a series of questions to the group on June 11, to which Dyson responded with a defense as well as criticism of NSI.