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ICANN Offers Changes To Appease Critics

In response to critics, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is making structural changes to its domain transition plan.

The group released a letter it sent to the Commerce Department in which it also requested government approval to allow it to begin the transition process of the Domain Name System administration.

In the letter addressed to Becky Burr, associate administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, ICANN interim chairman Esther Dyson said the group believes it has fulfilled its charge of being transparent and fully accountable to the communities it serves.

"We are now asking the U.S. government to officially recognize ICANN, and the enclosed documents, as the product of a broad, if somewhat laborious, consensus and to quickly negotiate the necessary transition agreement with the corporation as governed by these bylaws and further implementing changes outlined below," Dyson said.

ICANN hopes the changes will appease critics who were concerned the organization was not operating openly and wasn't accountable to the Internet community. ICANN will establish procedures for having independent parties review bylaw conflicts and will establish policies to prevent conflicts of interest and maintain geographic diversity.

Critics such as The Boston Working Group and The Open Root Server Confederation were concerned earlier policy revisions did not go far enough to resolve those concerns..

ICANN said it amended its bylaws based on the results of comments made by these groups and government officials, including outgoing presidential advisor Ira Magaziner.

ICANN held a public meeting Nov.14 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, seeking input and has scheduled a second open meeting in Brussels for Wednesday.

Among the changes ICANN outlined were:

  • ICANN will form a volunteer advisory committee on membership regarding membership criteria, rights and responsibilities.

  • The group will be more available to public commentary with open public meetings scheduled in conjunction with each of the four scheduled regular board meetings each year.

  • ICANN will establish a process for decision reconsiderations through independent third parties when it is believed that ICANN violated its bylaws or procedures.

  • To assure geographic diversity, ICANN will require the permanent board to have at least one representative from each geographic region and will also require that no more than half of the directors elected by the supporting organizations will be from a single geographic region.

    While some concessions were made, the decision to not open all its meetings to the public could be a sticking point. Although the new provisions call for some open meetings, the board meetings themselves will take place behind closed doors.

    "While our formal, voting board meetings will not be public, in order to foster frank and full discussion, we will publish timely and complete minutes of our board meetings reporting the votes taken, the positions of the individual board members on those votes and the arguments raised and the reasons behind the decisions taken," Dyson wrote.

    In explaining ICANN's intentions, Dyson stated, "We are not governing the Net or the people on it. But we are not merely a charity organization, managing our own resources for our vision of the public benefit. Those who serve on the ICANN Board will be stewards of public resources and as such, their positions on important policy and management issues need to be derived from public consensus, not simply the personal views of the individuals who happen to serve on the Board at any given time.

    "We recognize that we need to respect the public's direct interest in how we manage these resources and in policies that affect them and the disposition of those resources and functions," Dyson said.