ICANN Finally Attracts Congressional Ire
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The directors at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) have led a relatively charmed life to date, imposing their vision of the Internet to the international community with minimal interference from their bosses, the U.S. Department of Commerce (DoC) and Congress.
Nowhere is that more evident than Thursday's proclamation at its thrice-yearly meeting in Accra, Ghana this week that it continue with a proposal put forth by M. Stuart Lynn, ICANN president, last month. In it, he called for the dissolution of public representation and the formation of a new board of directors made up of himself and selected staffers, businesses and government officials.
In its proclamation, the board found that while it "wishes to move forward with energy and enthusiasm to build a meaningful structure for informed participation by the full range of Internet users, and seeks avenues to achieve these objectives that are bottom-up, self- organized, and self-sustaining," it "concluded that the structural and procedural implementation of the principles stated above can most effectively be developed in the context of broader ICANN reforms such as those proposed in (Lynn's report)."
A letter sent to Secretary of Commerce Don Evans Thursday put an end to those days where ICANN could institute change without risking the wrath of its bosses, a letter which challenges and questions the actions of a body that's supposed to speak for U.S. consumers but, in effect, has been taking steps to shut them out.
Reps. Bill Tauzin, John Dingell, Fred Upton, Edward Markey and John Shimkus penned their letter to address ICANN's increasing alienation of the consumer Internet community and actions to supplant current representation with government functionaries.
"It is our belief that such proposals will make ICANN even less democratic, open, and accountable than it is today," the congressmen wrote. "The Department should not allow ICANN management to retreat on any future prospects for open, democratic, private sector-led management of certain limited technical Internet functions.
"The remedies that ICANN management is proposing to address these fundamental problems, however, will only make matters worse."
Doug Wood, executive partner at law firm Hall, Dickler, Kent, Goldstein & Wood, said it was ironic that Congress is going to hold hearings over a corporation it helped create.
"This is an interesting next step in interest from the Hill to undo what they did when they gave the Internet administration to a private sector organization," Wood told InternetNews.com. "It will be very interesting to watch how the oversight hearings will focus on the dissension and lack of centralized governance of the Internet through ICANN."
Legislators have until May 31, the date of the next ICANN meeting, to get the Department of Commerce to take action against its Internet managers. At the Bucharest meeting, ICANN's board will vote on a timetable for implementation of Lynn's proposal.
There has been considerable and vocal opposition to the ICANN resolution, passed in Ghana Thursday. Sotiris Sotiropoulos, a member of the At-Large Study Committee e-mail forum, voiced the thoughts of most people in the forum (created by ICANN to get consumer feedback on public representation, which its members say was completely ignored).
"It's simply amazing how (ICANN staffers and hangers-on) managed to model their own 'organization' into a seriously convoluted program flow," he said. "What's even more amazing is that so many people were actually suckered into believing that ICANN was somehow going to be a good thing for the Internet!"