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Board Takes Feedback on ICANN Reform

Board directors of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) took feedback from attendees at its Bucharest, Romania, meeting Thursday on the eve of an important vote officials hope will reform a "failed" organization.

The topic of ICANN reform was one of several issues up for comment at a press conference held Thursday by Stuart Lynn, ICANN president and chief executive officer.

Lynn said the open forum session was "packed," with more than 500 people attendees who listened to various critics and supporters of the reform process he originally commissioned back in February.

Hans Klein, chairman of the Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility, thinks it's likely ICANN's board of directors will do what's in their best interests, regardless of outside opinion.

"The question is not what is ICANN going to do, but what is the U.S. government going to do?" he said. "Maybe ICANN is going to steamroll Congress and the Department of Commerce; it seems we are heading towards a confrontation between ICANN and the U.S. government and I wonder if the government will back down."

While the feedback gave interested parties a chance to chime in with their proposals and concerns, the outcome of Friday's vote is likely already made -- at least, in the minds of ICANN's board of directors, who will propose their own modifications and suggestions to Lynn's reform proposal.

"My sense is (the board of directors) want to approve something tomorrow so they can move forward," Lynn said. "The (memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Department of Commerce) comes up in September, so they want to have something in place by then. Of course, there will always be adjustments, if something doesn't work, the board can make the necessary changes at that time.

"I can't predict what the outcome of the vote will be as far as possible changes," he continued. "I know its going to be a very late night tonight as directors assimilate what they've heard today; we'll just have to wait and see."

The details, outside of a revamped board of director composition, seem sketchy. In a popular ICANN blog Web site that follows the events of the organization, author Bret Fausett commented on the report Alejandro Pisanty, chairman of the ICANN evolution and reform committee, made to the board of directors Thursday.

"Mr. Pisanty calls the Blueprint a skeleton. He's right. And the work to put flesh on these bones is going to take even more effort than it's taken to get to this point. The details are always more difficult than the broad principles.

Lynn's reform proposal has been met with both vocal and critical protest by watchdog organizations who call ICANN a "failed" experiment and the U.S. Congress. Lynn defends the reformed board of director makeup -- made up of business and government interests -- as truly representative of individual Internet users.

At issue is the proposed 25 cent tax on all domain name registrations to help fund ICANN's operations. Critics maintain that individuals who are paying a tax to the organization should have some say in the decision-making process.

Lynn countered that elected politicians are the "truest form of individual participation."

Anther topic mentioned in the open forum was the issue of a decision over who would take over the .org registration when the contract with VeriSign (NASDAQ QUOTE:VSRN) expires. So far, 11 bidders are vying for the lucrative registry business.

.org suitors had until June 18 to submit their proposals.

Lynn said no action is planned for Friday's meeting with the board directors, but the winner would be named prior to its next meeting in Shanghai, China, Oct. 27-31.