ICANN Finally Attracts Congressional Ire

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!”

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