The governing body of the Internet is getting a new CEO.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), said that Rod Beckstrom will replace outgoing CEO Paul Twomey, who announced his plans to step down in March.
Beckstrom formerly served as director of the U.S. National Cybersecurity Center, a post he held until March of this year.
Beckstrom is joining ICANN at a tumultuous time for the organization, which faces technical challenges such as DNSSEC
In a press conference Webcasted from Australia, where ICANN has been holding meetings this week, Beckstrom described what he expects his role will be and what ICANN still needs to do.
“My first reaction was I felt a little bit overwhelmed and amazed at the number of participants, the intellectual caliber and sheer force and magnitude of the community,” Beckstrom said. “There are so many different cultures coming together, having different dialogs, and that’s what I think is magical about the rich ecosystem that is protecting the Internet that ICANN is a part of.”
Beckstrom was quick to point out that in his view, the current ICANN process is actually more productive than the people inside it realize. While he said the group’s participants can argue about the most minute details and that those that don’t get what they want are willing to cry foul about the process, he added that ICANN has proven that it works — and the Internet itself has continued to grow.
“The system on whole is healthy, but also strained, and part of the strains are natural and part of the democratic process,” Beckstrom said. “The process may be noisy, but a stable Internet is what has come out of ICANN. The DNS system, [the] naming and addressing system has worked with an incredible record of reliability and phenomenal scaling.”
Yet Beckstrom added that there are plenty of challenges that face ICANN, due to the fact that power is shared and distributed. However, in his view, the system wouldn’t run well if it was a top-down organization where the CEO makes all the decisions. Instead, he said its collaborative nature is what makes the system work.
Beckstrom added that he sees his new job as being about blocking and tackling, as well as getting to know the communities and the processes to better determine how he can better support those processes.
“There are a lot of layers to this cake,” he said. “This is massively complex — wouldn’t run well top-down,” he said. “We would not reach the same balance of decisions to propagate through the network. All of us are humbled by the process. No one is in control, so everyone is in control.”
U.S. government oversight
One of the biggest issues facing ICANN this year is the issue of perceived government oversight, specifically from the U.S. government.
Since its inception in 1998, ICANN has operated under an agreement with the Department of Commerce, known as the joint project agreement (JPA). The JPA expires on Sept. 30, and U.S. lawmakers recently have stated that they would like to see it continue. However, the EU has complained about the U.S. government’s influence over ICANN.
Beckstrom said during the press conference that ICANN already has participation from over 80 countries by way of the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), which is an ICANN advisory body.
“Clearly, everyone at ICANN hopes that all the nations in the world will come and participate in that, and it is a vital group that feeds directly into the board, which is the policy decision-making body of ICANN,” Beckstrom said. “So there is already a mechanism there for international participation. ”