RealTime IT News

Will Big Business Dictate Public Interest?

The Internet Society (ISOC) was named the winning bidder for the right to manage the .org registry Monday by Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) board of directors.

The problem is, ISOC executives promised the public something a little different than what ICANN and its evaluation committee heard about when it picked the organization from a crowd of 10 other bidders to manage one of the largest domain name extensions in the Internet world.

When selected by the ICANN committee, the organization drew the ire of the other 10 bidders, each with their own reason why they should have been selected as the winning bid. Some went so far as to say the entire review process was skewed, and that an organization represented primarily by the business community shouldn't have control over a domain that is seen as the Internet address for non-profit organizations.

Officials at ISOC defended their position, saying their organization is representative of the Internet. It's top members include WorldCom , IBM , Microsoft , Hewlett-Packard and the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA).

The organization further claimed they were establishing the Public Interest Registry (PIR) to act as a "completely separate organization" to avoid any potential conflict of interest, according to one ISOC official.

The bylaws publicized over the weekend paint a different picture, however. While the board of directors is comprised of some big names in the domain advocacy crowd -- including Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) -- and in the international community -- Andy Linton, who once served on InternetNZ, the non-profit organization that manages the .nz domain extension -- the one name that stands out most is mentioned last in the board of directors list obtained by internetnews.com -- Lynn St. Armour, ISOC president and CEO.

Even more damaging in the PIR bylaws is the clause that names ISOC the "sole member" in the fledgling organization.

The following is an excerpt:

" The Member (ISOC) shall have the right to cast the sole and deciding vote with respect to any matter as to which the members of a corporation incorporated under the (National Center for Strategic Planning and Community Leadership) NPCL have the right to vote, including, without limitation, the right to elect and remove all Directors of the Corporation at any time from time to time. Except as otherwise limited by these Bylaws or the Articles of Incorporation of the Corporation, the Member shall have such additional rights, including, without limitation, the right to authorize an amendment or restatement of the Articles of Incorporation, as are conferred upon the members of a corporation incorporated under the NPCL.

As sole member, ISOC has far-reaching and unequivocal authority for all decisions made by PIR's board of directors. ISOC can even fire a sitting member of the board of directors at any time, according to the bylaws.

The seven directors named by ISOC to chair PIR will serve one year, then be placed into three separate classes, each class serving a one-year term. ISOC will then replace the directors with others of its choosing, who will then sit on the board for three-year terms.

ISOC is free to expand or contract the number of director seats any time after the first year.

The board of directors at PIR also needs approval from ISOC before amending the bylaws, begging the question, is this really an independent organization?

According to Julie Williams, an ISOC spokesperson, it is.

"ISOC presented the bid, so it was basically done in ISOC's name, so they need to have some influence over the operations, even though it's a completely separate entity," she said.

PIR has already begun work on its business and expects to have its Web site, www.publicinterestregistry.org, up and running soon. The site was bought up in June by ISOC, according to a WHOIS database search. There was no response by press time whether ISOC planned to hand over administration of the site to PIR.

While the new registry won't be able to sign up customers until Jan. 1, after the existing .org contract with VeriSign runs out, officials plan to put up information for consumers and registrars.

PIR's new board of directors meets tomorrow morning to elect its officers -- chairman, president, secretary and treasurer. Interestingly enough, all the officer's duty responsibilities were laid out in the bylaws except for the chairman. The chairman's role will be determined by directors at a later date.