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[ncdnhc-discuss] Bucharest, June 27, 2002

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [Random-bits] Bucharest, June 27, 2002
Date: Thu, 27 Jun 2002 21:35:14 -0400
From: James Love <james.love@cptech.org>
To: "random-bits@lists.essential.org" <random-bits@lists.essential.org>

ICANN meeting in Bucharest, June 27, 2002

Today was grueling, in part because no one is getting much
sleep and some tempers are short.  Last evening the 11
.org bids were presented  and today there was an ICANN
public forum, which lasted all day.  I'll start with a few
words about the .org bid process.

          DOT ORG

The various applications are quite detailed and take a
while to understand.  Nearly all of them appear to be
mostly for the benefit of for profit companies, with an
occasional non-profit group or "policy body" as window
dressing, and maybe some true non-profits, as the IMS and
Internet Software Consortium appears to be.  It cost $35k
just to provide a bid that most people thought was wired
for ISOC/Afilias from the beginning, but there were still
11 bids, all of them serious.  The asset is worth a lot.
With a ~$5-6 per domain wholesale price and a cost of $1
to $2.5 to operate (according to some bidders) with 2.3
million registrations, I have heard estimates that .org is
worth $35 to $100+ million, for #35k is cheap.

There is a lot of talk about Verisign, Register.com
and maybe some others having a stake in more
than one bid.  ICANN had a "consensus"
recommendation to award the bid to a non-profit, but at
the urging of Robert Blokzijl and other board members, the
ICANN board decided to eliminate the non-profit
requirement in Accra.  Rober Blokzijl's wife worked for
Nuestar, one of the commercial bidders who is not teamed
up with a non-profit, and. now Blokzijl is named as
potential board member for Organic Names, another
commercial only bidder..  Someone said Blokzijl and Amadeu
Abril Abril have recused themselves on org at this
meeting, but Amadeu was questioning some of the bidders

People who were working on this said the ICANN staff did a
decent job of following the ICANN Names Council
recommendation on the .org bid, which Milton Mueller
worked on (given the fact that the ICANN board got rid of
one of the primary requirements, that the bid be given to

I had raised concerns much earlier about the bidding
system, and had asked the ICANN staff and board to have a
two stage process, where it picked the non-profit first,
and then the non-profit picked the operator.  My thinking
was that the non-profit would then have serious bargaining
power, and could get the operator for a competitive price,
maybe $1 or less per year per domain (creating an
interesting PR issue for the .com and other TLD registries
that charge up to $6 per name, wholesale)..   The two
stage bid wasn't done, and as I had predicted, most bids
are financed and controlled by the operators, who will
make a bundle if the ICANN board likes them enough.  Like
a lot of what goes on here it is about who makes money
off domain names.

          Transparency issues

Well, I asked the ICANN board to stick to the unofficial
secret meetings, and stop holding official secret
meetings, a serous point that got a laugh. I also asked
them to follow the DNSO Names Council example and provide
MP3 files of their telephone meetings, which currently are
closed and not recorded.  Next, I asked what ICANN was
spending on its litigation with Karl Auerbach over his
efforts to have access to the ICANN books, and was told I
could not have that information by Stuart Lynn.  I sent
Stuart and Vint a follow up message and talked to Vint and
Hans, but apparently not only are the ICANN books secret,
the amount of money spent on lawyers to keep it secret is
also secret.  One would like to complain to the GAC about
this, but they also hold secret meetings, give the ICANN
board secret documents, and won't meet with the public, so
this is hard to do.


Back in the old days when democracy was considered a good
thing, "at large" membership meant you allowed individuals
to elect people to the board.  The ICANN board was
supposed to have 9 elected members, then 5, then maybe 3,
and more recently, and far more pathetically, maybe 1 of
19 members of a nominating committee that elected only
part of the board.   But apparently it can get even worse.
Now Esther Dyson, Denise Michel and Lyman Chapin are
pursuing a version of this that would seem more
appropriate for Romania or the USSR in the "old" days..
The new idea for the "at large" is to have ICANN determine
which groups "really" represent user interests, and to
manage their "constructive input" into the ICANN process,
sans elections for anything.  Also, this apparently (in
Lyman Chapin's proposal) provides a nice opportunity for
the board to further stack the ICANN "NomCom", which is
the body that is supposed to pick ICANN board members.
and maybe other "bottom up" other bodies  Apparently if
you pick your cronies but call them the "at large" you can
do this.


The GAC communique was long and detailed, and reflected a
highly unusual amount of dissent among GAC member
countries, almost as if they had minds of their own.  The
scribe's notes will probably do justice to the fine points,
but allow me to briefly complain about my own GAC member,
the USG.  Earlier (a while ago) Robin Layton had promised
many NGOs that the US would demand that ICANN address
civil society concerns.   None of this was reflected in
the GAC communique.  The fact that ICANN holds secret
meetings, refused to record its telephone board meetings,
doesn't disclose how it spends its money, has proposed
eliminating elections for individuals, won't allow the GA
to vote or elect its own chair, has transformed the "at
large" into a board/staffed managed PR exercise, is acting
more like a cartel than a consumer protection agency, and
has refused to implement the independent review process is
of course just great, as long as this is "private sector
led."  DoC's Robin Layton has done a great job of avoiding
eye contact all week, so we haven't had a chance to
understand why we are getting zero action from DoC yet.
But I am informed that Robin is doing a good job of
keeping track of the FBI's concerns over WHOIS data, and
in close touch with US registry groups bidding on .org, so
I guess this is all a matter of priorities.

My own presentation to the GAC was cut short, as usual, by
Vint Cerf, who seems to have made a point this week of
interrupting me from making any tough criticism of the
ICANN process.   Before Vint stopped me yet again from
expressing any criticism of ICANN, I was telling Paul
Towmey, the private sector former Australian government
employee (who reportedly has a  business with former
Clinton administration official Ira Magaziner) but still
chairs the GAC, that we would like to know which
international policy making group is willing to talk to
civil society.  It is quite clear that ICANN itself is not
making any space at all for civil society or consumer
concerns, and is only interested in business interests,
and so it is natural to ask, if not ICANN, who can we talk
to on matters such as intellectual property policy,
privacy, consumer protection, transparency, conflicts of
interest, or competition policy?   The GAC communique
seemed to say that the GAC is the body that must control
all of these issues.  Of course, the GAC is more closed to
civil society than any international body on earth, so
this makes us wonder, what are we supposed to do?

          Evolution and Reform  and Debate

It was long, it was interesting, it was a lot of going
along to get along, but not always, and it was a lot of
loose ends, particularly in terms of if the registries
would pay for ICANN.

My contribution had to be brief and focused.  Vint Cerf
had cut me off every time I had talked on other issues,
and of course, he did it once again.  I started with
thanking Alejandro Pisanty and Vint for their willingness
to engage us in the debate, and for making some real
changes in the really bad earlier proposals, to the
current confusingly vague elitist proposals.  (actually
stated much more diplomatically).  I noted the problems
with transparency, nuking elections of individuals while
keeping them for self selected business groups, and talked
a bit about the NomCom proposal (the group that will
actually elect ICANN board members),, and the decision to
strip the GA of the ability to elect its own leaders.
Then I switched gears and talked about mechanisms to
decentralize ICANN decision making

I noted that I had engaged in extensive discussions of
decentralization with Alejandro and Vint,on this topic,
which had been ignored completely in the June 20 report.
What we proposed was to acknowledge that there were few
benefits in a "one size fits all" DNS regulatory approach,
and that the process should reverse gears, and explore
ways that global coordination would be minimalist.

I said, for example, that ICANN
didn't need to do every regulatory function with new TLDS,
they only  needed to address issues such as uniquenesses
of TLD strings, and whatever minimum standards for IP and
consumer protection policy that were considered necessary
from a global perspective, and to encourage others to
address as many issues as possible.  In my "several
gatekeepers" comment, I talked about a scenario with about
7 or more mini-ICANNs, for different types of TLDs, each
with its own management structure and objectives.  These
included a ccTLD group, 1 for treaty based organizations,
2 for commercial gTLDs groups, one for non-commercial, one
for academic and one more I can't remember, as starters.
The idea is to prevent a single group from becoming a
barrier to innovation or competition (exactly what has
happened in ICANN), and to create some competition among
groups, so that people could choose where to register

In this view, if you created competition among
"gatekeeopers", there would be incentives to "get it
right."   Every busiess thaqt wanted to run a TLD string
would have to be adopted by a "mini-DNSO."  Mini DNSOs that
had too much or too little consumer protection would not
be able to attract much market share.  At this point, Vint cut me
off.  As I walked away, Alejandro said that he could never
understand how the decentralization would work,
technically.  If I had the opportunity to talk, I would
have discussed the many different ways that this could
work in terms of "solving" the uniqueness, issue,such as
first come first serve, lotteries or arbitration based
upon merit.  But I am exhausted, and will turn in.


--------earlier notes------------------

In the public forum, Esther Dyson and Denise Michel just presented the
at-large proposal.  It is essentially a top down proposal, which allows
organizations but not individuals to join, and will later develop a yet to
be defined method of managing public input.  The group not only did not
propose the development of any mechanisms for votes by individuals, but its
only suggested the board "consider" allowing this effort to "select" its own
steering committee, and even then, under "Board-approved guidelines."

"We also recommend the Board consider allowing the At-Large Supporting
Organization to select their Steering Committee and Board members under
Board-approved guidelines/criteria."

Vint asked Denise if there would be methods of determining if the
representatives of these groups actually represented the interests of their
own users, and elaborated on his concern that they may only represent their
own views.  Denise said that they would be working on this issue, and Esther
took the floor and discribe a system used by two merging corporations to
confidentially poll (shareholders/stakeholders?).   She also noted that when
the results were contrary to what was desired, the poll results were not
made public, and then she suggested this polling firm might be available to
provide services for the at-large structures consultation.  It was not
obvious why Esther had come up with this example, or where she was going
with it.   There was another exchange regarding Esther's comment that she
hoped for the development of "parties" that cut across regions, prompting
Vint to indicate that he hoped this would not happen, which prompted Esther
to appear to back off, and Denise to emphasize their understanding that the
process would be managed in such as way to help faciliate consensus.

There were several persons in the room who have worked on At Large efforts,
including for example Aizu Izumi, Vittorio Bertola and Wolfgang
Kleinwaechter, who were recently elected leaders for incannatlarge.com[1],
Esther's previous at-large effort, and persons who were involved in the NAIS
and ALSC efforts.  Only two persons from the floor spoke on the Michel/Dyson
report, myself and Harold Felt from Media Access Project, a US NGO that
works on free speech issues.

I began by noting that we are meeting in Romania, a country that has only
recently abandoned a governance system that limited political freedom.  I
said that I opposed the top down managed public particpation system that
Denise and Esther were proposing, and that it was likely to be used to
control and supress criticism of ICANN, and that if ICANN was to get the
trust of the public and governments, there had to be mechanisms for people
to freely express opposition to its policies, and to freely choose their own
leaders.   I noted that ICANN is comfortable allowing a handful of select
selected businesses represent all businesses on earth, but was unwilling to
allow individuals to represent themselve directly, even in a structure that
has little or no real power.

Vint said the board was short on time, and I was cut off.  There will be
further opportunties to discuss these issues later during the period to
discuss the ERC report.

Harold Felt echoed some concerns about the at-large proposal.

[1]  I was also elected to the "temporary" steering committee of
icannatlarge.com.  This body was supposed to hold a new election within 90
days.  When it became clear that the panel was not going to hold a new
election within the 90 days, I resigned.

Note, we have since resolved the date of the elections..... and my
resignation has been withdrawn.

James Love, Consumer Project on Technology
http://www.cptech.org, mailto:love@cptech.org
voice: 1.202.387.8030; mobile 1.202.361.3040

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James Love, Consumer Project on Technology
http://www.cptech.org, mailto:love@cptech.org
voice: 1.202.387.8030; mobile 1.202.361.3040

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