[AfrICANN-discuss] Food for thought : ICANN should be reformed before 'privatization'

Dandjinou Pierre pdandjinou at gmail.com
Sun Mar 22 13:13:09 SAST 2009

Dear All, This has just been released and is worth reading. Now, where do
we, in Africa, stand in this debate? And how best could we promote
the voices (if any?) of African business & Industry sectors and the
Governments ?

Pierre Dandjinou

ICANN Should be Reformed Before "Privatization", Says New


   - Mar 17, 2009 4:33 PM PDT
   - Comments: 1<http://www.circleid.com/posts/20090317_study_icann_reform_before_privatization/#comments>
   - Views: 568

By *CircleID Reporter* <http://www.circleid.com/members/501/>

The Technology Policy Institute (TPI), an IT and communications policy think
tank, has just released a paper proposing that "ICANN's governance structure
should be dramatically reformed to make it more accountable before the
current tie with the U.S. Department of Commerce is allowed to expire." The
paper titled *"ICANN At a Crossroads: a Proposal for Better Governance and
Performance"* is written by Thomas M. Lenard, President and Senior Fellow at
TPI, along with Lawrence J. White, Professor of Economics at the NYU Stern
School of Business. The 52-page study also asserts that ICANN must have a
clear focus on encouraging competition with minimal role as a regulator with
respect to the creation of new generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs).

* * *

*Executive Summary*

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)—the
non-profit company that is at the center of the Internet—has operated under
a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Department of Commerce
(DOC) since 1998. The MOU was replaced in September 2006 by the Joint
Project Agreement (JPA) between ICANN and the DOC, which expires in August
2009. At that time, a decision needs to be made about ICANN's future. Should
the JPA tie with the U.S. Government be retained? Or should the link be
wholly severed, as ICANN advocates? And, in either case, what governance
structure would best promote Internet efficiency and innovation?

This paper evaluates the structure and governance of ICANN to help inform
the upcoming decision. In particular, it reviews ICANN's structure and
functions, and also the structures of a number of other organizations that
perform a roughly comparable range of private-sector and quasi-governmental
coordination and standard-setting functions, to explore what might be
applicable to ICANN.

We find that although ICANN has control over extremely important aspects of
the Internet, it is largely accountable to no one. No organization with
ICANN's level of responsibility operates with the independence that ICANN
enjoys, even under the current arrangement of nominal oversight by the U.S.
Department of Commerce. ICANN's proposal for complete privatization and
termination of the DOC's oversight would make the accountability problem

Virtually all of the organizations that we reviewed are governed by their
direct users, and we believe that this would be a good model for ICANN as
well; it would also be consistent with the reduced regulatory role that we
envision for ICANN. Governance by its direct users—the registries and the
registrars—would provide the external accountability that could allow for
eventually ending ICANN's ties with the U.S. Government. However, we
recommend that the new structure be permitted to operate for a while, to
allow time for evaluation, before severing those ties.

We also address the issue of ICANN's status as a de facto regulator. ICANN's
recent proposal to expand the number of generic top-level domains (gTLDs)
highlights a distinct choice between alternative regulatory approaches: On
the one hand, ICANN could proceed under the assumption that the market for
gTLDs is not (and perhaps cannot be) at least workably competitive (as the
U.S. Government apparently believes). ICANN would then assume greater
public-utility type regulatory responsibilities. Alternatively, ICANN could
allow relatively free entry into the domain space, in order to bring the
benefits of a competitive gTLD market to consumers. We favor the latter
approach, which is consistent with our proposal concerning governance
reform. For free entry to work well, however, ICANN needs a less costly
mechanism for protecting the intellectual property associated with domain
names in order to address the problems of defensive registrations and

Our specific recommendations are as follows:

   - The JPA should be extended beyond its current expiration date. In the
   absence of changes in governance along the lines that we recommend, the JPA
   is particularly important. If our recommended changes are adopted, they
   should be permitted to become established before allowing the JPA to expire.

   - ICANN should remain as a nonprofit organization, but its governance
   should be restructured, so that it is governed by and directly accountable
   to its direct users: the registries and the registrars. Seats on ICANN's
   board of directors could be rotated among the major operators in a manner
   that would reflect the diversity of viewpoints among registries and
   - ICANN should have a clear mission of encouraging competition. This
   implies a minimal role as a regulator with respect to the creation of new
   gTLDs. Instead, ICANN should adopt a relatively automatic way of introducing
   gTLDs, whereby any entity that meets a set of minimum technical and
   financial qualifications for being a registry should be able to be certified
   to become a registry for any gTLD that is not already taken.
   - For this "open entry" policy to be workable and beneficial, ICANN must
   also strengthen the protections for incumbent domain name holders, so that
   they are not subject to "nuisance" or "ransom" demands from new registries;
   adopting an IP registry and strengthening ICANN's "uniform dispute
   resolution policy" (UDRP) could be part of these improved protections.

These four recommendations are complementary, and combined they would
significantly further the goals of Internet efficiency and innovation.

* * *

*Related Links:*
Lenard-White Study [PDF]: ICANN at a Crossroads: A Proposal for Better
Governance and Performance<http://www.techpolicyinstitute.org/files/icann%20at%20a%20crossroads1.pdf>
Press Release: ICANN Should be Reformed Before "Privatization" -
Lenard-White Study Proposes New Governance
ITU Website: The Technology Policy

*Other sources:*  UPDATED Mar 19, 2009 12:50 PM PDT
ICANN at a Crossroads: Please Choose
Plage, PFF, Mar.19.2009

*Related topics:* DNS <http://www.circleid.com/topics/dns>, Domain
Internet Governance
<http://www.circleid.com/topics/internet_governance>, Policy
& Regulation <http://www.circleid.com/topics/policy_regulation>, Top-Level
Domains <http://www.circleid.com/topics/top_level_domains>
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