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[alac] Re: Draft ALAC statement on ICANN and Verisign - under discussion at today's ALAC meeting

  • To: "At-Large Advisory Committee (publicly archived)" <alac@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Subject: [alac] Re: Draft ALAC statement on ICANN and Verisign - under discussion at today's ALAC meeting
  • From: ICANN At-Large - Denise Michel <michel@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 01 Dec 2005 10:41:43 -0800

John L wrote:

Revised version:

clarify oversight of icann and oversight of vrsn

data privacy

dependence on vrsn

minor cleanups and clarifications


Concerns on the proposed ICANN / Verisign settlement
from the At Large Advisory Committee

1. We are concerned about the loss of accountability and oversight both of the community over ICANN and of ICANN over Verisign. The external oversight of ICANN's budget currently provided by the registrars will no longer exist. The settlement provides no meaningful checks on Verisign's behavior, short of conduct so egregious as to void their contract. As the registrars have pointed out, the proposed "consensus process" is new and untested.

2. We are concerned about the use and misuse of personal data. Under the agreement, Verisign is allowed to do whatever data mining they want of COM zone usage and access. For example, they could sell DNS traffic data about pepsi.com to Coca Cola, or about democrats.com and other political sites to the Republican National Committee. If ICANN sees itself as a trustee for the Internet community, it should provide appropriate protections for the community's data. We are also concerned that such data mining would be illegal in countries with data privacy laws, and could place registrants from such countries in legal jeopardy.

3. We believe that the proposed price increases for the COM registry are inappropriate, since other domains such as .NET have considerably lower fees and no provision for regular increases. We are also concerned about the tripling of ICANN's per-domain fee. Although the incremental cost to each individual user will be low, the aggregate cost to users will be in the tens of millions of dollars per year. Market forces can have an effect on .COM registry prices in two ways: (a) periodic rebids, and (b) a substitute service. The current proposal does away with the rebidding, and we doubt that .BIZ or .INFO or CCtlds are a substitute for current registrants who already have branded their .COM address.

4. We are concerned by the lack of economic and legal analysis of the effects of the proposed settlement. If the .COM registry is a de-facto monopoly, it requires stricter regulation than if it is not. Analysis by a qualified economist of the price sensitivity and substitutability of COM and other domains, based on the extensive historic data, should help understand the situation. Similarly, qualified legal analysis of the likelihood of success of ICANN's and Verisign's suits would help quantify the legal risks and costs the settlement would avoid.

5. The proposed settlement makes Verisign the permanent source of the majority of ICANN's revenue. By making itself dependent on an entity not accountable to the public, ICANN endangers its independence and hence endangers ICANN's public trust.

6. We are deeply concerned by the lack of transparent process. The current (2001) .COM contract had a specific renewal timeline that has been ignored, since the settlement includes a new contract that would void the current one. ICANN offered no timetable or process for consideration of the proposed settlement until forced to by the CFIT lawsuit. The community does not know whether it has a month or a year to collect its input and offer its advice, nor whether it may be possible to modify the proposed settlement or it simply has to be accepted or rejected.

7. With these considerations in mind, the ALAC advises the board to reject the proposed settlement, to see qualified advice on the econmic and legal aspects of any proposed settlement, and to seek a settlement that addresses our concerns.

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