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RE: [bc-gnso] FW: Today's ICANN Oversight Hearing

  • To: "'Phil Corwin'" <pcorwin@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, <bc-gnso@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Subject: RE: [bc-gnso] FW: Today's ICANN Oversight Hearing
  • From: "Zahid Jamil" <zahid@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 6 Jun 2009 01:58:01 +0500

Many thanks for this post.


Zahid Jamil


Jamil & Jamil


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From: owner-bc-gnso@xxxxxxxxx [mailto:owner-bc-gnso@xxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of
Phil Corwin
Sent: 05 June 2009 04:56
To: bc-gnso@xxxxxxxxx
Subject: [bc-gnso] FW: Today's ICANN Oversight Hearing



FYI, this report has just been prepared for posting at the ICA website,


Congressional ICANN Oversight Hearing Has A Bipartisan Theme -

It's Too Soon To End U.S. Oversight



On Thursday, June 4th the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology
and the Internet held an oversight hearing on "Issues Concerning the
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers". The hearing was
remarkable in a number of ways. First, given the technically arcane nature
of its subject, the turnout was spectacular - more than half the
Subcommittee's members on a morning when other hearings competed for their
attention, and a SRO crowd in the very large hearing room of the full Energy
and Commerce Committee. Second, there was remarkable bipartisan agreement
expressed, with Member sentiments falling on a continuum between extreme
concern and "over our dead bodies" as regards the prospect of termination of
the Joint Project Agreement (JPA) between the U.S. and ICANN on September


The witnesses appearing before the Subcommittee were:

*       Fiona Alexander, Associate Administrator, Office of International
Affairs, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, U.S.
Department of Commerce 
*       Paul Twomey, Ph.D., President and CEO, ICANN 
*       Kenneth J. Silva, Senior Vice President and Chief Technology
Officer, VeriSign 
*       Christine N. Jones, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary, The Go
Daddy Group, Inc. 
*       Sarah Deutsch, Vice President & Associate General Counsel, Verizon
*       Thomas M. Lenard, Ph.D., President and Senior Fellow, Technology
Policy Institute 

All witness statements as well as streaming video are available at
ommunications-technology-and-the-internet&Itemid=74 .


Subcommittee Chair Rick Boucher stated at the onset that the hearing would
focus on whether ICANN had become sufficiently transparent and accountable
to let the JPA terminate; and concerns regarding the proposed introduction
of new gTLDs - including enhanced competition, brand protection, and
stability and security. Other Subcommittee members used their opening
statements to raise concerns about ICANN's burgeoning budget and staff;
question ICANN's priorities and whether it really cared about average
Internet users; express the view that full independence would threaten
national and global cybersecurity; and note the possibility of potential
capture by the ITU or other entities. While several Members noted that
ICANN's performance has improved, the prevailing view was that JOA
termination was premature and that at least short term extension, coupled
with some modification of terms, was in order. 


Fiona Alexander performed the thankless task of delivering the Department of
Commerce's views while new Assistant Secretary for Communications and
Information Lawrence Strickling awaits Senate confirmation. Not only was she
a stand-in but she could not indicate the Obama Administration's position on
JPA extension because that is not fully developed (and even if a decision
has been made, it could hardly be announced in advance of the June 8th
closing of the public comment period that is supposed to inform and
influence the decision). We were concerned by language in her prepared
statement noting that even if the US does not extend the  JPA it will still
participate in ICANN's Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) and will also
be able to file comments in ICANN's public consultation processes - Mr.
Strickling made a similar observation at his Senate confirmation hearing,
but these are hardly reassuring words for those who are familiar with ICANN
decision-making processes, and most certainly do not equate to a formal
oversight role.


Paul Twomey, whose departure as CEO later this year is already public
knowledge, made his usual case for JPA termination to a highly skeptical
Congressional audience - adding the new twist that an extension of U.S.
oversight would indicate a lack of confidence in its private sector model
and therefore encourage the international community to propose alternatives.
None of the Subcommittee members appeared swayed by it.


Most telling, perhaps, were the positions taken by ICANN's largest registry
and registrar contract parties, VeriSign and GoDaddy. Ken Silva noted that
"while ICANN has continued to make progress in certain areas.the basic
circumstances giving rise to widespread community concerns over the
expiration of the JPA remain largely unchanged and further progress is
critical prior to an expiration of the agreement and end to all governmental
oversight of ICANN." Christine Jones was even more blunt: "ICANN has not yet
achieved competition, nor the private, bottom-up coordination and
representation called for in the ICANN bylaws. The JPA between ICANN and the
Department of Commerce should be extended or modified, or renewed and
modified, to stress the need to correct these deficiencies and require a
clear roadmap from ICANN as to how it will regain the confidence of the
community on which its existence relies.Unfortunately, ICANN has yet to
commit to or is unable to commit to openness, transparency and
accountability." When your largest business partners take you to this type
of task in front of Congress you really have major problems.


The temperature in the hearing room rose by several degrees once the
prepared statements were completed and questioning began. Chairman Boucher
found it particularly disturbing that ICANN had never taken action against
an accredited registrar engaged in cybersquatting. Ranking Republican Cliff
Stearns honed in on ICANN finances, questioning whether ICANN's fees, budget
and staffing were consistent with its non-profit status, as well as what
ICANN would do with the more than $90 million in application fees for new
gTLDs it anticipated receiving. Former full Committee Chair John Dingell
resurrected the issue of the .com contract, with Christine Jones weighing in
that the manner in which it was reached was "not transparent". Multiple
Members questioned whether new gTLDs would truly introduce new competition
and if ICANN was adequately addressing the problems they might introduce.


The hearing ended with Chairman Boucher noting that the record would be kept
open for thirty days and that ICANN could anticipate receiving additional
written inquiries.


What does all this mean for the termination or extension of the JPA? Too
much should not be read into this particular episode because many
Congressional hearings involve dramatic  posturing and it is the Obama
Administration, not Congress, which will make the ultimate call. But the
strong bipartisan concern about the inconsistency of ICANN's rhetoric with
the reality of its performance is hardly confined to this Subcommittee - on
May 19th, Senators Olympia Snowe and Bill Nelson, both serving on the Senate
Commerce Committee, sent a joint letter to Commerce Secretary Gary Locke
expressing the view that "ICANN has considerable work ahead to reach the
point where it can stand alone as a stable, accountable, transparent and,
most importantly, secure global organization" and essentially endorsing the
view that the JPA be at least temporarily extended "to allow time to design
and deploy new accountability mechanisms for ICANN". Post-hearing press
reports indicate that Chairman Boucher will be joining other Committee
members in their own letter to the Commerce Department recommending a
one-year extension.


In short, if the Administration permits the JPA to terminate in less than
four months it is on clear notice that such actions will unleash a strong
bipartisan backlash from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.





In addition, this report appeared in this asfernoon's Congress Daily--


Technology. House Energy and Commerce Communications Subcommittee members
today called for an extension of the U.S. government's oversight agreement
with the nonprofit that administers the Internet domain name system. The
deal is currently slated to expire Sept. 30. The Internet Corporation for
Assigned Names and Numbers is "far from a model of effective and sustainable
self-governance," and it would be unwise to shrink the government's role,
said Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich. House Energy and Commerce Communications
ranking member Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., plus Reps.

Mike Doyle, D-Pa., John Shimkus, R-Ill., and Lee Terry, R-Neb., support
prolonging the arrangement between ICANN and the National Telecommunications
and Information Administration, citing transparency and accountability
concerns. House Energy and Commerce Communications Subcommittee Chairman
Rick Boucher, D-Va., is reportedly drafting a letter to NTIA with Stearns
and Energy and Commerce ranking member Joe Barton that recommends a one-year
extension. At the hearing, ICANN President Paul Twomey pointed out that a
separate but related NTIA-ICANN contract will not sunset. He also warned
that extending the joint project agreement would signal that the U.S.
government does not have faith in ICANN's model.



Finally, an excellent series of blogs from the hearing appear at
http://domainnamewire.com/category/policy-law/ under the heading "Congress
Beats Up ICANN".


Philip S. Corwin 
Butera & Andrews 
1301 Pennsylvania Ave., NW 
Suite 500 
Washington, DC 20004

202-347-6875 (office) 

202-347-6876 (fax)

202-255-6172 (cell)

"Luck is the residue of design." -- Branch Rickey


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