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Issues with Proposed Consumers Constituency

  • To: <consumers-constituency-petition@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Subject: Issues with Proposed Consumers Constituency
  • From: "Mary Wong" <mwong@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 13 Feb 2010 19:18:37 -0500

I am currently a Councilor for the Non-CommercialStakeholder Group (NCSG), but 
offer these comments purely in my personalcapacity. Please note that these 
comments do not mean that a group (orgroups) representing consumer concerns, 
issues and interests should not existwithin ICANN; on the contrary, I strongly 
believe that consumers - bothcommercial and non-commercial - are important 
contributors to ICANN andessential stakeholders in it. I do not, however, 
support the approval of aConsumers Constituency in the form proposed at this 
time, for the reasons outlinedbelow. 
                Therevised Notice of Intent to Form a Consumers Constituency 
(NOIF)suggests that the proposed Consumers Constituency be "included within 
theNon-Commercial Stakeholder Group ... because [the constituency's] focus will 
beexclusively non-commercial". In addition, the proposed constituencyCharter 
makes several references to the NCSG, e.g. for the appointment ofliaisons and 
the election and duties of GNSO Council representatives. Nevertheless,the 
application clearly reveals two fundamental problems with the establishmentof 
such a constituency at this particular time, <i style="mso-bidi-font-style:
normal">viz.: (1) the irrationality of approving a new NCSG-sitedconstituency 
prior to the finalization of the existing NCSG's Charter,operations and 
processes; and (2) the limitations of the Consumers Constituencyapplication as 
(1) Interactions withand between a Stakeholder Group (SG) and its 
                While mycomments relate specifically on the NCSG and the 
proposed ConsumersConstituency, they also have similar and broader implications 
for other SGs,constituencies and ICANN's overall community structure.
                First,it is not clear that a formal, Board-approved 
constituency is necessarily abetter vehicle for funneling and representing 
community concerns than abottom-up, self-organized interest group formed from 
within a wider SG. Thebenefits of interest groups include (i) no need for 
application procedures, formalprocesses or undue delays in their formation or 
approval (or indeed in theirdisbandment or evolution); (ii) a more accurate 
reflection of current issues ofactual concern to community participants since 
they can be formed by SGmember(s) who care deeply about particular issues; and 
(iii) the encouragementand facilitation of more focused discussion and 
representation within aparticular SG, since the leaders of particular interest 
groups will bemotivated and empowered to bring important concerns to the fore. 
The ability toeasily form interest groups within an already-recognized SG 
structure - ratherthan having to file to form a brand new constituency if none 
currently existsthat represents their interests - is also more likely to 
attract newparticipants to the ICANN community.
<span style="font-size:11.0pt;line-height:115%;
&quot;Times New Roman&quot;;mso-ansi-language:EN-US;mso-fareast-language:EN-US;
mso-bidi-language:AR-SA">[1], whilethe approved Registries SG Charter also 
contemplates the existence of similarinterest groups that do not need to be 
formalized as official constituencies<span 
&quot;Times New Roman&quot;;mso-ansi-language:EN-US;mso-fareast-language:EN-US;
mso-bidi-language:AR-SA">[2]. AsICANN continues to evolve and mature, it seems 
far more preferable to encouragethe formation of interest groups by and within 
the SGs rather than furtherentrench the old constituency model in its 
organizational framework.
                Thirdly,the proposed Consumers Constituency Charter itself 
shows how approving a newconstituency before the finalization of an NCSG 
Charter by the Board's ownStructural Improvements Committee (SIC) is 
problematic. For example, many ofthe structures and processes elaborated on in 
the Charter (e.g. the provisionfor both an Executive Committee and Policy 
Committee) mirror the structures andprocesses of the NCSG. This additional 
layer of bureaucracy and operationalprocedure is likely to complicate and 
confuse both existing as well aspotential NCSG members, and potentially lead to 
unnecessary delays andcomplications in SG-constituency relationships. 
Furthermore, in relation to theelection of NCSG Council representatives, the 
proposed Charter understandablyprovides for a "default" process for such 
elections in the event thatthe NCSG Charter does not, but this seems premised 
on the assumption that theConsumers Constituency will automatically have a 
Council representative. It is practicallyunfathomable that any final NCSG 
Charter will not - in some way or form -provide for the election of all six 
NCSG Councilors, or that it will not alsoensure the broadest possible 
representation of all the NCSG constituencies(including, if formed, a 
consumers' constituency). As such, the assumption inthe proposed Consumers 
Constituency Charter is unwarranted and demonstrates anadherence to the former 
GNSO model of "one constituency oneCouncilor".
(2) Other Issues withthe Proposed Consumers Constituency<o:p></o:p>
                Inaddition to the issues highlighted above, the Charter put 
forward by theproposed Consumers Constituency does not provide a compelling 
reason for itsapproval by the Board.
                First,the single criteria for organizational membership of the 
Consumers Constituencyis that it is a non-commercial entity; in other words, 
there is no requirementthat members of the constituency have any link to any 
consumer-orientedinterests or related work. 
<span style="font-size:11.0pt;line-height:115%;
&quot;Times New Roman&quot;;mso-ansi-language:EN-US;mso-fareast-language:EN-US;
                Thirdly,the Charter states the purpose of the constituency as 
being the "conduitfor public interests as they relate to ICANN's mandate in 
maintaining[Internet] safety and stability", with "major areas" identifiedas 
"fraud, spam, phishing, identify theft and privacy". The NOIF alsostates these 
as concerns, with the addition of network neutrality and WHOIS. Asexplained in 
point (1) above, these consumer issues seem eminently suitable foraddressing by 
interest groups within an SG structure; indeed, there is noreason why the 
Commercial Stakeholder Group (CSG), for instance, could not alsoform interest 
groups that deal with the same issues (as the NCSG is alreadydoing) since these 
issues affect commercial consumers as well. In other words,the consumer issues 
listed by the proponents of the new Consumers Constituency,while extremely 
important, do not seem to require the establishment of a formalnew constituency 
in order to be represented within the ICANN policy developmentprocess. 
                Inconclusion, I believe that the existing ICANN framework - 
including the NCSG,which has welcomed many new members who represent consumer 
organizations and/orwho are involved in consumer policy issues - is adequately 
equipped to ensurethat consumer interests are specifically represented. This is 
not to say that abetter job of outreach and focused discussion over matters of 
concern to allconsumers cannot and should not be done; however, the 
establishment of a formalconstituency simply in order to do so, and at a time 
when the NCSG Charter isstill being finalized, is both unnecessary and unwise.
<o:p>Mary Wong</o:p>
<o:p> </o:p>
<span style="mso-special-character:
mso-fareast-font-family:Calibri;mso-bidi-font-family:&quot;Times New 
 NCSG Transition Plan of 29 October, 2009, which has been presented to theICANN 
Board of Directors, specifically recommends the formation of a 
ConsumerProtection interest group, and a Non-Profit/Philanthropic 
Organizationsinterest group (among others). 

<span style="mso-special-character:
mso-fareast-font-family:Calibri;mso-bidi-font-family:&quot;Times New 
 IV, Registries SG Charter (as approved by the ICANN Board of Directorsin July 

<span style="mso-special-character:
mso-fareast-font-family:Calibri;mso-bidi-font-family:&quot;Times New 
 contrast, the Non-Commercial Users Constituency (NCUC) within the NCSGpermits 
individual membership where that person is "primarily concernedwith the public 
interest aspects of domain name policy" and is nototherwise represented through 
another SG or ICANN Advisory Committee. 

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