Summary Analysis of Comments in Public Forum - Role of Individual Internet Users in the GNSO
Summary and analysis of public comments for: The Role of Individual Internet Users in the GNSO Comment period ended: 28 November 2008 Summary published: 1 December 2008 Prepared by: Robert Hoggarth, Senior Policy Director I. BACKGROUND The ICANN Board asked for additional community input on the appropriate role and representation of individual commercial and non-commercial Internet users in the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO). Faced with a number of different recommendations stemming from various independent reviews and GNSO and user-community group efforts, the Board continues to consider this issue and believes that comments from the community, especially stakeholders in the GNSO, ALAC and At-Large groups, and any relevant applicants for new constituencies, would be particularly helpful. The GNSO Improvements process, currently in the implementation phase and under active Board consideration, is driving the urgency of this issue. Failure to resolve this matter could adversely affect implementation of the GNSO Council restructuring effort and could have wider implications regarding other GNSO improvements and the review of other ICANN structures. In recognition of these implications, the ICANN Board resolved at its 1 October 2008 meeting to continue community dialogue on this subject. The Board resolution states: It is, Resolved (2008.10.01.14), The Board requests additional community dialogue and input on the appropriate role and representation of individual Internet users, including individual commercial and non-commercial Internet users, in the GNSO. Input from the GNSO, the ALAC and At-Large community, and any relevant applicants for new constituencies, would be particularly helpful and should address the inclusion of registrants and individual users in the GNSO in a manner that compliments the ALAC and its supporting structures, and ensures that registrants' and individual Internet users' gTLD interests are effectively represented within the GNSO. In response to the Board's request, the ICANN Staff opened a 30-day public consultation forum and invited community comments. Potential commenters were asked to consider addressing the inclusion of registrants and individual users in the GNSO in a manner that compliments the ALAC and its supporting structures and ensures that registrants' and individual Internet users' gTLD interests are effectively represented within the GNSO. A summary document was prepared by the ICANN Staff to provide background on this issue. It outlined a number of potential options being considered by the Board. A copy of that document is available at http://www.icann.org/en/reviews/gnso/individual-users-role-25oct08-en.htm. II. GENERAL COMMENTS and CONTRIBUTORS As of the 28 November deadline, a total of 12 community submissions have been made to this comment forum. Four (4) of those submissions were on topics unrelated to the specific matter at hand. The eight (8) on-point contributions, are listed below in alphabetical order (with relevant abbreviations/initials noted in parentheses) : Maxine Bellet Vittorio Bertola (VB) Phil Corwin for the Internet Commerce Association (ICA) Eric Dierker (ED) Colleen Hitchcock Alan Levin (AL) Milton Mueller (MM) John Nino R. Eslit Mike O'Connor (MOC) Joop Teernstra (JT) Liana Ye (LY) III. SUMMARY & ANALYSIS This summary is intended to broadly and comprehensively outline the comments of the various contributors to this forum but not to address every specific argument or position stated by any or all contributors. The staff recommends that readers interested in specific aspects of any of the summarized comments refer directly to the specific contributions. The vast majority of the comments in this proceeding support a significant role for individual users in the GNSO system of governance and it is notable that all the comments except from ICA appeared to be submitted by individuals in their individual capacities. The various comments focused on four primary areas (1) reactions to the new GNSO structure, (2) the creation of a User or Registrant Constituency in the GNSO, (3) the respective roles of ALAC and the NCUC, and (4) the challenges of individual user recruitment and participation in ICANN. 1. Comments on The GNSO Structure The ICA has "serious concerns" regarding whether the bicameral approach adopted for the GNSO will "institutionalize division and make it more difficult to reach consensus positions within the overall ICANN community." In that context, the ICA believes the addition of major new alterations in the role of individual users within the GNSO and the ICANN community at large can only add to uncertainty and make the transitional process more problematic. ICA believes that the general approach taken by ICANN should be one of cautious and incremental change to avoid the introduction of even greater uncertainty and instability. AL says the restructured GNSO Council is itself too complicated for individuals to understand and agrees with the Board Governance Committee (BGC) recommendation limiting GNSO membership to registrants - not a more expanded definition of individual Internet users who are otherwise represented by the ALAC. The ICA "partially" endorses the recommendation of the Report of the Working Group on GNSO Council Restructuring (WG-GCR) that the non-contract portion of the GNSO be open to membership of all interested parties that use or provide services on the Internet, with the effect of permitting greater participation by individual Internet users. But ICA believes this expansion should only include individual users with a commercial interest in ICANN activities. Overall, ICA says it supports allowing for greater GNSO participation by both non-commercial organizations and individual commercial Internet users, without altering the fundamental divisions between the GNSO and the ALAC. 2. The Creation of a Users or Registrant Constituency in the GNSO VB says the Board should publicly encourage the formation of an individual gTLD registrants constituency in the GNSO. He says non-registrants and the general public should continue to be represented by an AC like the ALAC. MM says it "makes no sense" to create an "individual's constituency" because individuals per se have extremely diverse viewpoints and economics interests. MM says it is "false and undesirable" for any collection of individuals to set itself up as "the" voice of individual Internet users. Rather, he says, individuals can join and take positions within a constituency or, under the new stakeholder group model, they can form new constituencies that reflect specific policy positions (e.g., a privacy constituency, a Latin American constituency, etc.). ED calls for the formalization of the ICANN General Assembly as a means to serve the interests of individual Internet users in ICANN. ED says if the GA were provided with a secure voting system for internal matters and polling for matters to be shown externally it would "provide invaluable insight and contributions to ICANN's purpose." ED notes that the GA has tried to self organize in the past without success. He says ICANN must provide a good reasonable structure and the necessary tools "to allow some order to come from the Chaos of the individuals so that they may provide you with some credible and usable consensual input or output." AL also believes that individuals who may not yet be Internet users also require some representation at ICANN and that they are best represented through the ALAC. JT reminds the Board that an application for an Individual Users' Representation on the old DNSO Council was submitted back in 1999. JT recommends that the Board (1) make a public commitment to recognize "a real Registrant Constituency" as part of the GNSO; (2) provide a budget to promote Registrant Constituency membership and (3) allow elected representatives to sit on the GNSO Council as paid professionals. LY proposes that ICANN create an organizational model in which the organization hires communication specialists to work in "language areas." These individuals would be permanent employees of ICANN responsible for "filtering" user suggestions, complaints, and questions of all kinds. These individuals would act as "tutors of the Internet" with knowledge of at least one language in addition to English. They would express their own opinions to clarify issues of complexity in various cultural, personal or technology fields. 3. The Respective Roles of ALAC and the NCUC According to MM, very few individual Internet users will be able to actively participate in both ALAC and GNSO, as both groups can be very demanding. However, MM says individuals who can manage to do that, or who want to switch from one to the other to follow specific issues and controversies, should be able to do so. MM says getting individuals directly involved in the GNSO does not detract from ALAC's ability to serve as a more generalized host for the organization and representation of individual Internet users worldwide. He says ALAC can do many things that GNSO cannot, such as appoint more people to the Nominating Committee and participating in non-domain name issues such as IP addressing, etc. VB's comments also support the continued role of an Advisory Committee to maintain a direct connection with the Board of Directors for individual users of the Internet. AL agrees that the GNSO should work with the ALAC, the broader At-Large community (and any new "non-commercial" constituencies the Board may approve) to jointly develop for Board approval an implementation plan for the initial composition of a Non-Commercial Stakeholder Group that does not duplicate the ALAC and its supporting structures, yet ensures that the individual Internet user's gTLD interests are effectively represented within the GNSO. The ICA believes that the ALAC remains the proper body for representation of non-commercial individual users and that those users should remain outside the GNSO framework. The ICA says it has no objection to the creation of a comprehensive Non-Commercial Stakeholders Group, as envisioned in the BGC WG Report, that would represent the interests in gTLD policy of a wide range of non-commercial entities and that would include, but extend beyond, the current parameters of the NCUC. 4. Challenges of Individual User Recruitment and Participation in ICANN: MOC notes that only part of the answer lies in the structure of individual user participation in the GNSO. He says the eventual success is likely to lie in the positive and rewarding support ICANN provides to participants in that structure. To address that concern he suggests that ICANN focus on three major areas: (1) Provide a clear "value proposition" for prospective participants - MOC notes that the costs of participation in ICANN for an individual can range from USD $5,000 to USD $20,000 a year and thus a case for individual participation must be "compelling" to encourage attendance and meaningful individual participation; (2) Provide clear paths to meaningful participation - perhaps through the new working group process adopted by the Board; and (3) Support success - by offering "positive rewards" for helpful contributions rather than the current "well-developed system of punishments for mistakes." Again, MOC believes the new working-group process may provide opportunities for improvement. MM says that people get involved in ICANN based on personal or organizational connections. This leads them into ICANN from multiple paths. If an individual can get involved in ICANN via the GNSO, the Board should leverage that and not try to force people into a single channel which will only reduce the number of people who get involved. MM notes that the NCUC has long supported easier access for individuals to get involved in the GNSO. He says that starting in July 2008, the NCUC initiated a provisional individual membership plan that allows individuals to join the NCUC as long as they are not already members of other constituencies and that in a few months NCUC membership increased by 30%. The reason is that many people who are interested in GNSO issues cannot get their organization to formally join, or cannot get their organization to formally designate them as the organization's representative. He believes that commercial stakeholder groups should follow the same path, and make it easy for individual consultants, domainers, etc to join the commercial GNSO groups. IV. NEXT STEPS In its 1 October Resolution, the ICANN Board of Directors seemed intent upon resolving this issue as expeditiously and practicably as possible in order to permit the GNSO Improvements implementation process to proceed effectively and efficiently with clear guidance to the community. In addition to summarizing the comments in this forum, the ICANN staff will collect relevant previous community comments made on this issue in a variety of public comment and forum periods. The Board is likely to consider all the relevant community input and move forward with guidance for the community as soon as practicably possible.
Summary-Analysis of Community Comments On Role of Individual Internet Users in GNSO 30 November 2008.doc