ICANN ICANN Email List Archives


<<< Chronological Index >>>    <<< Thread Index >>>

Comments on ICG draft Charter

  • To: <icg-forum@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Subject: Comments on ICG draft Charter
  • From: Roberto Gaetano <roberto_gaetano@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 15 Aug 2014 23:44:52 +0200

Let me start by saying that the main issue I have with the charter is not
with a specific point but with the general approach.


The first paragraph states that the ICG will deliver directly to NTIA. This
was not obvious to me at the start of the process, but, fine, if this is the
direction, let's go for it.

However, this puts an additional burden on the ICG: since there will be no
other post-processing, it is the ICG that has to make sure that the proposal
is all-inclusive, which means that the process must involve not just the
usual suspects, but "the global multistakeholder community", that in the
words of NTIA should be inheriting the NTIA's role.

So, one would expect that a great deal of the remaining six pages would
address inclusiveness of input, and in particular how to get input outside
the already participating circles, and how the whole will be well

However, the next paragraphs identifies three (possibly four) communities,
that will be in charge of developing in parallel separate proposals for
"domain names, number resources, and other protocol parameters". The ICG
will delegate the drafting to the three communities, and will only assess
"the outputs of the three operational communities for compatibility and
interoperability". So what if there are problems? "At that point the role of
the ICG is to communicate that back to the relevant communities so that they
(the relevant communities) can address the issues. It is not in the role of
the ICG to develop proposals or to select from among competing proposals.".


The first problem I see is that while splitting this complex issue in
smaller pieces, and dealing separately "in parallel" with the individual
pieces, it is unclear how these pieces will be then brought together. Where
in the process does ICG, created in order to be a representation of the
multi-stakeholder community, provide its added value?

This approach could, and will, work for an engineering problem, but is the
NTIA withdrawal from the process an engineering problem, or rather a
political one, that has repercussions on the balance of the Internet
ecosystem? In other words, is it the operational process of managing domain
names, IP addresses and Internet parameters that needs fixing, or is it
rather an overarching issue? If it is the operational process that needs
fixing, isolation of the technical problems is the way to go, but what if
the issue is a different one, that calls for a systemic view? If it is just
about technicalities, where should we stop partitioning the work? Why then
not split IANA itself in IANA-N, who manages the domain name system, IANA-A,
who manages the IP address space, and IANA-P, who manages protocol
parameters? After all, with the same reasoning, they could be considered
separate functions.

It is a very dangerous slippery slope. There are connections within
subsystems. There is a WhoIs for names, another for addresses, should they
be coherent? The DNS is the main source of money, should this money be used
also for another part of the ecosystem, for instance financing the IETF, so
that IETF meetings are free? And each of us can easily think of other


The second problem I see in partitioning the work is how people could
participate. It is assumed that they participate through the "operational
communities". Seems straightforward.

I participate to the ICANN process with funding for the ICANN meetings that
comes from my role as Board member of Public Interest Registry. So, my
"operational community" is the GNSO.

Fine. However, I have been lately active in ALAC, as an individual. So, my
"channel" into the process could well be ALAC.

Good. However, I am an ISOC member, and ISOC has also representatives in the
ICG, maybe that is the correct channel?

Maybe. But I have been in the past active in the IETF, and still read from
the distance. Does this have any effect in the way I provide input?

I do not have an answer to these questions. It sure seems at least
impractical to have one single large container, but separate silos without a
high degree of flexibility and coordination does not seem the good answer
either. Maybe the only solution is to ensure on one hand tight overall
coordination by ICG, and on the other hand allow the existence of channels
other than the identified communities.

We need to consider that it is not the "relevant communities" who are given
the responsibility of the proposal, but the ICG. What are the guarantees
that the "relevant communities" will use fair process in developing a
proposal, will not have conflict of interest, will be inclusive of all
interested parties, and so on? Should the ICG give rules to the parties that
have to develop the proposals that the ICG will just paste together and
rubber stamp? Is there a "picket fence" for the proposals? Who approves the
charter of the teams that the "relevant communities" will have at work for
developing the proposals? Shouldn't this be another task of the ICG? No
mention of this in the charter, though. 


Another point that I have problems with is the approach to accountability.
The first paragraph on page 2 states that there is a parallel process,
related to ICANN's accountability, that is going on. Specifically: ". the
two processes are interrelated and interdependent and should appropriately
coordinate their work". This is a declaration of principle, good for the
campaign of a political party, but useless for taking decisions that can be
acted upon. There is not even a hint on how this coordination should happen.
What on earth does this mean? Who is in charge of the coordination? Does it
mean that the enhanced ICANN accountability process has to get input from
the ICG? What about the other way around? Or is it just a foot put in the
doorway by some to open up a possibility to later on put higher pressure on
the other process? Why are we insisting only on ICANN's accountability,
while opening the door to potentially corporative proposals without
addressing accountability of the "operational communities"? Does this not
smell a bit like an effort to corner out ICANN, and give more free hand to
the "operational communities" themselves? I am not saying at all that this
is in the intention of any of the members of the ICG, but it is indeed a
risk, if we see things from the outside. This is the main reason why voices
from the outside have such importance.


So we are getting to the heart of the problem. The main task is to replace
NTIA's role. But what is  NTIA's role in the current process? Is it to
guarantee smooth operations, or is it to ensure oversight and accountability
of the operational partners? If it is the oversight and accountability role
of NTIA that we need to replace, does it make sense that the proposal comes
out from the three communities that are involved in the operation of the
machinery, i.e. precisely those who should be overseen and held accountable
for under the new regime? I believe that what is of the paramount importance
is exactly the opposite, to have the "operational communities" defining
their needs, but to leave to the cross-constituency multi-stakeholder groups
the task to bring these needs into a homogeneous, holistic proposal that
will define very specific independent accountancy mechanisms.


Next issue is the collection of input. In the charter, ICG commits on
soliciting broader input: "The ICG is open for input and feedback from all
interested parties". I am not under the impression that facts follow the
intention. On a matter of quite some importance, and anyway the first public
output from the ICG, a public comment period of 7 days has been established,
that being the week in mid-August that is traditionally the peak vacation
time in Europe (and maybe in some other regions as well). If the intention
was to get views outside the box, I believe that the objective has little
chance to be achieved to more than a bare minimal extent.

This reinforces the general perception that the ICG wants to get to some
solution that is good enough for most, maybe achieving a couple of points
that different fiefdoms wants to get out of this transition, like a tighter
accountability for ICANN, and do so with the minimum effort and in the
shortest time, because "we have work to do". I have followed the discussions
on the archives, and very honestly you can see this approach quite often:
set a rule, then disregard it because obeying it would slow down the

I am not shocked by this approach. Been born and raised in Italy, I am quite
familiar with the concept that law is law - but life is something different.
However, I find it an inconvenient approach for a body like the ICG. And the
shortcuts we take now are likely to open up a wider problem later on:
disenfranchised communities might go straight to NTIA saying: "See, they do
not even respect their own rules, how can they have standing about things
like accountability of ICANN?".


The active voices on the ICG mailing list, and therefore those over which
consensus calls are based, are mostly coming from people representing the
"relevant communities": other actors, like GAC and ISOC, have been by and
large silent (although there are exceptions)  while another voice outside
the choir, ALAC, has been quickly silenced. Is it their fault? Probably this
can be successfully argued in a court. But we are here not for a "who's
right and who's wrong" dispute, but to put another brick to the building of
the equal global multi-stakeholder community. If parts of the team are not
quick or vocal enough in expressing their opinion, I do not believe that to
pull ahead full speed anyway is the right approach.

I see a big problem with privileging deadline over inclusiveness and,
ultimately, consensus. In other words, among the three variables that we
have in managing a project, so far we have privileged time/resources over
scope and quality. I believe this is the wrong approach. The sky will not
fall on earth if a consensus proposal is not ready by fall 2015. An
extension of the status-quo has been granted earlier for different although
similar situations. On the other hand, if the proposal is not a consensus
proposal, it will be a major disaster if parts of "the global
multistakeholder community" complain to NTIA that their needs have not been
taken into account. This will undermine the whole work of the ICG, and most
probably we will never get a second chance. Why are we taking this huge

I also wonder whether this "efficiency over inclusiveness" approach is not
ultimately a cultural issue. I see that the vast majority of members of the
ICG share the Western culture (me too, incidentally). We have the ability to
see very well, and analyze very well, the part of the elephant that we can
touch (cfr. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blind_men_and_an_elephant) but we
lack sometimes the ability to appreciate the elephant as a whole. It is not
by chance that the elephant story originates from Asia, maybe we need less
Westeners and more Asian and Africans to provide a more balanced approach
and a holistic view. Maybe the call for diversity in the formation of the
ICG, widely disregarded in practice, was not such a bad idea?


I would like to conclude reminding that a few years ago, the issue of global
governance came up, on the basis that there were stakeholders that were not
represented in ICANN, seen mostly as an organization ruled by business
interests of the Internet operators, and also not sufficiently
geopolitically diverse. Different parties did propose different models and
the debate went on for years, with large use of time and resources. In the
end, there has been consensus on the global multi-stakeholder model.

ICANN has adapted to the situation, and has adopted the model as its own
identity. The equal, global, multi-stakeholder model is what ICANN is now.
The task is to become even more global, even more equal. It is not by chance
that only in the moment that ICANN fully embraces this view that NTIA
decides that time has come to complete the transition that was started 15+
years ago.

This happens only because NTIA sees ICANN as a whole ecosystem, not as a
collection of fiefdoms. If the proposal that comes out from the ICG is not a
holistic proposal, but a collage of different parts that satisfy different
actors (some of which even with a perceived conflict of interest), if the
solution is not one that has involved in the drafting "the global
multistakeholder community" (in NTIA's words, not just mine), but only the
usual suspects, I have serious doubts that it is going to fly.


Anyway, I am silly, but not to the point where I believe that the charter is
going to be modified because of one, albeit long, comment - it will be also
extremely unfair to all those who had different opinions but did not have
the time or opportunity to comment in this mid-August vacation time. But I
am confident to have given food for thoughts that can be developed in the
ICG discussions further down the road, in order to avoid the pitfalls I am
fearing - if you see some merit in the points I have raised.

Thanks for the amount of work you are putting in all this, and thanks for
asking for comments.

Roberto Gaetano, in my own individual capacity

<<< Chronological Index >>>    <<< Thread Index >>>

Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Cookies Policy