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ACT Comments on IIC

  • To: <iic-consultation@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Subject: ACT Comments on IIC
  • From: "Jonathan Zuck" <jzuck@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 1 Aug 2008 00:59:09 -0400

The Association for Competitive Technology (ACT) -- a leading
international organization devoted to small and medium sized ICT
companies  -- appreciates the opportunity to comment ICANN's
consultation: "Improving Institutional Confidence  

ACT is an IT industry trade association that represents over 3,000 small
and medium sized businesses around the globe. While this community has
for the most part remained silent on the topic of Internet governance,
our interest was spurred by the proposals for greater governmental
control over ICANN functions that had been advanced in Geneva at the
WSIS meetings. While this issue was substantially diffused in Tunisia
with the creation of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), it is far from
being resolved. Instead governments such as Brazil, China, Russia and
others, continue to advance proposals for greater governmental control
over ICANN's functions.
The first principle listed in the Transition Action Plan is "Avoidance
of Capture" and I can tell you this is the issue of greatest concern to
our members. For the internet to continue to grow and flourish as a
platform for communication and commerce, the largely apolitical, private
sector led nature of internet management is critical to those who have
invested over a trillion dollars in its success. 
The midterm review of the Joint Project Agreement conducted by the U.S.
Department of Commerce revealed a great deal of effort on the part of
the ICANN staff and board to address numerous concerns which have been
raised on such issues as accountability, transparency, contract
compliance and stakeholder participation. ACT applauds these measures,
and looks forward to tracking the effectiveness of these initiatives in
the months and years to come. 
We are concerned however, at the implication that the mere launching of
these initiatives represents an achievement in itself. In its annual
report and response to the JPA review ICANN marked many goals --
including such key targets as improving transparency and accountability
-- as having been "achieved," thanks to the installation of new
initiatives. In the business community, it is the success of an
initiative -- not its introduction -- that determines achievement. While
we appreciate that certain goals, such as maintaining accountability,
can never be truly "achieved," there are ways to measure and gauge
whether initiatives are having the desired effect. We are concerned that
ICANN has devoted too little energy, and left too little time, to
address the impact of these initiatives. 
We are particularly concerned that neither the initiatives announced
earlier this year, nor the ICANN transition plan, contain strong enough
accountability provisions. The two major accountability proposals
offered: 1) allowing the "community" to request that the board
reconsider a decision and 2) allowing the community to demand the
termination of the entire board, are not effective accountability
mechanisms. The first makes the board only accountable to itself. The
board could easily reconsider a decision and reach an identical
conclusion, rendering this proposal meaningless as an accountability
check on board power. The second is essentially a "nuclear option" that
no reasonable participant in the ICANN process would ever want to
exercise, for fear of destabilizing the organization, making it a check
in name only. 

Accountability means that an organization or body is accountable to some
entity other than itself. Accountability cannot be loose accountability
to a "community" in a theoretical sense, but must be meaningful and
enforceable in order to have real value as a check on power. How this
mechanism would work should be subject to the bottom-up process, but the
existing proposals are wholly inadequate to provide real accountability
within ICANN.  
An organization which is "safe from capture," "effective at contract
management," "internationally recognized," "governed by the private
sector" is not an organization "addressing" those issues but rather an
organization which has achieved a "state" of preparedness and maturity
in which those goals have been met to the satisfaction of the community.
What is needed is a set of metrics that can be measured, which include
contract compliance rates, international recognition and sign-off and
broad-spectrum participation by the private sector, not just those
businesses whose business is ICANN. It is only fair to the staff and
board of ICANN to define clear, attainable goals and we at ACT stand
ready to both help to define them and help to accomplish them.




Jonathan Zuck


Association for Competitive Technology


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