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TLG Review

  • To: <tlg-review-2010@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Subject: TLG Review
  • From: "Roberto Gaetano" <roberto@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sat, 20 Nov 2010 23:44:51 +0100

Thanks for the opportunity to comment on this issue.

On the general level, I may observe that one of the purposes of the TLG was
to provide technically qualified people from the internet protocol community
to provide this expertise to the Board.
In this respect, it has not been much different from the SSAC or RSSAC, who
also have a Liaison to the Board, although with different modality.
The basic questions, that remain insufficiently answered in the report, are:
*       Is this technical expertise, and generally the liaison with the
internet standards development community, useful for the Board or not;
*       If yes, how can the Board have access to this expertise if the TLG
is disbanded.
The report states: "It is clear that the TLG does not provide a vector for
accessing uniquely qualified individuals…". However, nowhere in the report
is there any explanation on how JAS has arrived to this conclusion.
Moreover, as even confirmed by the comments of Steve Goldstein, a former
Director who has strongly opposed the TLG, the former TLG Liaison (Thomas
Rössler) has provided outstanding contributions to the Board, as is the
current TLG Liaison (Jonne Soininen). My experience in 6 years on the Board
has been quite opposite to the situation stated by the report: the technical
liaisons (including the latest TLD Liaisons) have been an unique source of
competence and experience, that has been crucial in many decisions that the
Board has taken. To reduce this presence would be irresponsible.
The report also states: "… JAS believes that maintaining the mix of skill
sets on the Board is the duty of the Nominating Committee …". However, the
NomCom has already multiple constraints like gender equality and
geopolitical distribution, and adding a new one would make their already
difficult job impossible. Last but not least, the NomCom's task is to
nominate voting Directors, not non-voting technical advisors, which is a
totally different task, that the NomCom has not in its terms of reference,
nor has this issue been raised at the time of the NomCom review. I therefore
respectfully disagree with JAS' Recommendation 2.

Another general issue raised by the report is "the rather odd nature of TLG
as specified in the bylaws", that is given for granted, and from which all
recommendations are derived. My understanding was that one of the purposes
of the review was to identify "whether any change in structure or operations
is desirable to improve its effectiveness". As a former chair of the Board's
Structural Improvement Committee, who has the task of defining the scope of
the individual reviews, I can state that this has been one of the key
questions for all the structural reviews, and my understanding is that it
has been the case for the TLG review as well. However, I see no effort by
JAS in proposing a different structure for the TLG that would remove the
problems observed, that could be a better solution that scrapping the whole
structure. In simple words, if JAS has observed that "The TLG is atypical
and not well understood" (point 5.2) and "The TLG is not used as intended"
(point 5.3), why is there no suggestion for making the TLG less atypical or
better understood, or to make it work as intended? I do not see enough
rationale for Recommendation 1 as the report lacks sufficient evaluation of
possible alternative course of action.

One recommendation that really puzzles me is Recommendation 3: "… consider
removing region-specific representation from the TLG, specifically ETSI".
The recommendation would make sense, if there were "region-specific"
organizations as part of the TLG. This issue has been commented already by
ETSI itself, so I will add only a few words to it. The TLG comes from the
transformation of the PSO during the ICANN reform, and the current members
of the TLG are former members of the PSO. Having been an active participant
to the discussions that led to the drafting of the PSO MoU, I can state that
one of the key concerns of the group was exactly to include only
organizations that had a substantial presence as internet standards making
bodies, and that were international. There have been criterias set for
international presence, and ETSI has fulfilled them, otherwise it would not
have been allowed to sign the PSO MoU and become a member of the PSO. I am
personally not aware of relevant changes in ETSI since that time, but I am
led to believe that its international presence has possibly increased rather
than decreased. However, if JAS has evidence of the nature of ETSI being
only regional, it would be good that the relevant documentation be posted as
attachment to the final draft of the report.

About Recommendation 4 and the participation of Unicode Consortium, I do not
feel qualified to comment. However, I observe that in the past the PSO had
mechanisms for accepting new members. If I remember correctly, ISO, for
instance, had presented its candidature (unsuccessfully) at one point in
time. My question is, rather than recommending from the outside that
organization A or B join, would it not make sense to set clear rules and
procedures for TLG membership, and draft an MoU that all members have to
sign and comply with? Again, would not be a better functioning TLG a more
reasonable objective than a dismantled TLG, or a TLG upon which membership
is decided hand-picking members from the outside without objective and
transparent criteria?

I completely concur with JAS' Recommendation 5, although I understand that
to define the best way to have a two-way participation will not be trivial,
due to the different nature of the organizations involved. ICANN's
participation in ETSI, ITU-T and W3C has to be defined in a way that is
meaningful considering the structure and modus operandi of them. However,
the principle of having ICANN participating with an "observer" status to the
management bodies of ETSI, ITU-T and W3C is surely a way to match the
non-voting status of the TLG Liaison, and a way to improve the overall
coordination among these bodies. Reciprocity should be one of the clauses
set in the TLG MoU proposed above, and a condition for participation in the
TLG. This is very important, as it would be the litmus test to discriminate
organizations who are serious about collaboration from those who seek only
political convenience or have other agendas anyway.

I also agree with Recommendations 6 and 7, with the caveat that these
recommendations will become meaningful only once the TLG has been reformed
to become a more effective part of the ICANN community. The main effort of
the TLG review should be to define what are the changes in structure that
can improve its effectiveness: operational details like the modality of the
election of the Board Liaison or explicit reference to duty of loyalty
should follow. Incidentally, the issue of duty of loyalty to ICANN for any
Director, voting or non-voting, is a must: it is not limited to the TLD
Liaison, but has to be the common rule for all Directors. The report states
that "JAS believes the existence of the TLG has caused loyalties in the
ICANN Boardroom to be questioned at times, an unfortunate and damaging
occurrence.". Having spent 6 years on the Board, and more years as a close
participant in other roles, I have witnessed the issue of "loyalty" to have
appeared in several cases. This problem is orthogonal to the TLD issue,
because every part of the ICANN community, whether a Supporting
Organization, Advisory Committee, Technical Group, or even the NomCom, can
at any time potentially send to the Board a Director that might behave
unloyally to ICANN. Either ICANN accepts this potential "unloyalty" as part
of its nature of being an all-inclusive organization, or it establishes
loyalty rules that have to be respected by all Directors, voting or
non-voting, regardless their originating body. JAS seems to identify a
concrete example in the ITU-T, as being a competitor to ICANN and therefore
being in a potential conflict of interest, to say the least, if given a
non-voting seat on the ICANN Board. IMHO, we need to address this specific
problem, not to throw away a potentially useful structure hoping to avoid
the problem by doing so. A clear definition of roles and responsibilities
applied to the whole Board, defining criteria for compatibility with
participation to Boardroom discussions and access to Board material, is
necessary and sufficient to deal with this issue. At the same time,
reciprocity criteria defined in the TLG MoU as conditions for participation
in the TLG will guarantee the good faith of the standardization
organizations for a collaborative effort instead of a competition on turf.

Let's turn the TLG into an opportunity for success of ICANN and for the
development of a wider network of organizations that share common values,
like the development of the internet, the public-private participation, the
all-inclusive stakeholder model, rather than throwing the baby with the
dirty water.

Best regards,
Roberto Gaetano

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