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Re: [alac] WSIS agenda

  • To: alac@xxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: Re: [alac] WSIS agenda
  • From: Bret Fausett <bfausett@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 18 Nov 2005 08:17:52 -0800

The easy part is calling ICANN a failure. The hard part (and the part you signed-up for as an ALAC member) is articulating, and getting community buy-in, for what a successful (or "competent") ICANN looks like/does (especially from a Net user perspective) and suggesting specific actions that At-Large and ICANN should take.

The list of specific actions for ICANN to take is a long one. But -- and I'm probably channeling Wendy here -- the actions that ICANN will actually take has no overlap with the list of actions that we would advocate. It's been refreshing to see Avri on the GNSO Council, as she is asking questions and advocating changes that I long ago abandoned as hopeless causes. Among the "hopeless cause" specific actions we might resurrect and advocate are:

1. Hiring a "Manager of Public Participation" (see the ALAC Statement in Mar del Plata). This was a key staff position proposed by the ICANN Reform effort in 2002, which current ICANN management has never seen fit to fill. While ICANN seems to have no problem hiring water boys for senior staff -- you know, the 'Executive Assistants' and 'Vice-Policy Managers' and 'Associate Counsels' -- it can't bother to hire someone who actually would represent the interests of end-users. I'm not talking here about the advertised position of 'Vice-President for Outreach,' who will work under the direction of the 'General Manager for Global Partnerships,' but someone who will ensure that user input into ICANN doesn't end up unheard.

2. Increased Transparency for ICANN Staff. ICANN has never truly embraced "openness and transparency," in spite of the fact that these requirements are laced through its bylaws. In 1998, when ICANN was just beginning, someone proposed a truly brilliant idea, with an analog in U.S. administrative processes. To increase transparency, ICANN would require that any ICANN community member who had (a) an ex parte contact (defined as any contact that was not in an open, public forum) with (b) an ICANN Board member or ICANN staffer about (c) a matter of policy (as opposed to social contacts or administrative minutiae) to (d) summarize the meeting, including date, time, length, persons attending, and subjects discussed, and post it to a public web archive within 5 business days after the meeting. If the summary was inaccurate, ICANN could post a response. Imagine all of the problems that ICANN could have avoided over the years if people actually knew what was happening down in Marina del Rey.

3. Increased Transparency for the ICANN Board. The ICANN Board now meets roughly 80% of the time in private, closed, secret session. In the early days of ICANN, the balance was the opposite. I also understand that the infamous "Board list" -- the Board's working mailing list -- has over 4000 messages a year, none of them publicly readable or archived. Imagine all of the problems that ICANN could have avoided over the years if people actually knew what was happening in the Board's discussions.

The easy part is calling these specific suggestions about process "navel-gazing" (Esther's term, once upon a time). They have important ramifications for policy though. Here's an example: The 2001 .COM Agreement states that Verisign must propose a renewal of the .COM agreement at some time between November 10, 2005 and May 10, 2006. ICANN then will have six months to review the proposal and decide whether to accept it. (see our ICANN Wiki page for the links to the actual provisions.) That's what the public documents say. What really happened was that Verisign and/or ICANN proposed a renewal of .COM out of sync with the public, contractual provisions, at least ten months before the process was to start. If that weren't bad enough, ICANN then asked the community to comment on the "deal" in a matter of days, rather than in the "six month" consideration window required by the current contract. When the greater community doesn't see something like .COM renegotiation coming ("no transparency"), it impacts our ability to comment upon and influence the outcome.


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