[discuss] ICANN governance structure

Mike Roberts mmr at darwin.ptvy.ca.us
Tue Mar 18 22:15:22 UTC 2014

Perhaps a little background would help on this item.

In the summer of 1998, there was an effort to socialize - globally - the White Paper recommendations about a new non-profit entity to become the home for functions previously managed by federal research agencies.  The signal to noise ratio of these meetings was not good, for obvious reasons.  Jon Postel and his IETF colleagues were alarmed by the prospect of an ICANN Board doing wholesale damage to Internet infrastructure as a result of ignorance, malevolence, or both.  Joe Sims, Jon’s lawyer (pro bono by the way), created a variation on the standard corporate committee structure in which considerable autonomy was ceded to three “Supporting Organizations,” covering the three responsibility areas of protocols (PSO), numbers (ASO) and names (DNSO).  The Bylaws provided that these SO’s would be self-created by a community process with experts in those areas and would be prima facie the voice of authority on policy, subject to the Board’s final approval.  Most of the year 1999 was consumed in the process of populating the SO’s.

We’ll never know whether Jon’s plan would have succeeded because he didn’t get to preside over it.  In his absence, the two technical pieces, PSO and ASO, felt a lot of discomfort about their implied subservience to the USG through ICANN.  Especially since their membership and functions had long since become global.  They moved to the “distant” but cooperative relationship with ICANN that exists today.  The DNSO/GNSO relationship has seen many adjustments over the years, and it is fair to say that substantial numbers of its constituents aren’t all that happy about the way it functions. There are disparate views on whether ICANN’s SO’s, as such, have been a success or not.  Careful scrutiny will be required on constituent structures in any new arrangements.

In that context, Barry’s hub and spoke idea has merit and ought to be explored.


On Mar 18, 2014, at 1:54 PM, John Curran <jcurran at istaff.org> wrote:

> On Mar 18, 2014, at 8:34 PM, Shatan, Gregory S. <GShatan at ReedSmith.com> wrote:
>>> snip
>> It's likely that such a Board structure (and ICANN organization whose primary focus was on the coordination and oversight across that system rather than DNS policy development) would be just fine and not require much discussion of external oversight mechanisms...  However, the organization described in the White Paper does not really resemble today's ICANN in the least, given that both DNS policy development is actually done within ICANN (in addition to the DNS policy implementation) rather than in a separate DNS membership body.
>>> snip
>> This is inaccurate.  Policy development for gTLDs is done within the GNSO, which I do not consider to be "within ICANN," through the PDP process, which is a multistakeholder, bottom-up, consensus-driven process..
> Greg - the GNSO is "within ICANN", particularly when contrasted to the original 
> intent which was the selection of an external DNS membership organization (i.e. 
> a body with its own governance structure and financials) to perform this task. 
> Feel free to review the original ICANN Bylaws of Nov 1998, Section 3b, 
> <https://www.icann.org/en/about/governance/bylaws/bylaws-23nov98-en.htm>
> regarding the application requirements for a DNS supporting organization, 
> including submission of _its_ membership requirements, public meeting 
> requirements, policy development process, policies to ensure international 
> and diverse participation, its own conflict of interest procedures, and 
> its methods for funding itself and providing funding for ICANN...
> That's what I mean by "separate DNS membership body", and trust me, 
> the GNSO does not qualify by those criteria.
> In fact, if we were following the original model as proposed, then 
> the actual funding of ICANN would actually be via the DNS membership 
> organization, which I imagine would provide quite an interesting 
> dynamic in and of itself, and might readily preempt accountability 
> concerns (at least for the organizations participating in the DNS
> membership organization)
>> I honestly think this is a really far-fetched scenario.  You should look at how ICANN board members become board members (and stay board members).  Board members are nominated by quite a number of different methods: 8 by the NomCom (cited by Mike Roberts, which itself has members from disparate groups in the ICANN ecosystem and goes through a significant process to find and select potential Board members), 2 from the GNSO, 2 from ccNSO, 1 from ALAC, 2 from ASO.  Nonvoting liaisons from SSAC, RSSAC, and IETF also participate, including on committees. The organizations that nominate these board members look to them to represent their interests on the board.
> Yes, I am quite aware of the ICANN Board nomination and election process;
> know many of Board members professionally and personally and find them 
> to be of remarkably high calibre.  In fact, it's probably my familiarity 
> with the election process that leads me to consider the scenario to far
> less far-fetched than expected, particularly if played out over a fairly
> long timeframe.
>>  If we feel like someone is not acting as an appropriate representative, they won't stay on the Board.
> Really?  So, if a group of Board members seem to begin acting in alignment, 
> taking actions collectively act to move ICANN away from its excellent record 
> of serving the community, how exactly would this be thwarted and they be 
> removed?  There is no membership, and even if there were it would not matter,
> as presently only the directors can remove another director.  Of course, that 
> also presumes that the community or supporting organization where aware of 
> things such as ICANN Bylaws changes, but at present there is no notice period 
> and no requirement to even notify the community at all...
> Am I to presume that when you say "they won't stay on the Board", that means 
> that it would all be handled after the fact by the erratic directors not being 
> reelected back onto the Board?  You are of course presuming that they did not
> reach critical mass and change the bylaws in such a way to prevent removal?
> (at which point, there literally is no way to regain community control, 
> save for finding an act which is plainly and overtly contrary to the public
> interest, if any, and trying to pursue the matter in court...)   Am I correct
> in saying that is what you mean by "they won't stay on the Board" ?
>> I suppose if John Grisham or Dan Brown decided to turn their imaginations to a scenario such as you imagine, they might be able to come up with something interesting, but the thousands of people you would have to fool and hoodwink boggles my lesser imagination.  The idea of the Board consolidating its hold for personal gain is even more far-fetched.  Of course, this is not a utopian ideal made real, either, and there are all kinds of criticisms that can and have been made regarding every aspect of the ICANN Board (and every other aspect of ICANN as well).  Depending on who you ask, the ICANN Board bends over backwards for Registries and/or Registrars, doesn't do nearly enough to safeguard the interests of Registries and/or Registrars; the ICANN Board bends over backwards for business and/or IP interests, doesn't do nearly enough to safeguard the interests of business and/or IP interests; the ICANN Board bends over backwards for civil society, doesn't do nearly enough to safeguard the interests of civil society, etc., etc.  I suppose that if everyone's a little pissed, things are working, more or less.
>> I suppose it's possible that hundreds of people are wasting thousands of hours of their lives, often for no compensation (this is not my "day job," and if I thought about "return on investment" I would stop typing right now), as dupes in an elaborate charade.  Based on the percentage of people who believe it, I suppose it's also possible that man walked beside dinosaurs.  As one of those potential "dupes," I'm not buying it.  And as much as my fellow ICANN participants (including those participating here) and I might be in healthy disagreement on matters of policy, process, outcome, etc., I don't think they would disagree with me on this either.  If this type of immense, sustained "con" were true, it would make Jonestown look like a corner lemonade stand.
> I did not assert that it is presently happening; my question was whether it is
> at risk of happening in the future in a scenario sans the NTIA IANA contract.
>> Far-fetched or not, I don't think we need NTIA oversight to protect us from these or other "horribles" proposed on this list.  I think it was nice to have while it was around, but we'll do fine without it.
> I actually think we'll do fine without NTIA oversight for years in the future, 
> but am far less sanguine about doing well under the present structures for decades 
> into the future and hence would prefer that some time is spent considering the 
> quality of the present foundation and the attributes of the one we really need.
> FYI,
> /John
> John Curran 
> President and CEO

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