At-Large Representative for Canada and the United States on the
ICANN Board of Directors
Karl Auerbach

Diary - September 10, 2001
(Montevideo, Uruguay)

This was written September 22, 2001 (and, as usual, minor corrections were made over the next few days.)

I did not go to Montevideo due to a (hopefully) minor medical condition.  I missed all the preliminary events and the ever-important "hallway" discussions.

However, arrangements were made for me to participate in the public Board meeting via telephone.  The folks at Harvard set this up (thank you!) and it worked well, modulo a few startup problems.

One of the big events for this meeting was the presentation of the At-Large Study Committee's report.  I will write about that report later on a separate web page.  I don't want to leave you wondering about my position on that report: I am most likely going to vote against accepting the report unless it is significantly altered.

Before starting, I'd like to mention that ICANN has recently taken an action that I consider tantamount to an amendment to the Articles of Incorporation in that it creates procedures that appear designed to limit and constrain the powers of a Director.  I am surprised that this action, an action made entirely by "staff" and put into place without a vote by the board, has not been made public.  Ah, but what is ICANN if not secrecy?

OK, now for the matters that were before the public meeting of the board in Montevideo.

The preliminary notes of the Montevideo meeting are posted on ICANN's web site at:

Schedule for IRP NomCom

I was one of the people who signed the original petition to create an Independent Review Panel.  That was such a long time ago that I can't remember whether it was 1998 or 1999.  In addition I have a petition to that panel that has been pending for something like 18th months ... so far.

The creation of the IRP has been a pathetic exercise in delay compounded by delay.  Were there to be a race in which ICANN's creation of the Independent Review Panel were to be matched against a glacier coming down from the arctic to cover the State of Alabama, one might want to think carefully about the odds.

So here we have the nominating committee asking for a two month additional delay.  I wanted to express my frustration by voting against it, but I recognize that this delay is for the nominating committee to talk to each of the nominees.  This is a concrete and real step with a finite, and reasonably near, deadline.  Hence, I was willing to vote for this resolution - I was willing to give one extension.

However, remember the telephone link that I mentioned previously?  I wasn't notified that it was operational until after this resolution had been presented and voted upon.  Consequently I neither heard the discussion nor was I able to cast my vote.

Recommendations of Reconsideration Committee

There were two reconsiderations.  The phone link was partially operational by this time: I was able to hear, but I could not be heard.  This was rather frustrating because I had strong objections to the first of these two reconsiderations:

Recommendation RC 00-15

This recommendation appeared to be based on something other than rational judgment.  The comparison between the earlier form of the recommendation and the present form is revealing.

Let's look at the recommendation:

As cited in the recommendation, this really wasn't a request for reconsideration at all.  It was merely a request for clarification.  It could have been disposed with a simple response.

Yet the reconsideration committee felt it necessary to issue a statement that is unnecessarily hostile and creates an feeling that ICANN has divided the world into two groups: friends and enemies. The recommendation creates the impression that the latter would be treated by ICANN as pariahs no matter what the merits of their request or position.

And further:  The recommendation says "no new TLD proposal has been rejected by ICANN; rather, a small set of TLDs was selected for an initial introduction" and "The fact that a new TLD proposal was not selected under those circumstances should not be interpreted as a negative reflection on the proposal or its sponsor."

How can those statements be reconciled with the fact that the money that the applicants paid - $50,000 each - money that was supposed to cover the costs of the application process - is being fully expended to facilitate the deployment of the competitors of those applicants?  If, as the rhetoric goes, the non-selected applicants are merely waiting to see how things go with the first group, then one must ask: Who is going to pay what are apparently the enormous deployment costs of these possible winners-in-waiting?

Had this recommendation stopped with the statement that the request was not really a request for reconsideration and that no action was needed I would have voted "yes".  However, because the recommendation continued further with gratuitous hostility and made what are apparently fiat declarations of ICANN policy my vote would have been a solid "no".

But I was not able to cast my vote - I could hear the discussion on the phone, but I could not be heard.

The resolution was passed by the Board.

Recommendation RC 01-03

I would have voted "yes", but again, I could hear but not speak.

The resolution was passed by the Board.

Continued Recognition of gTLD Registries Constituency

I would have voted "no".  But once again I could hear but not speak.

The DNSO is already larded with constituencies giving power to businesses.  And yet the DNSO still has no vehicle giving any meaningful power to individuals.

It is my feeling that one way to redress this balance is to begin to merge the various business-based constituencies of the DNSO into the already existing Business and Commercial constituency.

The gTLD constituency is a good place to start - it has always been a rotten borough with but one member, Network Solutions/Verisign.  The proposed resolution would make the gTLD constituency only a slightly less rotten borough; it would still have fewer members than we have fingers on our hands.  Maybe we ought to call the gTLD constituency what it really is: a very privileged club.

So I would have let the gTLD constituency lapse and let its members find a new home with all the other business interests in the B&C constituency.

The resolution was passed by the Board.

Sponsored TLD Agreements

As is probably pretty well known by now, I find the concept of "sponsored" or "chartered" TLDs to be something that ICANN should avoid.  It is my opinion that ICANN should neither ask nor care about how a TLD is used beyond ensuring that the operators will adhere to good technical practices.

Be that as it may, I want these privileged seven TLDs to be launched quickly so that we can get beyond this phase and get going on deploying a truly meaningful number of new TLDs so that consumers can have a real choice instead of the contrived faux-competition that we have today.

In the interests of getting past this phase, I voted "yes".

The resolution was passed by the Board.

ccTLD Agreement with auDA

Where is the DNSO report on this?

And where is the community input?  I note that the agreement was posted to the public on September 4 - a mere six days before this Board meeting.  And during that short interval many of the people who have insight into these matters were in transit to Uruguay.  Is this enough time for public comment?  No, it is not.  This matter should have been deferred to at least until the meeting in Los Angeles this coming November.

Recently there was a change in the delegation of .au - and serious questions have been raised whether that re-delegation was made in accordance with established procedures   And further questions have been raised asking whether there was any relationship between that re-delegation of .au and this ccTLD agreement.

I find that there are too many unanswered questions to go forward on this.

My vote was "no".

The resolution was passed by the Board.

MoU with U.S. Department of Commerce and Root-Server CRADA

I requested that this be voted upon as two distinct resolutions, and it was voted that way.


I have always been wondering about the CRADA - I have yet to see a clear statement of what has been performed under this contract and how much it has cost and will cost.  And I do find it odd that as ICANN's third birthday approaches, something as basic as a clear technical policy on root server operations and placements has not yet been created and put into place.

ICANN long ago should have:

These would have been appropriate for the CRADA.

Despite these failings, the work of this CRADA dealing with the the set of root servers is probably ICANN's most direct contact, perhaps its only contact, with anything that actually affects the stability of the Internet.

Consequently I reluctantly voted "yes".

The resolution was passed by the Board.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Department of Commerce

I voted "yes".  However, I have many concerns.

I have noticed over the years how the amendments to the MoU and the yearly progress reports have slowly elided the concept of meaningful public participation in ICANN and have diminished the degree of public accountability.  I am concerned that some government bean counter or auditor will look only at the current version of this MoU, missing all that has been removed via the amendments or declared "done" by old progress reports, and use the current MoU as the checklist to measure whether ICANN has lived up to its original obligations for open access, transparent decision making, and public accountability.

The resolution was passed by the Board.

Geographic and Geopolitical Names in .info

I voted "no".

I am very concerned that even countries have gotten Gold Rush fever and are trying to preserve geographic names.  Isn't it enough that these countries already have country-code TLDs over which they can establish whatever rules they feel appropriate?

There are many places, including countries, named after people.  America, for instance, is based on the name of an Italian explorer.  And I grew up in a town named after a local real-estate agent.  Should people lose the ability to use their names on the Internet because their name has been used to designate some geographic landmark?

In addition, there has been no DNSO decision on this matter.  And under the ICANN bylaws, DNS policy is vested primarily in the DNSO.

The resolution was passed by the Board.

IDN Committee

I voted "yes".

It seems quite reasonable for ICANN to establish a more formalized group to watch the development of internationalized naming within the DNS.

The resolution was passed by the Board.

Appointment of President to Executive Committee

I voted "no".

ICANN's executive committee is empowered to take many actions and make many decisions that really ought to be decided by the entire board.  This dilutes ICANN's already very weak accountability.

The theory of an Executive Committee is that there needs to be a vehicle to respond to emergency situations in which it is infeasible to gather the full board.

On August 16 we saw the Executive Committee used to vote for such routine matters as the approval of a travel policy, payment of attorney's fees, and repayment of loans.

In other words we have a leakage of power from the Board to the Executive Committee.

That is something that we ought to be concerned about.

And while we are talking about things to be concerned about: ICANN's staff already is running away from the Board.  The Board is failing to exercise its powers to control the staff.  Consequently I find it inappropriate to increase the power of the "staff" by placing ICANN's president on the Executive committee.

This in no way hobbles the executive committee.  That committee is still free, as it always has been, to invite the President to give his or her opinion or to provide information.

This resolution was further flawed in that it leaves Mike Roberts a named member of the Executive Committee.  (It is true that he can't actually be on the committee, unless he should somehow become a Board member, but why should his his name be retained on the list?)  Given the enormous number of dollars that ICANN pays in legal fees. the cost of removing the name from the list would have been no more than  a drop of rain falling into an ocean.

The resolution was passed by the Board.

Thanks to Ken Fockler

This resolution is not a mere formality.  It is much more.  Ken Fockler made substantial contributions and was a voice of reason.

The resolution was passed by the Board.

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2001 Karl Auerbach, All Rights Reserved.
Updated: Sunday, September 23, 2001 11:44:59 PM