July 15, 2004

Looking at the CDT paper

I'm looking at the CDT Back to Basics paper on ICANN.

I was disappointed to see the paper begin with the recital that ICANN is a "technical coordination body." That is incorrect - ICANN avoids technical issues as if they carried the plague. With the exception of internationalized domain names (a matter that ICANN ultimately left to the IETF) and ICANN's current action with regard to Versign's sitefinder, the entire life span of ICANN has been marked by the way that ICANN has avoided establishing any policy that could be characterized as "technical coordination". ICANN has instead devoted its lifeblood to regulation of business and economic activity that has utterly nothing to do with technical coordination.

Those jobs that do involve technical coordination - jobs such as ensuring that the root servers are run well and with adequate resources and protections - have been abandoned by ICANN into the hands of independent and non-accountable groups.

In addition, I was surprised to see a resurrection of the old language that ICANN is the result of a "carefully crafted" effort. Nothing could be further from the truth - ICANN was born in a closed room with ICANN's founder and "outside counsel" acting as chamberlain controlling what people and views could enter and who could not. The only careful crafting that went into ICANN was to ensure that ICANN would conform to the desires of a few large industrial actors.

The CDT paper claims that the IFWP endorsed the White Paper. That is incorrect. The IFWP effort did not endorse the "White Paper". The forces behind ICANN destroyed the IFWP effort before that effort could reach closure. And, being a participant in the IFWP, I saw very little support within the IFWP process for the evolving ICANN.

The CDT report claims that ICANN is a body of limited powers. That claim grates against reality: ICANN has imposed upon the internet a price support regime that pulls well over $100,000,000(US) out of the pockets of internet users every year and puts that money into the pockets of registries and registrars. ICANN has also imposed a worldwide de facto law of trademarks. These are not the acts of a body of limited powers. None of these acts of ICANN have any relationship to "technical coordination". But they do have much to do with the exercise of governmental powers by a body that has completely rejected the concept of public participation in its decision making forums.

The CDT report, which frequently mentions ICANN as a "bottom-up" organization fails to remember how ICANN eviscerated every form of meaningful public participation in ICANN, including the repudiation of ICANN's explicit promises to have publicly elected members on its Board of Directors. ICANN's ALAC has proven to be a joke - after nearly two years its membership is nearly zero, a situation that compares very poorly with the robust and evolving public system that ICANN dismantled when that system elected me to ICANN's Board of Directors.

CDT is a well intended organization and its opinions are often worthy of respect and consideration. However, it is hard to give credence to a report that begins with as many errors of fact and historical fairy tales as does this report.

Posted by karl at July 15, 2004 2:06 AM