As expected, the joint draft proposal from the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and Network Solutions Inc (NSI) for a non-profit entity to run the domain name system (DNS) was published yesterday. Comments will only be accepted for a couple of days and then only by phone to the key participants. The draft and the numbers can be found at http://www.netsol.com/policy/icann). It is a combination of the third draft from IANA and NSI’s draft that was issued in mid-August in response to the IANA offering. The two began talking almost three weeks ago at the direct request of the US government and whatever the two come up with is almost certainly to be the only proposal submitted to the government, which set September 30 as it deadline for a proposal. The government has said repeatedly that it will only accept one proposal, and if more than one is offered, it will tell those responsible to go away and come back with a compromise. The announcement of the NSI-IANA talks spelled the end for the process know as the International Forum on the White Paper (IFWP), which was due to hold a public meeting this coming weekend to finalize a set of bylaws and articles of incorporation. But with NSI’s withdrawal due to these talks and IANA’s flat-out refusal to ever attend, the IFWP meeting was cancelled. There is an alternative meeting being held in Boston this weekend, but it’s not clear how many people will attend that. The draft proposes a new name for the body, which will take over the role of the IANA in allocating blocks of IP addresses to regional IP registries, as well as choosing new generic top-level domain names: the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN. The proposal calls for an initial board of nine directors, three each from the three supporting organizations: address, domain name and protocol. In addition the proposal calls for nine at large directors selected by a process chosen by the initial board. That is at least an improvement on the previous IANA draft, which said the at large directors would be chosen by an advisory board appointed by IANA director Jon Postel. But some have already expressed concern that the process is still too closed and not accountable to the internet community. Jay Fenello, president of name registry Iperdome Inc says this process leaves the board vulnerable to capture by a single interest group. He also criticizes the proposal for making the board self-perpetuating. Under the proposals, the initial board will select the process by which the full board is chosen and it must do this by June 1 1999. There is no provision for a membership of ICANN, however article II is a placeholder for just such a proposal intended to encourage the board to find a way to provide for some sort of membership and electoral process of the At Large members of the Board…there now is a strong presumption in favor of some form of membership structure, say the comments that head up the draft, written by the participants. The draft talks more about openness than previous offerings. The board shall post a calendar of its meetings for the upcoming year; special meetings should be given at least two week’s notice. The proposal calls for at least two advisory committees: governmental and DNS root server advisory committee, the initial chairs of which will be appointed by the board with the subsequent chairs appointed by the committee itself. Tony Rutkowski, a consultant with General Magic, engineer, lawyer and internet veteran told us that in his opinion, the draft skillfully integrates and balances ideas, and addresses concerns, expressed by diverse parties over many months. He also considered it an historical major step not only in getting this incorporation underway, but in bringing principal players together and working effectively. Others were not quite so enthusiastic, but there seems to be a feeling that this process needs to push ahead quickly and this is the most credible option available. The NSI negotiating team was led by senior VP Don Telage, with chief executive Gabe Battista joining towards the end. The IANA team was led by Jon Postel and his lawyer Joe Sims, who is working on the draft on a pro bono basis. NSI appears to have persuaded Postel and his supporters – of which there are many – that things should be opened up a bit, but a lot of contentious issues are still to be resolved, prime among them the make-up of the supporting organizations and their subsequent appointments to the board. If this turns out to be the new DNS entity, ICANN is set for a torrid few months of existence, but then again, nobody really thought it would be any other way.
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