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November 23, 1998

ICANN MAKES CHANGES & LOOKS TO START TALKS WITH GOVT

By CBR Staff Writer

By Nick Patience

The body that will run the internet’s domain name and numbering systems has completed what it hopes is the final major revision of its bylaws, and is now asking for the US government to begin negotiations as soon as possible, leading to a formal hand-over of control of the internet’s infrastructure. Following the public meeting in Cambridge, Massachusetts on November 14, and a letter from the Department of Commerce at the end of last week asking for revised articles of incorporation and bylaws, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has changed its structure to alleviate what appears to be most of the major concerns expressed by the internet community and the government. ICANN chairman Esther Dyson said yesterday that she’d like to start talking to the government, which received the proposal yesterday, as early as this week. The next public meeting will be held tomorrow, November 25 in Brussels. Specifically, ICANN has changed its bylaws in five key areas. First, on the issue of an open ICANN membership, ICANN is shortly to begin recruiting volunteers for an advisory committee to advise on what sort of membership would suit ICANN, a move that it announced at the Cambridge meeting. That group will probably comprise about ten members. Second, in an effort to ensure the transparency of its operations, while each ICANN board meeting will be closed to the public, ICANN will hold an open meeting immediately before each board meeting during which the public can attempt to influence the board. The minutes of the board meeting will be published promptly and the voting records and the arguments raised by the various board members at the closed meeting will be disclosed for public scrutiny. That was seen as crucial by many at the Cambridge meeting, because the ICANN membership needs to know how each board member voted in order to make an informed decision when casting a vote. Third, ICANN has altered its bylaws to create an independent review body to oversee its operations and will soon put out a call for volunteers to serve on the committee. Dyson said ICANN may work with a respected third party, in forming that body, because if it is seen to have influence over its members, it would hardly be considered independent. Fourth, and on what is probably the most controversial subject of all at the moment, in order to avoid conflicts of interest between the three supporting organizations (SOs) and ICANN, the directors on the board nominated by that SO cannot be the deciding vote on proposals generated by their respective SO. Dyson said this means that any SO would have to persuade a majority of the board apart from its three nominated members that its idea is a good one. There are going to be three technical SOs, advising and forming policy on domain names, IP addresses and protocols. This is probably about the minimum concession ICANN could offer to those who feel that the SOs could end up having too much power over ICANN, making it vulnerable to a land- grab. The SOs will not begin appointing board members until the membership has been formed, because along with nine members of the permanent board chosen by SOs, there will be nine others chosen by the at-large membership. Dyson emphasized that it is not even clear yet how the SOs will operate as the criteria for application to become one will not be issued to later this year. Last, ICANN has changed its rules to require that the permanent board must have one member for each geographic region (Europe; Asia/Australia/Pacific; Latin America/Caribbean; Africa; and North America) and that no more than half of the director elected by the SOs should come from any single region. Dyson reiterated that none of this is set in stone, but it is enough to be getting on with, the board feels. She says that under these proposals the members of the board will be able to speak their minds while getting feedback from the internet community face-to-face, rather than through some one-way comment mechanism. She says the board is experimenting with these changes, but not being careless…anything may change over time. She said the Cambridge meeting was just the beginning, but acknowledged that the board members present weren’t nearly engaging enough with the audience. The board members faced calls from the floor numerous times to state their positions on a topic, only to be told that the board wanted to hear from the people in the audience. The new bylaws should be up at https://www.icann.org by now.

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