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November 22, 1998

US GOVERNMENT DEMANDS MORE OPENNESS FROM ICANN

By CBR Staff Writer

By Nick Patience

The US government had its first sit-down meeting with the board of directors of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) last Thursday, and despite ICANN’s efforts to convince the world that it is working in an open and transparent manner, it appears it has not yet done enough to satisfy the US government. ICANN is expecting to be awarded a contract to take over the running of the internet’s domain name and numbering infrastructure, but before that can happen it needs to convince the government that it is a relatively democratic organization with the best interest of all internet users at heart. Becky Burr, the associate administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Agency (NTIA) within the Department of Commerce (DoC) held a meeting with almost all of the nine ICANN board members (some of them live in Europe and Australia, which makes coordination tricky) on Thursday afternoon. ICANN chairman Esther Dyson was at the NTIA while the others joined via the phone. Burr says they had very, very frank discussions about the transparency of ICANN’s decision-making process, accountability, geographical representation of the board and possible conflicts of interest between ICANN and its three proposed supporting organizations, which will form policy on domain names, IP addresses and protocol issues. Burr says we felt very optimistic that they heard us. ICANN president Mike Roberts, joining the meeting from a trip to Europe to promote the ICANN cause, thought the meeting was very constructive. Roberts told us the ICANN lawyers are re-drafting the articles of incorporation and bylaws to accommodate the government’s wishes and will have them with the government by this morning. At the conclusion of ICANN’s first public meeting in Cambridge, Massachusetts in November 14, ICANN’s main lawyer, Joe Sims, was confident ICANN would not have to alter its bylaws to appease the government. One of the central issues is that of the proposed membership of ICANN that will elect future boards. It has not been decided whether or not that should be a flat membership, tiered or limited in some way. The status of the supporting organizations, which could wield enormous power and at present have the right to appoint three board members each, is the other thorny issue ICANN has to resolve. Applications to become one of the three SOs, as they have become known, are due to open in January once ICANN has published its criteria. Representatives of internet users and companies in Latin and central America have also complained that they are not represented on the board. The meeting was led by Burr and White House internet policy advisor Ira Magaziner, who is set to retire once ICANN has been awarded its contract. They were joined for the first time by Elliot Maxwell, the new special advisor to Commerce Secretary William Daley, although Maxwell has been involved in the politics of the DNS at other levels of the US government for some time (see separate story).

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