Two groups with an interest nternet governance have asked the US government not to accept a set of revised bylaws submitted by the newly created board of directors for Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).
Last week the ICANN board presented to the US Department of Commerce (DOC) a set of modified bylaws, or guidelines, which detail the structure and activities of the non-profit corporation. Critics had complained that the bylaws weren't open enough and that they lacked fiscal accountability and provisions for creating a membership, among other things. The DOC had asked the board to heed those criticisms and the board said it had done so with the new bylaws.
But now a group of administrators of country-code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs), which hand out domains that end with codes such as .mx for Mexico, and a group of Internet experts who had submitted a rival to the ICANN proposal, known as the Boston Working Group (BWG), are asking the US government to prevent the ICANN board from adopting the new bylaws.
The BWG is urging the DOC to wait for a public meeting scheduled for Nov. 14 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, before deciding whether to approve the bylaws and transfer to ICANN the authority to oversee top level domains and IP addresses. Currently the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) has a contract from the U.S. government to maintain the Internet infrastructure, but the U.S. government wants to hand that responsibility off to a non-governmental body that will have international representation.
If ICANN has a contract with the US government before the public meeting it will not have the incentive to reach a consensus on controversial issues in the bylaws, the BWG said in a letter to the DOC.
The BWG is primarily concerned with the role of so-called Supporting Organisations in the bylaws, arguing that if they are able to nominate half the directors to the board there will be a conflict of interest. "We see in the current structure a danger that the SOs will evolve into producer cartels in domain name and number markets," the letter said.
Meanwhile, a group of administrators for ccTLDs has banded together in an effort to preserve an existing set of policies governing the management of their country-specific domain names. The group, which is calling itself the International Association of Top Level Domains (IATLD), has 12 members including .LA from the Lao People's Democratic Republic, .MX of Mexico and .DO from the Dominican Republic. There are 69 ccTLD administrators that are supporting the IATLD, 66 of which have signed a petition asking ICANN not to change the existing ccTLD policy, IATLD member Bill Semich, president of .NU Domain, says.
The revised bylaws would recognise "each nation's sovereign control over its individual Top Level Domain." However, the existing policy has allowed any entity to serve as a registry on a first-come, first-served basis if they meet certain criteria. Very few of the more than 220 ccTLDs are governmental entities, according to Semich. The current ccTLDs fear that, under the revised bylaws, governmental bodies could apply to become registries and knock most of the current ccTLDs out of business.
In addition, if the newest ICANN bylaw proposal goes through as is, individual countries will be left to deal completely with their own TLD administration process, instead of being part of the global domain name process that many hoped would come from the dissolution of IANA and the creation of ICANN, IATLD said in its statement.
If countries are left to govern their own domain names without an international framework, it could "nationalise and segment the Internet, breaking it up into parcels of cyber-territories," the statement said. Governments of individual countries shouldn't be left on their own to handle their ccTLD administration, but should be part of an international network, the group said.
Although Michael Roberts, interim president and chief executive officer of the board, was traveling today and could not be reached for comment Esther Dyson, interim chairman of the ICANN board, returned a call seeking comment.
"Obviously we think we have gone about as far as we can go," Dyson said, noting that "a fair part of the Internet community is happy with what we've done.
"We've made a lot of progress," she added. "Clearly we haven't won everybody over and at some point we're just not going to. The world is too diverse."
Calls to the DOC and senior policy adviser Ira Magaziner, who is resigning at some undetermined time, were not returned. However, a statement on the National Telecommunications Information Administration (NTIA) web site indicates there will be no action taken before the meeting on Saturday.
"We are currently reviewing the ICANN submission," Becky Burr, associate administrator of the NTIA for international affairs, said in the statement. "We look forward to the results of the ongoing on-line discussions and the results of the ICANN open meeting in Boston scheduled for November 14."
(Kristi Essick in Paris contributed to this report.)