A new non-profit Internet governing body has announced the creation of its board of directors whose leaders say they will begin negotiations soon to address criticisms of the organisation's structure and guidelines.
Board members of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), proposed by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), met in New York on Monday and officially established the interim board. ICANN will replace IANA, which has coordinated and administered policies and technical protocols related to Internet domain names and addresses under a contract with the US government.
The nine-member board elected Esther Dyson interim chairman and hired Michael Roberts to be interim president and chief executive officer but not a board member, Dyson said.
Dyson is president of EDventure Holdings and is a member of the US National Information Infrastructure Advisory Council. Roberts is a policy consultant on Internet technology, services and product development. He was also one of the founders and the first executive director of the Internet Society and the first director of Internet2, a project to integrate and deploy an advanced broadband network for research and education.
The interim board, which adopted basic organisational resolutions but not bylaws, will serve only for about a year, or until the permanent ICANN structure and full board are in place, according to Dyson. The company was incorporated a few weeks ago in California, Roberts said.
Last week the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) sent a letter to the University of California Information Sciences Institute (ISI), which houses IANA, stating that it needs to address criticisms the DOC and others had with its ICANN proposal. The letter cited concerns that there is not adequate accountability of the ICANN board, either representationally or financially; the decision-making processes are not transparent enough; there is the potential for conflict of interest; there is uncertainty as to ICANN's proposed role with respect to country-code top-level domains and there is no membership structure.
The chairman of the US House Commerce Committee also has raised questions about the IANA proposal and its list of board nominees, both of which have been criticised for being closed processes.
Two ICANN critics, whose groups presented their own proposals to the DOC initially raising those concerns, said they were surprised by the board's quick action, especially since there were questions as to how the board members were nominated and concerns over its lack of representation from Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.
"They are apparently acting before negotiating in order to avoid certain possible outcomes like changing the members of the board. Board membership was one of the negotiating points," said Einar Stefferud, an Internet veteran and founder of the Open Root Server Confederation (ORSC).
However, Stefferud said he was pleased that Roberts was named interim president and CEO. "I'm very glad to hear that, maybe there's somebody to talk to now. I know Mike and I know I can talk to Mike," he said.
"I think it's a bad move because it's essentially a slap in the face for NTIA (the National Telecommunications and Information Administration) and Ira Magaziner (US President Bill Clinton's senior policy adviser). It's in totally bad faith," said Karl Auerbach, an Internet technologist, member of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and member of the Boston Group which, like the ORSC, submitted a proposal for an IANA replacement that was very similar to the IANA plan but with several significant modifications.
Auerbach said he expected to negotiate with IANA or the ISI, not a board which still had to be decided on. "I see no reason whatsoever why they had to do this," he said. "They didn't have to go and put it in full motion" before negotiations began.
But Magaziner didn't seem miffed.
"I don't see this as being an issue one way or another," Magaziner said. "The question is whether they can respond to the issues that were raised and whether they can broaden consensus."
And Dyson defended the action, saying that the board had to be created so it could negotiate with the critics. Up until now, a Washington, DC law firm has been working with the DOC on IANA's behalf.
"We decided we needed to be something concrete rather than something nebulous you couldn't negotiate with," Dyson said. "This is an interim board. Our job is to figure out how to create a permanent system with a permanent board," she added.
Dyson said ICANN critics had "some valid points," but she would not go into detail. "We can address everything, but I think we have a pretty good geographic representation now and we will get more as we add directors that are more technical." Eventually, there will be 18 or 19 board members, she said.
In the meantime, the ICANN board hopes to hold a public meeting in the US in mid-November to discuss the criticisms as suggested by the DOC, according to Dyson. Future meetings will be held in other countries, as well, she added.
Interim Board CEO and President Roberts also wasn't concerned about the criticism. "I think what's important is not how the names came up, but can they do the job," he said.
Roberts said he thought the board's bylaws contain more open processes than in most non-profit companies and that there is a lot of accountability which will be extended to apply to financial activities. "We will satisfy the community that we're operating openly," he said, adding that the board also discussed membership and will study the issue carefully.
An Australian observer said he was pleased that now there is an independent body to provide some focus, rather than having the various parties negotiate with IANA, a government contractor.
"As far as the rest of the world is concerned, it makes sense for the parties to be negotiating around a single point and for the single point to be the ICANN body," said Leni Mayo, CEO of Moniker, an Australian company that registers domain names and a member of the executive committee for CORE, an international non-profit umbrella group of registrars.
If the DOC doesn't like how the ICANN board negotiates then it can refuse to give it any authority, Mayo pointed out.
The remaining ICANN board members, who along with Dyson were on IANA's candidate list, are:
* Gregory Crew, chairman of the Australian Communications Industry Forum Ltd., chairman of the Australian Information Technology Engineering Center Ltd. and former managing director of Hong Kong Telephone Co. Ltd.;
* Hans Kraaijenbrink, chairman of the executive board of the European Telecommunications Network Operators association and manager of European Policy and Regulation with Royal KPV N.V. in The Netherlands;
* Geraldine Capdeboscq, executive vice president for strategy, technology and partnerships at French computer and software maker Groupe Bull;
* Jun Murai, professor in the faculty of environmental information at Keio University in Japan, president of the Japan Network Information Center and general chairperson of the WIDE Project, a Japanese Internet research consortium;
* Eugenio Triana, an international management consultant on telecom and other policy in Spain and a former deputy director at the European Commission;
* George Conrades, a venture partner with Polaris Venture Partners, former executive vice president and president of GTE Internetworking and former IBM senior vice president,
* Frank Fitzsimmons, senior vice president of global marketing for Dun & Bradstreet in the U.S and;
* Linda Wilson, president of Radcliffe College and former vice president for research at the University of Michigan.