Isocnz backtracks rapidly on foundation plans

The Internet Society of New Zealand has scrambled to reassure stakeholders that it will not try and set up an Internet foundation with DNS registry money until it has consulted widely.

The Internet Society of New Zealand has scrambled to reassure stakeholders that it will not try and set up an Internet foundation with registry money until it has consulted widely.

A press release issued on Sunday by Isocnz council chairman Jim Higgins and secretary Frank March portrayed the establishment of the New Zealand Internet Institute - and its funding from the projected $1.5 million annual surplus from Isocnz's DNS registry business, Domainz - as a fait accompli.

The foundation would "initially" use the Domainz surplus to make "grants towards activities leading to enhanced access to, and use of, the Internet in New Zealand" according to the release.

The announcement - accompanied by news of a name-change for Isocnz to Internet New Zealand - surprised and angered some Isocnz members, including some councillors. Directors of Ihug and Clearview Communications were among those who weighed in with criticism on the Isocnz newsgroup yesterday.

The complaints largely centred around the lack of consultation and proper process in launching the foundation.

Isocnz was officially handed management of the .nz country code domain by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) in 1996.

When it began charging for the registration of domain names under .nz in July of that year, then-chairman Roger Hicks promised that registration would be "non-profit but self-sustaining", and would also not be used to finance any other activity. His treasurer Colin Jackson further emphasised that "we're not doing this to build up a cash surplus and any surplus we do generate will be re-applied for genuine DNS purposes".

Last night, Isocnz executive director Sue Leader, noting that she had just returned from three weeks overseas, said that while Isocnz had "endorsed in principle" the establishment of the New Zealand Internet Foundation at an Internet Society Strategic Planning Weekend held in mid-September, "the process of establishing such a foundation is a lengthy matter involving the development of a proposed business case, the creation of a trust and a board of independent trustees, and guidelines for the operation of such a trust.

"Although this process has begun, it will only be completed once it is approved by the membership of the society at the AGM in early December," she said.

Leader said the Isocnz membership had expressed interest in the idea of the Foundation but were concerned that information about the consultation process had not been provided.

"It's unfortunate that that information was inadvertently left out of the first release, as it has caused unnecessary concern about the process involved in this worthwhile endeavour," she said "I regret the error in communication which has taken place and urge all members to give the idea their serious consideration once they have all the material they need to weigh the proposal."

The release contained a similar backtrack on the name Internet New Zealand. March said Isocnz was looking at a re-branding exercise "to take place along with the launch of the Internet Foundation in 2000 if endorsed by the membership". Internet NZ was one of the "favoured names" he said.

Meanwhile, 2Day Internet director and former Isocnz councillor Peter Mott, whose relationship with Isocnz and Domainz has often been stormy, issued his own release alleging "the breach of an informal contract that exists between IANA, Isocnz and the ISPs in New Zealand," on the understanding that Domainz would be operated on a "cost recovery" basis.

It was, said Mott, "time for industry to review its commitment to Isocnz".