t byfield on Mon, 25 Feb 2002 08:35:01 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-bold] ICANN's proposed 'reform'


it's worth noting that dyson responded twice on the ALSC forum to 
mention of CEO stuart lynn's 'proposal' for the 'reform' of ICANN.
in her first message[1] she said:

    FYI....  I have not yet had time to read this. the paper 
    pointed to is 109K. 

in her second message,[2] written less than a minute later, she
took a different tack:

     the board took no action other than to discuss and encourage

it seems like dyson had second thoughts about her initial response
(pleading ignorance) and decided that it'd be better to try to re-
assure people that everything's in order. unfortunately, that's no
reassurance at all. in theory, ICANN CEO lynn and the rest of the 
staff are subordinate to the board of *directors*, not vice versa. 
so what are we to make of it when the board 'takes no action' ex-
cept for impotent dialog while the CEO publicly suggests that they
should be packed up and shipped back to wherever they came from?

the event that supposedly led up to this was an ICANN gathering in
washington, d.c., on 23-24 feb. since this gathering was billed as
a 'retreat' rather than, say, a 'board meeting,' ICANN has managed
to circumvent public-disclosure laws regarding official meetings.
not that it matters, really, because hardly anything of substnace 
could have taken place: lynn managed, somehow, to crank out 109K of 
proposal precisely while the board was doing nothing beyond 'dis-
cuss[ing] and encourag[ing] discussion.'

even a cursory reading of lynn's proposal makes the problem all too
clear, because he puts an inordinate amount of energy into calling
everything, including the kitchen sink, 'at large.' the problem that
ICANN faces is simple: it--by which i mean staff, not the somnolent
board--is absolutely opposed to free-form democratic input. histor-
ically, that form of input was supposed to be the 'at large.' now,
in lynn's proposal, regionally determined government representatives
would be 'at large.' this humpty-dumpty-style sophistry has become
painfully familiar to anyone who spends much time paying attention
to ICANN; but lynn's proposal is a new nadir in obscurant rhetoric.

the problem is quite simple, really: when ICANN was first formed, its
'initial' board promised, in dyson's own *sworn* testimony before a 
house subcommittee,[3]

     ICANN's elected Directors will join the Board in two waves: 
     the first wave will consist of nine Directors chosen by ICANN's
     Supporting Organizations; the second wave will be elected by 
     an At-Large membership consisting of individual Internet users. 
     The Board expects the first wave to be completed by November 
     1999, and the second wave as soon as possible following that. 
     In any event, the process of creating a fully elected Board
     must be completed by September 2000.


     As to the second wave, it is ICANN's highest priority to complete 
     the work necessary to implement a workable At-Large membership 
     structure and to conduct elections for the nine At-Large Directors 
     that must be chosen by the membership. ICANN has been working 
     diligently to accomplish this objective as soon as possible. The 
     Initial Board has received a comprehensive set of recommendations 
     from ICANN's Membership Advisory Committee, and expects to begin 
     the implementation process at its August meeting in Santiago. 
     ICANN's goal is to replace each and every one of the current 
     Initial Board members as soon as possible, consistent with creating 
     a process that minimizes the risk of capture or election fraud, 
     and that will lead to a truly representative Board.

ICANN did no such thing. four of the 'initial' boardmembers are 
*still* on the board.[4] ICANN's current and emeritus staff de-
vote tremendous energy to complaining about the incredible dif-
ficulty and expense of electing only *five* at large directors.
one of those directors, karl auerbach, has documented in great
detail the problems he has had with ICANN's staff: their refusal
to provide him with the basic information he needs to perform 
his legitimate oversight deuties, staff's tendency to publish es-
sential materials until just days or hours before board meetings,
and so on and so forth.[5] and another ICANN alumnus, former CEO
mike roberts, has repeatedly weighed in against at large elec-
tions, arguing (for example--in the wake of 9/11) that "If you 
were thinking about contributing to an ICANN ALSO [at large 
supporting organization], send it to the Red Cross instead."[6]

ICANN was an 'experiment,' we were told; and now we are told by
its own CEO that it has failed. but rather than directing ICANN's
staff to pack it in, he proposes that the solution is that they
should stay--and no longer be hobbled by any free-form democratic
input at all.

what lynn fails to note--and, indeed, ICANN's self-serving staff 
has failed to digest--is that this proposed solution falls prey 
to the nationalist problems that bedeviled the first round of 
at large elections. ICANN's staff has complained incessantly that
there were nationalist and even possibly *national* efforts to 
capture the electorate and, hence, the election. lynn's solution,
which proposes regionally 'selected' government representatives,
would only invite a much more dangerous form of national capture.
but he would prefer even that to opening ICANN to individual rep-

make no mistake: lynn's proposal holds open the possibility that 
profoundly antidemocratic governments should have a say in main-
taining aspects of the net's technical infracture. if they do so
on the basis laid by ICANN to date, then we can all rest assured
that the 'intellectual property' issues that have dirtoted ICANN's
allegedly technical mandate will metastasize into far more menacing
forms of control.


[1] <http://atlargestudy.org/forum_archive/msg02097.shtml>
[2] <http://atlargestudy.org/forum_archive/msg02098.shtml>
[3] <http://www.icann.org/dyson-testimony-22july99.htm>
[4] <http://personal.law.miami.edu/~froomkin/boardsquat.htm>
[5] <http://www.cavebear.com/icann-board/diary/index.htm>
[6] <http://angua.rince.de/icann-europe/2001/09/msg00004.html>

----- Forwarded 

From: Esther Dyson <edyson@edventure.com>
Date: Sun, 24 Feb 2002 20:03:35 -0500
To: forum@atlargestudy.org, David Farber <dave@farber.net>
Subject: see icann.org - note this is a proposal *only*

the board took no action other than to discuss and encourage





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