nettime's_roving_reporter on Mon, 6 Mar 2006 11:17:00 +0100 (CET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Kieren McCarthy: ICANN signs own death warrant

     [via <>]

< >

   ICANN approves dotcom contract, signs own death warrant

   by Kieren on Wed 01 Mar 2006 11:11 AM GMT  |  [35]Permanent Link

   I have been determinedly trying not to write any news stories so I can
   get on with writing the book but I got a phonecall very early
   this morning from the spokesman for ICANN explaining that late last
   night the Board had approved the new contract for the dotcom registry.

   "Were there any changes made to it?" I asked.

   "Ummm, no," he replied.

   So that's how I first heard of ICANN's impending death.

   In fact, before I even go into the contract and what is means, I think
   it's worth pointing out that I also sent a series of emails to a
   number of ICANN Board members exactly a month ago. In each I explained
   that I was "putting the questions to you which, through past
   experience of these things, I will be asking anyway in a month's

   The basic email was the same each time:

   The revised VeriSign contract still has alot of elements that large
   sections of the Internet community are unhappy with. What I predict
   will happen is that after the brief public comment period, ICANN staff
   will put forward the same agreement to a special meeting of the Board
   that will be held between now and the Wellington meeting, most likely
   early March.

   At that meeting the Board will be told that:

   * There have been not one but two public comment periods,
     demonstrating ICANN's transparency and bottom-up process
   * That VeriSign has made it very clear that it will not move back any
   * That ICANN's hands are tied because of the DoC's role in
     negotiations, that the DoC believes VeriSign has offered a fair
   * That time is running out (time is always running out in these
     situations for one reason or other)
   * That it may not be ideal but ICANN has to approve the deal because
     the VeriSign lawsuits make it impossible to breathe and because the
     MoU is coming up

   You will then be asked to vote on the agreement.

   My question is: Do you believe that such a momentous decision should
   be delayed for a few weeks so it can be properly and publicly thrashed
   out in Wellington?

   If so, will you raise the issue at such a Board meeting, will you ask
   for it to be put on the public record, and will you vote against the
   agreement rather than just abstain in order to register your

   And that is exactly what has happened. Nine for; five against; one
   abstention. The Board has held no less than four special meetings on
   the VeriSign contract, two in the past week. The decision has been
   pushed through to avoid the New Zealand public meeting, and the entire
   Internet community - which ICANN claims to serve in a "bottom-up
   decision-making process" - has been completely ignored because it is
   in ICANN's interests to approve the deal.

   The deal condenses everything that is wrong with how the Internet is
   currently run in one tiny document. How vital decisions about the
   global Internet are made by one of three bodies - ICANN, VeriSign and
   the US Department of Commerce - and how their complicated and
   difficult relationships consistently produce decisions and agreement
   and settlements that are a million miles from what they should be, and
   could be if the globalness of the Internet was actually pulled in.

   ICANN thinks it has got the best deal because ICANN continues to
   inhabit a tiny world of its own making where VeriSign and the DoC loom
   large and everyone else is a distraction. What ICANN really honestly
   hasn't realised is that its authority is hanging by a thread.

   I knew that a special meeting of the Board would be called prior to
   Wellington, and I knew what would be said and what would happen,
   because that is the method by which ICANN always pushes through things
   that shouldn't be approved.The fact that there were several special
   meetings demonstrates at least that some Board members have started
   fighting against their expected rubber-stamp role.

   But the fact remains that ICANN retains the same culture where ageing
   chairman Vint Cerf continues to push his personal and out-dated views
   and undermines anyone that argues with him, and CEO Paul Twomey
   continues to cut any secret deal he can that will give him control of
   a more powerful organisation.

   Underneath them come all the people that are willing them to succeed
   so they can take over a government of the Internet in five years'

   While all this empire building and secret deal making is going on,
   those involved have completely lost track of what they are actually

   Should VeriSign be given permanent control of the dotcom registry? The
   answer is startlingly obvious: No, it shouldn't. It is in no-one's
   interests except VeriSign's.

   Should VeriSign be allowed to raise prices? No, of course not. The
   prices of domains are going down. Why on earth is ICANN pulling itself
   into a contract that rips people off? How stupid does it have to be?
   Why not restructure the contract to let market forces decide? Then
   VeriSign can raise its prices anyway and we can stop pretending that
   the dotcom registry isn't a special case.

   Should VeriSign be given rights over expiring domains? No, no way. And
   not because the idea of a registry owning expiring domains is a bad
   one. In fact, the current system - where a dozen companies constantly
   bombard name servers with renewal requests is absolutely ridiculous
   and cannot be allowed to continue. But should VeriSign be given it?
   No, because of SiteFinder. There is no reason why another company
   can't be given all rights to expiring domains, then that company can
   be set up in such a way that it is entirely equitable.

   ICANN has simply signed off on VeriSign's top-three wishlist because
   it is absolutely desperate to stop VeriSign's lawsuits and because it
   thinks that if it can just get VeriSign to accept it as an authority,
   it is over the hill and safe.

   The problem with getting used to cutting dodgy deals is that, after a
   while, the human being becomes incapable of recognising when they
   should just say No. The individual loses that vital bit of wider
   clarity which marks great men from powerful men.

   I would argue, on a tangent, that that is exactly what happened in the
   UK when prime minister Tony Blair decided to go to war in Iraq with
   the United States. There is no doubt that Blair knew that the war was
   a fallacy but he went with it because he thought he was tight with
   enough powerful people that it would never unravel.

   Having cut dozens of deals and come out the other end gleaming, he
   failed to recognise that this one was different. That no leader should
   ever cut a deal over a war.

   ICANN may well have cut a similar deal with the new dotcom contract.
   This one was different. It was for the dotcom registry. ICANN has been
   through a hell of a lot in the past decade but just when it thinks it
   is the most powerful and stable it has ever been, the irony is that it
   has never been weaker.

   Keywords:  [37]verisign, [38]journalism, [39]Internet, [40]icann

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: contact: