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Everything You Never Wanted to Know About ICANN
Copyright (c) 1999 Jay Fenello -- All Rights Reserved

FDR once said "In politics, nothing happens by accident.  If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way."  As we approach the conclusion of the ICANN formation process, these words have profound implications.

What follows is my interpretation of over two years of personal involvement in establishing a fair process to expand the name space, also known as Global Internet Governance.  While many will discount these comments, or ridicule my positions, or marginalize their importance, I will simply stand on my record

I first joined the debate in January, 1997.  In attempting to launch Iperdome, I came under severe attack from the supporters of a plan called the gTLD-MoU. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was standing in the way of their aspirations for total control over the world-wide Internet.

While the debate raged on, it soon became apparent that the U.S. Government was the authority over this matter, and they were responsible for transitioning their stewardship over the Internet.  Iperdome even called for the Government's intervention way back in April, 1997 (<http//www.iperdome.com/press/429prn.htm>http//www.Iperdome.com/press/429 prn.htm).

Over a period of months, I came to realize that the gTLD-MoU was not about the name space expansion -- it was about power and control over Internet resources.  I said as much when I spoke as one of the invited speakers at the Domain Name Conference sponsored by the ITAA, CDT, and ISA (<http//www.itaa.org/dnsconf.htm>http//www.itaa.org/dnsconf.htm), an event that was covered widely in the press (<http//www.nytimes.com/library/cyber/week/080197domain.html>http//www.ny times.com/library/cyber/week/080197domain.html).

Of course, the opposition ridiculed me, threatened me, and even disparaged the reporters who were providing balanced coverage of the debate.

To make a long story short, the U.S. Government did intervene on July 7th, 1997.  That's when they issued a Request for Comments (for more information on the RFC, the Green Paper and/or the White Paper, please see http//www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/domainname/domainhome.htm)

On September 30th, 1997, Congress finally got involved.  After a fiery hearing where Andy Sernovitz testified to the inappropriate power grab (http//www.iperdome.com/press/andy.txt), Representative Pickering said

"American taxpayers have helped build the Internet as well as many U.S. companies and private sector investors," said Representative Charles W. (Chip) Pickering, a Mississippi Republican. "To now go into a transition plan that moves that to another country offshore - whether it's Switzerland or any other country - I think would raise questions among American taxpayers, the American public."

"This is something that is uniquely American that we have built. And we need to maintain leadership," Pickering added. "To do otherwise would be a disgrace to the American taxpayers and investors who helped build this and who made this great opportunity possible."

As we headed towards the end of 1997, and while we were waiting for the U.S. Governments decisions with regards to their RFC, it appeared that the IAHC would get their way and the gTLD-MoU would be allowed to proceed.

Not to say we didn't keep trying.  I wrote a detailed summary about the implications of the decisions that the U.S. Government was about to make (<http//www.iperdome.com/press/index3.htm>http//www.Iperdome.com/press/in dex3.htm), and Gordon Cook of "The Cook Report" (<http//www.cookreport.com/>http//www.cookreport.com) opened a dialog with Ira Magaziner, President Clinton's Technology Czar.

Then, just as the U.S. Government was about to announce their decision, Ira jumped into the fray and put all decisions on hold until he had a chance to review all of the efforts that had preceded him.

Of course, the MoU supporters cried foul.  In fact, many of the followers of Jon Postel (who was the de facto and spiritual leader of the Internet), and many European Governments and Corporations protested vigorously.

Not to be deterred, and in a most deliberate way, Ira did just as he promised. He contacted everyone who had ever been involved in the process.  He then proceeded to draft the Green Paper, a document that would have provided a fair and immediate expansion to the name space.

Upon its release, however, the same MoU supporters mounted a vigorous campaign to protest the Green Paper.  It was also around this time that Jon Postel re-directed over half of the world's root servers to *his* machine!

While we will probably never know for certain, this combination of events likely forced the U.S. Government to abandon the Green Paper, and started the resulting White Paper process.

It was also around this time that I and others started to discuss the implications of Global Internet Governance.  Of course, we were ridiculed and discredited once again.

When the White Paper was finally announced, it was considered a workable document by almost everyone.  Unfortunately, the games and takeover attempts were hardly over, as I reported in my testimony to Congress on June 10th (http//www.Iperdome.com/press/congress.htm).

In fact, even before the White Paper was formally announced, Jon Postel had formed a private group of advisors to help the IANA transition to the new Internet Governance body.

After the White Paper was announced, the Internet community quickly responded by organizing the "International Forum on the White Paper" (http//www.ifwp.org).

Even this process was fraught with gaming and takeover attempts.  First, MoU supporters refused to participate.  Then, as more and more large organizations jumped on board, the MoU supporters decided to participate to "torpedo" the process.  (Fortunately, that didn't work -- I guess its hard to stand up in a room and argue for *un*fair processes ;-)

But even with all of the progress made by the IFWP, even with all of the consensus that was generated through all of the meetings, Jon Postel continued to ignore the consensus, and with the help of Joe Simms and others, drafted multiple iterations of their own proposals for Internet governance.

This came to a head shortly after the Singapore IFWP meeting.  Many wanted to finish the IFWP process by having a final meeting where a draft proposal for Internet governance could be completed.  That's when Mike Roberts (current ICANN president) lead the effort to destroy the IFWP.  He was successful.

On September 30th, 1998, the U.S. Government issued a cryptic announcement regarding ICANN's intention to submit an application to assume the role of New Co as described in the White Paper (http//www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/press/dns93098.htm).

While there was still a tremendous amount of opposition to ICANN, the Internet community took comfort that the release indicated that competing proposals would also be accepted.  Since Ira had always said that the U.S. Government would not choose between competing proposals, many felt that the remaining concerns would be addressed in the ICANN proposal.

The problems with ICANN were summarized in my written testimony to Congress on October 6th, 1999 (http//www.Iperdome.com/press/congress3.txt).  I described the problems with ICANN as follows -  The draft was finalized behind closed doors. -  The draft does not include many of the consensus points from the IFWP process. -  The interim board suggested by the draft was presented without any open nomination process or discussion.  [When a Congressman directly asked Joe Simms how the board was selected, he waffled and said he wasn't sure.  Later, at the first open ICANN Board meeting, at least one of the Board member revealed that it was Joe Simms who first approached them!!!] -  It fails to meet Ira Magaziner's mandate of accountability, as the ICANN board is only accountable to itself. -  It fails to meet the terms as stated by Becky Burr, specifically the desire for sound and transparent processes, protection against capture, and fair, open and pro-competitive processes.

When it became clear that neither Jon Postel, Joe Simms, nor any other ICANN supporter would seriously entertain changing any of the unacceptable provisions of their draft by-laws, several people and organizations stepped forward with competing plans.

What followed was a series of discussions between the various draft submitters, and the Commerce Department.  Ira even went so far as to issue a letter (http//www.iperdome.com/press/ira.txt) to the ICANN drafters highlighting deficiencies, and suggesting that they needed to work towards consensus with the BWG and the ORSC.

After almost a month of conference calls with Ira, Commerce, ORSC, BWG, and the new ICANN Board, no consensus ever emerged.  Instead, Commerce agreed to bless ICANN with continuing oversight as outlined in a new MoU between them. (http//www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/domainname/icann-memorandum.htm)

[As an aside, it was during this period that Jon Postel passed away, and Ira Magaziner resigned from his role as Technology Czar.]

Given the MoU, and given the assurances by Becky Burr and Esther Dyson, most of the Internet community was willing to give ICANN the benefit of the doubt, and support the ICANN process.

But we have been lead astray . . .

Over the course of the last couple of months, we have come to realize that ICANN has ignored it's own bylaws, ignored it's MoU with Commerce, and ignored the terms and goals of the White Paper.  And when we have complained to Commerce, we have been ignored as well.

In effect, ICANN has pursued an agenda completely synchronous with the gTLD-MoU which proceeded it.  And while it continues to give the appearance that it is working towards the day when it is an open and transparent body, managed by and for the Internet community in a bottom-up way, their recent policy decisions are diametrically opposed to these ideals.

If and when this utopian ICANN nirvana arrives, all of the major policy decisions will have already been made, and the process rules will have already been defined.  It will take years and years to correct.

And that assumes that the resulting organization can even function.  Some are now suggesting that ICANN is deliberately creating a structure that will be unable to make even simple decisions, let alone reverse their current agenda.

It is for these reasons that I hearby declare that ICANN has been captured, and the U.S. Government is obliged to intervene once again.  If not Commerce, then Congress.  And if not Congress, then this should be escalated to the presidential elections.  After all, this travesty is occurring on Al Gore's watch.

In closing, as this summary reveals, ICANN has historically shown nothing but contempt for the valuable contributions from ORSC, BWG and the rest of the Internet community.  I refuse to waste my time further.

Copyright (c) 1999 Jay Fenello -- All Rights Reserved


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