[ga-icann] ICANN May Face Restructuring
ICANN May Face Restructuring
By Juliana Gruenwald, Interactive Week
June 7, 2001 4:25 PM ET
STOCKHOLM, Sweden - After more than two years of existence, the Internet's
domain name management body could go through a major face-lift as it
responds to calls for a shift in the representation of some of its
Internet industry representatives and others say the Internet Corporation
for Assigned Names and Numbers will likely have to go through a
restructuring if it agrees to act on a call by the operators of the
country-code top-level domains, such as dot-uk. Looking for more of a voice
with regard to issues under ICANN's jurisdiction, the ccTLD operators have
asked for a separate supporting organization.
The ccTLD operators made the request during ICANN's quarterly board meeting
in Stockholm, which ended Monday. The ccTLDs are currently one of seven
constituencies that make up the Domain Name Supporting Organization, which
advises ICANN on domain name policy issues. The ccTLD operators say they are
withdrawing from the DNSO because they do not feel their interests are
adequately represented. The DNSO generally focuses on issues related to
generic top-level domain names (gTLDs), such as dot-com and dot-net, but it
also has been criticized for being ineffective.
Country-code operators say they should have greater influence in ICANN,
given that they provide as much as one third of ICANN's funding. They said
they would continue to make voluntary contributions to fund ICANN's
operations as long as the ICANN staff works toward the development of a
ccTLD supporting organization.
While noting that the ccTLDs still support the ICANN process, Peter de
Blanc, the operator for the Virgin Islands country code, told the board,
"What we're looking for is an improved structure."
In addition to the DNSO, ICANN has two supporting organizations that focus
on technical issues. Each of the three groups is given three seats on
ICANN's 18-member board. The nine other seats are set aside for at-large
representatives. ICANN President M. Stuart Lynn also serves on the board as
an ex-officio member.
The ccTLDs are expected to also want representation on the board, which will
require ICANN to reshuffle its current makeup.
Other constituencies are looking for representation as well. ICANN is in the
midst of a study of whether general Internet users should have formal
representation in ICANN. When it was created, ICANN was supposed to allow
general Internet users to elect nine representatives to the board. But so
far, ICANN has held only one election for five of the at-large seats. The
other four seats are still held by directors appointed when ICANN was
created in 1998. ICANN officials say they will not make a decision on
whether to hold another election until the at-large study committee finishes
Some supporters of at-large representation say they are concerned that some
of the four at-large seats could be given to the ccTLDs.
"It certainly is very convenient for those who don't want half of the board
elected by the at-large" community, said Milton Mueller, an information
studies professor at Syracuse University.
Don Simon, general counsel for public interest organization Common Cause,
said it would be a "real breach of faith" if ICANN gave any at-large seats
to the ccTLDs before the study is completed.
Others say if ICANN does give the ccTLDs their own supporting organization
with seats on the board, other groups that help fund ICANN's operations will
demand representation as well. These include the registries that operate the
existing gTLDs and the new ones set to become available this year and the
registrars that sell Internet registrations to the public.
"We will have to reconstitute ICANN," said Karl Auerbach, an at-large member
of the ICANN board who opposes giving different business groups seats on the
The line between ccTLDs and gTLDs has been blurred because some operators
are marketing country-code domains such as dot-TV and dot-LA as global
domains, one industry source said on condition of anonymity. As a result,
those ccTLDs would have a competitive advantage if ccTLD representatives
were added to the board, the source argued.
ICANN officials have expressed support for the ccTLDs' call for greater
representation. But how ICANN might be restructured is a matter for debate
among interested parties.
The ccTLDs' demand "will have implications [for ICANN's structure]. But how
[we]...factor that in and how it will affect the conclusions, I am rather
neutral," said former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt, the chairman of the
at-large study committee.
Another member of the ICANN board, Jonathan Cohen, has proposed some
alternative structures for ICANN. One proposal would create several
supporting organizations that would elect members to the board. It would be
made up of the three current supporting organizations and new ones created
for ccTLD operators, gTLD operators, registrars and at-large Internet users.
Under all three alternatives he has suggested, the at-large community would
retain only five at-large seats, instead of the nine proposed when ICANN was
Another proposal offered by Wolfgang Kleinwaechter, an international
communication policy professor at Denmark's University of Aarhus, would call
on Internet users to create their own Internet User Supporting Organization
that would have nine seats on ICANN's board.
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