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RE: [nc-review] reminder


Attached you will find comments from the gTLD Registry Constituency to the
Names Council Review Committee.



15 JANUARY 2001

The gTLD Registry Constituency submits the following comments to the Names
Council's Domain Names Supporting Organization (DNSO) Review Committee
regarding the operation and performance of the DNSO and its two principal
organs, the Names Council (NC) and the General Assembly (GA), for the period
1999-2000.  We would be pleased to amplify on these views at the Committee's
request.  Most of these comments focus n the NC and they are intended to be
pragmatic ideas on how to improve its performance.

We believe that the DNSO in general and the NC in particular have performed
below their potential for the evaluation period.  When these organizations
were originally planned, it was widely assumed that the NC would be the
principal focus within the Internet community and within ICANN of both
expertise and of consensus-building in the area of Internet domain names;
just as the Address Supporting Organization (ASO) and the Protocol
Supporting Organization (PSO) are focal points within their respective areas
of competence.  Instead, the NC appears to have been more focused on
procedures, administrative practices, and matters that are more related to
its own process than to substantive matters.  To the extent that the NC has
not fully performed its substantive responsibility to develop consensus in
the area of domain names, other ICANN organs and other bodies have been
required to step in.

To some extent, the NC's interest in procedure is understandable given that
it was newly-created in 1999 and thus has had to establish altogether new
procedures on virtually everything.  Moreover the constituency-based
structure of the NC ensures some degree of internal tension, which itself
ensures that every proposal from any one constituency is examined with
skepticism by at least one other constituency.  Nonetheless, the extent of
the NC's focus on process and the scarcity of it's substantive contributions
to DNS-related consensus-development can not, we believe, be explained
entirely by either its novelty or its somewhat adversarial design.  We
believe that there are some institutional causes of the NC's
underperformance, which should be correctable.

Among the causes of the NC's under-performance are:

**The DNSO has significantly less resources than its needs to do its job.
No organization of the breadth and complexity of the DNSO and the NC could
hope to perform successfully without dedicated, professional support.  The
DNSO has operated almost entirely on volunteer efforts and a line of
credit/donation extended to it from AFNIC.  This under-funding distorts
nearly everything about the DNSO.  Most importantly, it ensures that the
pure level of competence of its work is jeopardized. A bad situation has
been made worse by the casual manner in which DNSO dues are sometimes
treated by some Constituencies, who pay their dues partially, late, or not
at all.  (Note that Constituency members probably pay 10 to 100 times more
in pure travel expenses to attend ICANN meetings than they do in DNSO dues!)

**The NC has attempted to act in plenary nearly all of the time and has
delegated few, if any, of its responsibilities to subsidiary bodies (e.g.
committees, etc.)  Any body with 19 members (soon to be 21) from six
continents who use a half dozen native languages could not function
efficiently if it attempted to do everything in plenary; even if it had
unlimited resources.  Like any other such body, the NC must operate using
smaller groups that can develop informal procedures, substantive expertise,
and efficient communications.  Such subsidiary NC bodies could become a
focal point of the NC's consensus management process.  

**The NC's principal output is supposed to be the management of the
consensus-development process and statements reflecting when consensus has
emerged within the Internet community on matters relating to domain names.
An Internet community consensus is not the same thing as a vote among all
those who show up for an open discussion group.  Open discussion groups can
play a valuable role in identifying perspectives, educating on the issues,
and even identifying areas where perspectives appear to merge.  But the
makeup of an open forum is basically a result of who has the time and
inclination to show up at any given moment.  And those who do are not
necessarily in a position to reflect a consensus of the Internet
community...by any reasonable estimation of who is "the Internet community."
In this sense, the activities of open fora  --particularly voting--  should
be viewed as valuable intellectual inputs into the consensus development
process; but they can not be presumed to be the consensus-development
process itself.  

**The NC needs to develop approaches that will minimize the amount of
subjectivity and increase the amount of measurable objective criteria in the
consensus-building process.  This should result in clearer direction for the
NC, for working groups, for committees and for Constituencies. It should
therefore make it more readily possible for the NC to perform its role of
managing the consensus-building process in a way that will create increased
confidence throughout the Internet community. In particular, the NC should
adopt policies that facilitate the submission of proposals by Constituencies
and GA participants and that help the NC itself evaluate such proposals once
they are submitted. It should provide reports to Constituencies and evaluate
feedback on those reports that is received from Constituencies. The NC
should, without the benefit of ICANN Board mandates, create timelines for
various consensus-building activities and it should develop guidelines  to
be used by working groups and committees in their activities.

Finally, it seems that Constituency members of the NC may have greater or
lesser leeway to act from their respective Constituencies.  If a
Constituency NC member feels that they have little leeway to participate in
an NC consensus-development effort, however, then that NC member will tend
to shy away from substance until they have had an opportunity to fully
consult with their constituency.  This further consultation with the
Constituency could take days, weeks, or even months.  In this sense, many
DNSO Constituencies seem comfortable permitting their NC representatives act
freely on matters of procedure but reluctant to permit them to do so on
matters of substance.  Constituencies should better organize themselves so
that their NC members come to NC meetings with a greater sense of confidence
that the member knows what their Constituency wants.  Such NC members can
therefore act with fewer further consultations.  This may require
Constituencies to conduct consensus-development activities of their own,
such as internal Constituency workshops.


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