DNSO Mailling lists archives


<<< Chronological Index >>>    <<< Thread Index >>>

[registrars] (The Register) Congressmen turn on ICANN

I am forwarding this in full because it is unquestionably an interesting
perspective from a commentator outside the US.

-- Mike


     20 June 2003
     Updated: 22:12 GMT
   Congressmen turn on ICANN
   By Kieren McCarthy <kieren.mccarthy@btinternet.com>
   Posted: 20/06/2003 at 21:49 GMT

   Incredibly, after nearly five years of well-documented and widespread
   abuse by the organisation charged with running the Internet, ICANN, US
   Congress has decided it doesn't like what's going on and two
   Congressmen have introduced legislation "to ensure healthy competition
   in the Internet naming market".

   The Fair Transparent and Competitive Internet Naming Act has been
   introduced by Brian Baird and Jay Inslee, both Congressmen from
   Washington state, and was sparked by ICANN's attempt to hand another
   monopoly to its main benefactor VeriSign - this time giving it
   exclusive rights to all domains that expire.

   However, what is interesting is that Baird and Inslee has written into
   the legislation that the US government's General Accounting Office
   (GAO) "study the operating procedures" of ICANN. The words "can" and
   "worms" are simply not big enough to explain the size of this were it
   to happen.

   Both Congressmen appear to only be interested in the WLS issue - the
   handing over of all expired domains to VeriSign. And the only reason
   this interests them is because two of the companies most set to suffer
   from the WLS plan - Dotster and eNom - just happen to be based in
   Washington. In fact, the official press release says: "Brian Baird and
   Jay Inslee introduced legislation today to ensure healthy competition
   in the internet naming market and protect tech jobs in the Northwest",
   so it's quite clear where they're coming from. In this sense they
   appear to have hit a mine while digging for a dime.

   You see, the approval of the WLS does indeed need review. VeriSign
   proposed to ICANN that if would be a nice idea if it was given
   complete control of every single expiring .com and .net domain. This,
   apparently, would clear up the terrible mess of competing registrars
   fighting over expired domains and bring clarity to the end users. For
   this service it would charge "no more than" $24.

   It took about 30 seconds for everyone in the Internet industry to
   start shouting. First the issue of a $24 fee. How on earth could this
   figure be right when VeriSign already runs the .com and .net
   registries and when it charges just $6 for domain renewals (something
   it makes a tidy profit from anyway)? Where in God's name did this
   extra $18 per domain come from? There was no explanation given and
   ICANN seemed happy with it.

   Then, there was the not unreasonable observation that by giving
   VeriSign control of expiring domains it was effectively shutting down
   any new business to any other registrars. VeriSign believes it has a
   god-given right to own, run and be paid for every .com domain - which
   in the early days of the Internet it did. This is the company that was
   sued, and lost, for sending out completely false and misleading emails
   to domain owners conning them into re-registering their domain with
   VeriSign - and here was VeriSign writing out its own cheques.

   So, the WLS scheme was not popular. ICANN put it out for discussion.
   It came back completely against the proposal. ICANN put it out again
   to a different group. Same thing happened. It put it out again to
   another group. Still no one would do anything but condemn the idea.
   And then, the ICANN Board of Directors completely over-ruled everyone
   and everything and approved the scheme anyway.

   It is this process that the legislation introduced hopes to get to the
   bottom off and until it does, it insists that the WLS plans be halted.
   Except, as anyone that has followed ICANN will tell you, this process
   of divide-and-conquer by asking the same question again and again
   until someone gives the right answer has been going on for years.
   Although only recently has the Board become so complacent that it goes
   ahead with what it wants without any backing at all.

   This corrupting process has seen ICANN rewrite its own rules at will,
   keeping people on the Board for years after they were supposed to have
   left. This process has written out the Internet users' right to vote
   for members of the board - just this week we heard that the people
   that will be running ICANN for the next three are almost to a man from
   its tightly defined elite. This process has alienated most other
   countries in the world to the extent that they are refusing to
   contribute funds to the organisation. This process has turned what was
   supposed to be a standards body interested only in the technical side
   of the Internet into a political animal whose budget and staff has
   expanded out of all proportion to the job it needs to do.

   And it is this process that a US government auditing body would rip to
   shreds within a week given half a chance. Effectively, if ICANN's
   decision-making process was allowed to be held up and criticised and
   as a result the WLS decision reversed, ICANN would implode as the
   weight of every other unjustifiable decision pressed on it.

   It is likely that the GAO would be allowed to do what the legislation
   suggests? No. But it is possible. The Congressmen's concerns are jobs
   going in their district. Patch that up and ICANN's off the hook. ICANN
   may tried to ring-fence the damage to just the WLS by offering another
   debate or by tying VeriSign into a more competitive set-up - anything
   but let its decision-making process be examined.

   However, whether the whole thing comes to nothing or if it ends up
   destroying ICANN, there is only one real loser and that is the
   Internet. The Internet is supposed to live above geographical
   boundaries, it is supposed to be a medium that empowers everyone,
   provides everyone with freedom and allows everyone access to everyone

   But in a sad reflection of current global politics, despite everything
   that is said and all the calming words that come from the US, the
   Internet is run by America and it will not let it go.

   When, despite hundreds of critical voices from all over the world over
   several years, the only change that can be made to an organisation
   that is running the World Wide Web is one that is run through the
   United States legal system because of the fear of loss of jobs in
   Washington DC, well, then we have a situation that is never going to
   be right.

   This legislation is just the writing on the toe-tag for ICANN's
   corpse. This dream of an autonomous, independent Internet body is
   already dead. What happens once everyone realises that will be a
   defining point of this century.

<<< Chronological Index >>>    <<< Thread Index >>>