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CPSR Proceedings: The Future of Global Internet Administration, Sep 1999, Alexandria, VA, U.S.A.
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR)

Governing the Commons:
The Future of Global Internet Administration
September 24-25, 1999, Alexandria, VA, U.S.A.


Esther Dyson
Interim Chair, ICANN

[Summary by Harish Bhatt, CPSR]

Ms. Dyson began her opening remarks by stating that she wished that everybody would get their facts [about ICANN] straight.  She said that in terms of straightforwardness and openness, ICANN actually looked pretty good when compared with Tony Rutkowski or Ralph Nader.  She admitted that while ICANN was being criticized from many directions, no one ever pretended that consensus meant unanimity.  She said that ICANN was just trying to find middle ground on [often controversial] issues, and observed that in some cases it was entirely possible that there might not be any consensus at all.

Commenting on the notion of shared registries and adoption of an economic model, Ms. Dyson observed that ICANN didn't yet have an opinion on the economic model.  She requested that ICANN not be criticised for actions it had not even taken yet.

On the topic of where she saw ICANN going in the future, Ms. Dyson stated that the organization was by no means perfect --and had never claimed to be perfect.  She admitted that at times ICANN tended to overreact to criticism.  She said ICANN was getting a healthy dose of feedback on its activities, and was taking advantage of it as a guidance mechanism.

Ms. Dyson observed that on the one hand Tony Rutkowski had complained that ICANN was a hugely complex organization.  On the other, he maintained that ICANN did not have procedures in place.  She felt that these statements were inherently contradictory in nature, and that organizations could be criticised for one or the other, but not both at the same time.  She maintained that successfully addressing complexity made it necessary to have complex policies and procedures in place.

Addressing the question of why ICANN was necessary, and why we couldn't let things just continue to go on nicely the way they had in the past, Ms. Dyson made the following observations about the global Internet.  The Internet was changing rapidly on a daily basis.  It was growing larger at a very fast pace.  The Internet of today was a very different environment from the days of Jon Postel, when the administrative load was relatively light, the need for checks and balances was not really a major issue, the Internet itself was much less visible to the general public, and there were few disputes of any significance.  Ms. Dyson stated that the rapid evolution of the global Internet, necessitated changes in the way that it was being administered.

Commenting on the issue of dispute resolution procedures, Ms. Dyson stated that there was a need for uniform and standard procedures on how disputes were to be handled.  She said that one could argue about the specific rules --and, commented that ICANN was actually in the process of doing so.  She maintained that, in the final analysis, the dispute resolution procedure must be predictive and well know to all parties.

Ms. Dyson stated that ICANN was only addressing those areas, where it appeared that open market forces -- by themselves -- would not be sufficient.  She observed that interested groups (such as the CPSR Conference) were in effect an integral part of the overall structure and served to define and shape ICANN as an organization.  This was a good thing.

Clarifying the role of the GAC, Ms. Dyson stated that the GAC was an advisory committee.  She noted that the GAC did not control ICANN, and it did not tell ICANN what to do.  She stated that ICANN obtained feedback from a variety of sources -- including the GAC -- before it made any decisions, or took any action.

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