No. 13 31 May 2002
STAYING THE COURSE ON INTERNET PRIVATIZATION
Comments on ICANN Reform 
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR)
Civil Society Democracy Project (CivSoc)
The Internet Democracy Project
The ICANN board and staff are currently considering major changes to
the design of ICANN. These changes were first proposed in President
Stuart Lynn's February Report (the "Lynn Proposal") 
and are being elaborated by the ICANN Committee on Evolution and Reform
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR)
is the oldest non-profit, mass membership organization working on social
impacts of computer technology. CPSR's Civil Society Democracy Project
(CivSoc) has been
an active participant in Internet privatization since before the launch
of ICANN. CivSoc offers the following comments to ICANN on reform.
The Lynn Proposal would redefine US policy for Internet privatization.
Such policy redefinition is outside the scope of ICANN's authority.
Modification to the terms of the 1998 Internet privatization should be
made by the US
Department of Commerce (DoC), in consultation with other parties (including
ICANN does exercise policy authority in DNS matters. While the appropriate
breadth of its policy-making power is an object of considerable debate,
the fact that it makes policy is no longer contested -- even by ICANN .
This exercise of policy-making power creates the need for legitimacy.
ICANN has not fulfilled the conditions of the 1998 Internet privatization.
In particular, ICANN still lacks the required degree of user representation
on its Board. Industry control of the ICANN board has created a legitimacy
The main mechanism for legitimacy in ICANN has been the election of user
representatives to serve as At Large Directors. The Lynn proposal
rejects this mechanism. However, elections were successfully conducted
in 2000. Furthermore, the use of elections to select At Large Directors
has been explicitly endorsed by:
the European Commission's Christopher Wilkinson 
former ICANN Chair Esther Dyson 
former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt 
Carter Center official Charles Costello 
Numerous academic studies [9,10]
Numerous public interest groups [11,12]
Problems with the At Large elections may have their source more in the
opposition of the ICANN staff than from the inherent difficulties of conducting
elections. A good faith effort to hold elections again would likely
yield even better processes than in 2000.
The keyword for the Lynn Proposal is "effectiveness." By that is meant
that ICANN should significantly reduce its emphasis on procedural safeguards
(legitimacy) and be empowered to act in a more direct and unfettered manner.
The Lynn Proposal recommends that ICANN become a more centralized authority
with reduced accountability to outside entities and should be able to impose
contracts on registries and other parties and to call on national governments
for enforcement. This call for centralized authority
with strong power of enforcement is a dramatic departure from established
Internet practices of decentralized management and voluntary cooperation.
The Lynn Proposal's inclusion of governments in ICANN seems as much motivated
by a need for assistance in enforcement as by a concern for the public
interest. Greater enforcement powers of ICANN policies by national
governments would be a dramatic departure from established Internet practices.
The ICANN Committee on Evolution and Reform has introduced the term "the
ICANN community" where the previous term of reference was "the Internet
community" . This manifests a significant
narrowing of the vision of input and accountability within ICANN.
The recently announced resignations of top ICANN staff raise the specter
of a sharp drop in organizational effectiveness .
The combination of staff turnover and major restructuring could introduce
so much simultaneous change into ICANN that it cannot function effectively.
ICANN faces a near-term risk of destabilization.
The Department of Commerce faces a number of choices:
DoC could allow ICANN to go ahead and redefine its structure. That
leaves US policy in the hands of private groups and does not address the
risk of organizational destabilization.
DoC could use the coming expiration of its ICANN agreements to revise US
policy on privatization. Revising the various the ICANN-related agreements
(be they MoUs, contracts, or procurements) would allow for an appropriate
policy-making process, i.e. a process under the authority of the DoC.
A revised Internet privatization policy might embody part or all of the
Lynn Proposal. Alternately, it might employ more market mechanisms
(as recommended by New.Net ) or might seek greater
involvement by international treaty organizations (as recommended by the
International Telecommunications Union ).
In any case, the US government and not ICANN would oversee the policy-making
Alternately, the DoC could stay the course. DoC could reaffirm the
terms of the 1998 Internet privatization and require ICANN to implement
that policy. In particular, DoC could move ICANN to quickly implement
At Large elections, thereby settling a contentious issue that has consumed
much of the organization's attention. As noted above, this would
be consistent with recommendations of the European Commission's leading
official in this area and by ICANN's At Large Study Committee [7,8].
CPSR's CivSoc recommends that last option:
DoC should stay the course. It should work closely with ICANN to
fully implement the original 1998 Internet privatization policy.
That policy addressed the inescapable need for legitimacy in ICANN with
a mechanism that proved workable in 2000: elections. By avoiding
a major restructuring, DoC also avoids the destabilizing combination of
organizational change and staff turnover. Finally, by staying with
the original privatization policy, DoC would uphold the Internet traditions
of private, voluntary, and decentralized management.
DoC should use all available means to gain ICANN's commitment to implement
the founding agreements of 1998.
ICANN should cooperate with DoC in this process.
 This document is available online at
 Lynn, Stuart, "President's Report: ICANN -
the Case for Reform"
 "Interim Report of the Committee on ICANN Evolution
and Reform," 29 April 2002. http://www.icann.org/committees/evol-reform/report-29apr02.htm
 "Working Paper on ICANN Core Mission and Values,"
6 May 2002.
 "Working Paper on the Policy Development Process,"
7 May 2002.
 "Working Paper on the ICANN Structure and the
Nominating Committee Process," 9 May 2002.
 Wilkinson, Christopher, "Public Policy Issues
in Internet Governance," On the Internet, January/February 2002.
[Written after the author reviewed the Lynn Proposal; see note 4.]
 ICANN At Large Study Committee, "Final Report
on ICANN At-Large Membership," 5 November 2001.
 Klein, Hans, ed., "Global Democracy and the
ICANN Elections", Special issue of INFO-The Journal of Policy, Regulation
and Strategy for Telecommunications, Vol. 3, No. 4, August 2001. http://www.ip3.gatech.edu/publications/info.htm
 Klein, Hans, "Online Social Movements and Internet
Governance," Peace Review, Vol. 13, No. 3, September 2001, 403-410.
Wolfgang Kleinwächter, University of Aarhus (Denmark), "The Silent
Subversive: ICANN and the New Global Governance"
Stephen D. McDowell and Philip E. Steinberg, Florida State University,
"Non-state Governance and the Internet: Civil Society and the ICANN"
Renée Marlin-Bennett, American University, "ICANN and Democracy:
Contradictions and Possibilities"
Jonathan Weinberg, Wayne State University, "Geeks and Greeks"
Hans Klein, Georgia Institute of Technology, "The Feasibility of Global
Democracy: Understanding ICANN's At-large Election"
Myungkoo Kang, Seoul National University, Beyond Underdevelopment of the
Public Sphere: Democratizing Internet Governance in Asia"
Hans Klein, Georgia Institute of Technology, Editor's Introduction: "Global
Democracy and the ICANN Elections"
 "ICANN, Legitimacy, and the Public Voice:
Making Global Participation and Representation Work," The NGO and Academic
ICANN Study, (Center for Democracy and Technology and the Markle Foundation),
31 August 2001.
 CivSoc, "User Interest in ICANN is Broad
and Deep," Cyber-Federalist No. 12, 14 February 2002.
 ICANN, "Lynn to Retire in 2003; McLaughlin
to Go Half-Time," Press Release, 27 May 2002.
 New.Net, "A Proposal to Introduce Market-Based
Principles into Domain Name Governance."
 Zhao, Houlin, "ITU-T and ICANN Reform," International
Telecommunications Union, 17 April 2002.
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