Icann troubles

Gregory Alan Bolcer (gbolcer@endTECH.com)
Tue, 08 Jun 1999 08:33:29 -0700

So, Icann is running into trouble. It's getting beat up on both
sides. One for making the top level domain registration more
competitive and the other for acting unilaterally. There's
certainly no shortage of critics. What are the chances that
there's going to be 1000 top level domains in the next few years?

The current process for setting up a top level domain registry
is to post a $100k bond, show technical due diligence, buy
the Network Solutions list of already registered domains, and
email or snail mail a FUD letter to each and every technical
and administrative contact that they better register their domain
in TDL .??? (I got one for .cc) or else their competitors will
register it and say bad things about them.


(registration required- article excerpted)

Critics See Internet Board Overstepping
Its Authority


ASHINGTON -- They were mysteriously appointed, they meet
behind closed doors and they have questionable public
accountability. Yet members of the interim board of the Internet's new
oversight body are beginning to make decisions and shape policy that
could ultimately affect everyone who uses the global network.

To finance the $5.9 million
annual budget of the oversight
body, the Internet Corporation
for Assigned Names and
Numbers, or Icann, this
temporary board has voted to
levy a $1 a year tax on the more
than four million Internet
addresses, or domain names,
that end in .com, .net and .org.
The board is also planning to
impose tens of thousands of
dollars in licensing and other
fees on companies that want to get into the business of dispensing
Internet addresses. Recently, the board endorsed controversial
recommendations for establishing a new global framework for resolving
disputes over who can and cannot use certain words in their Internet

Esther Dyson, the chairwoman of the interim board, which was set up
last year, says the group is carrying out its government-mandated charge
to break up the current monopoly in Internet name registration and to
move Internet governance to the private sector.

But critics say the board is overstepping its authority and ignoring another
mandate -- to create a transparent, bottom-up organization. Instead, they
say, the board is working behind the scenes with powerful international
corporate and government interests to create a top-down hierarchy that
flies in the face of the free-wheeling, consensus-based spirit that built the

Such sentiments are but the latest chapter in yearslong sniping fueled by
international jealousies and myriad conspiracy theories. What is different
now, some observers say, is that the Internet, which is built on a
cooperative technology for routing data around the globe is in less stable
hands -- increasing the risk that angry factions will in effect secede from
the network, damaging its integrity by splitting it into several smaller,
disconnected networks.

Although such a split is considered unlikely, anxiety over who is running
the show could curb investments in the rapidly growing electronic
commerce industry.

"The risks are that Icann has a little bit of authority but very little
legitimacy," said Bill Whyman, an Internet analyst for the Legg Mason
investment company in Washington. "This is an awkward
consensus-building process. If it pushes too far and causes itself to lose
support among key constituencies, Icann itself can be undercut. Then you
have a very bad situation with no one in control. Then you have a very
bad situation for e-commerce."

Icann was created last year by one of the
Internet's founding fathers, Jon Postel, as the
Clinton administration moved to complete the
privatization of the Internet. The U.S. government,
which financed the creation of the Internet over
several decades, had begun privatizing the
network in 1995 by turning over responsibility for
domain name registration -- that is, the assigning of
Internet addresses -- to a Virginia-based
company, Network Solutions Inc.

But as Network Solutions' lucrative
government-sanctioned monopoly became
increasingly controversial, the administration made
it a top priority to introduce competition into the
registration business -- while also transferring
oversight of the Internet to a private international
body. While a Commerce Department report last
June mapped out the principles and goals for such
a body, there were very few specifics spelled out.

Icann was set up as a nonprofit organization by Postel, a computer
scientist at the University of Southern California who for years
administered the address numbering system behind Internet domain
names. But he died unexpectedly shortly after the interim board was
named last fall, turning unanswered questions about how he selected the
members into something of an Internet mystery.

Whatever its origins, the interim board now has nine members -- plus the
corporation's temporary president, Michael Roberts. In addition to Ms.
Dyson, a well-known Internet analyst, publisher and entrepreneur, the
board includes telecommunications executives and academics from the
United States, Europe, Asia, Australia and Latin America.

Though the interim board had been expected to set up the procedures for
building up a broad-based Icann membership that might elect a full-time
board, the interim group has itself become a policy-making body.