sam on 13 Feb 2001 14:23:44 -0000

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<nettime> ICANN - Info Alert #1

Some have described ICANN as the World Economic Forum of the cyberworld.
Others say that  ICANN embodies corporate takeover of the Net. ICANN itself
will say that it is a non-profit organisation doing the best it can for the
growth of the internet.  ICANN is meeting in Melbourne from March 10 to
13th, 2001.

The purpose of this email is to encourage further investigation of ICANN.
Some of the information presented is speculation and scenario driven - but
I feel that there needs to be more people looking at ICANN and its
functions. Apologies for its length.

The following has been taken from a variety of sources including and

On ICANN's website, they describe themselves as:

    The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is the
non-profit corporation that was formed to assume
    responsibility for the IP address space allocation, protocol parameter
assignment, domain name system management, and root server
    system management functions previously performed under U.S. Government
contract by IANA and other entities. (

Sounds technical right? Effectively, ICANN controls what is called the
Domain Name System (DNS).

The DNS is what determines how and where content is stored and how it can
be accessed by us. For example, ICANN has authority over the top-level
domains - the dot-com, dot-org, etc... It was also have authority over
setting up new top level domains and specifying how they can be used.
Recently, they established a number of new top level domains including
dot-biz, however dot-union was rejected. Why?

Please bear with me - ICANN and its functions are complicated and obscure
but I think it is important to try and understand what this organisation
does. ICANN controls roadmap to cyberspace and has the power to change the
map and force us to take different routes to where we want to go, and in
some cases to possibily block us from getting there at all. It also has the
power to limit and restrict who gets access to uploading content,
establishing content (like setting up a campaign site) and who can view
this content. The way all of this power and controls will be implemented is
not directly by ICANN but indirectly. For example, at the moment, to get a
domain name like costs around US$20 per year - but its possible for
this price to increase to US$20,000 - effectively ending the establishment
of non-corporate content under a easy-to-find domain. To get around claims
of censorship, they would suggest that community groups set up their
content using geocities or something!
ilar. Not a good solution! There are more scenarios but I hope the one just
mentioned is adequate.

The Domain Name System looks like the Holy Grail, the one place where
enforceable global Internet policy can be promulgated without any of the
messy enforcement and jurisdictional problems that bedevil ordinary
law-making exercises on the Net.

Businesses, which now realise the huge economic stake they have in the
internet, and governments, which have spent the last few years
worrying about how they would ever get back their taxing and regulatory
authority over Internet transactions, will view ICANN as the means to
impose their particular vision on Internet users worldwide.

Media corporates are annonyed that people are being 'distracted' by the
diversity of the internet. They want to ensure that everyone goes to their
sites for information. CNN does not want to have to compete with the
thousands of alternative news channels. Through putting pressure on ICANN,
it is possible for the CNNs of this world to get their way.

Ofcourse, those who are highly technical will say the net cannot be
controlled and they are probably right. But what good is it if a majority
of the people - through shear convenience ends up only accessing the
dominant content. The people who want to control the internet aren't stupid
- they will always allow the alternative content to live on the net but in
a very very marginalised way. All we need to do is look at the community
media example in Australia. Sure, there is community tv and community

We have a chance to ensure that the net never gets to that stage where
there is a marginalised and highly promoted zones of content. The most
fantastic thing about the internet is that all content is equal and
everyone has equal access to that content. This feature needs to be
defended from ICANN and more significantly, the corporations and
governments which want to control and direct ICANN.

So ICANN are having their next round of meetings in Melbourne from the 10th
to 13th March at the Melbourne Exhibition & Convention Centre (opposite the
Crown Casino).

According to ICANN watchers Melbourne was chosen because the ruling
American faction inside ICANN thought it was at the end of the
world so that few troublemakers would show up (same with that WTO in Quatar

The purpose of this email is to encourage you as indiividuals or groups to
investigate ICANN as a matter of urgency. Unfortunately, there are not many
people who seem to be raising a voice about ICANN. Most of its opposition
are based overseas.

ICANN and its meeting needs to be investigated by the union movement, the
left, the anarchists, and all community groups in general who do not want
to see the cyberspace corporatised in the same way our public space has
become. If we are to reclaim our public space, we need to organise in
another space. At the moment, the virtual space is providing that venue to
some degree and lets not wait until that space is also taken away from us.

It would be fantastic if a progressive union or group puts in some effort
in to organising an action. The main idea probably would not be to shut it
down but to say to ICANN that there is a critical mass of concerned public
who want to ensure that the internet remains accessible to the public - in
terms of both accessing content but also publishing content.

I hope some other groups or individuals will take this on. Perhaps there
are others out there who know something about ICANN and will make efforts
to interest groups to take action during the meeting. Parts of the meeting
itself are open to the public - but I suspect that most of the dealing will
be done during closed sessioned at the Casino, after dark.

Best wishes, from Sam.

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