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<nettime> PFIR: Overcoming ICANN: Forging Better Paths for the Internet

From: PFIR - People For Internet Responsibility <>
Subject: Overcoming ICANN: Forging Better Paths for the Internet

                                        David J. Farber
                                        Peter G. Neumann
                                        Lauren Weinstein

                                        March 18, 2002

Overcoming ICANN: Forging Better Paths for the Internet

An Open Letter to the Global Internet Community

Despite its best efforts, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and
Numbers (ICANN) has proven overall to be a failed experiment in Internet
policy development, implementation, and management.  ICANN's lack of
meaningful representation, and its continuing pattern of drastic and
seemingly arbitrary structural and policy changes (among other
shortcomings), have created an unstable and suspicion-ridden environment
that is detrimental to the interests of the vast majority of Internet users
around the world.  The resulting overly politicized situation not only
threatens the stability of the Internet itself, but also invites drastic and
undesirable interventions by a variety of vested interests.

We will not in this document detail the range of specific problems and
issues, which have become widely recognized and known.  Key aspects of
 the problems relating to the Internet and ICANN have been outlined in
 previous statements [1][2][3], along with a set of basic proposed
 Internet guiding principles [4].  The continuing rapid deterioration
 relating to ICANN and its impact on the Internet now forces us to
 recommend the following three actions.

First, as an immediate temporary measure, all Internet policy,
 operational, and other Internet-related functions currently performed
 by ICANN should be transferred, as soon as practicable while
 maintaining continuity, to a different, already existing non-profit
 organization (or organizations) on a non-permanent, strictly
 stewardship basis.  One potential candidate we would suggest
 considering for this role would be the Internet Architecture Board
 (IAB), although there are a range of other possibilities of course.
 The process to plan and begin a transfer of responsibilities from
 ICANN should be initiated immediately.

Next, we recommend that an intensive, international study be started at
once, with a mandate to propose detailed and meaningful paths for the
Internet's development, operations, and management.  The goal of this
 study would be to help guide the formation of purpose-built
 representative organizations and policies that would be beneficial
 both to established Internet stakeholders and to the wide variety of
 organizations and individuals who are effectively disenfranchised in
 the current Internet policy environment.  This study should consider
 both short-term and long-term alternatives, and could potentially be
 conducted by the National Research Council (NRC) and related
 international organizations, among other possible frameworks.

Our third recommended step would be for the results of this study to be
carefully considered and, as deemed appropriate, to be implemented.
Internet-related functions would be transferred from the temporary
stewardship organization(s) to the entities developed from the study

Time is definitely of the essence if a potential "meltdown" of Internet
policies, functionalities, and operations in the near future is to be
avoided.  There is in particular an immediate need to begin the process
 of depoliticizing the situation and providing opportunities for
consensus building regarding the range of Internet issues.  Wide
 consensus has already been achieved on at least one key point -- even
 by ICANN's current president -- ICANN is seriously broken.  We agree,
 and we additionally assert that ICANN's history, structure, and
 behaviors strongly indicate that the most productive course would be
 for ICANN's role in Internet affairs to be discontinued.

This is not to cast aspersions on the efforts of any individuals
 involved with ICANN in the past or present.  Rather, we feel that
 ICANN has failed as an organization, and that the amount of "bad
 blood" and institutional "baggage" it carries doom "reform" efforts
 within the organization itself to ineffectiveness at best.  We come to
 this conclusion reluctantly, since in the past we have considered that
 there might be an appropriate continuing role of some sort for ICANN.
 Unfortunately, this is no longer possible.

We do not have all of the answers regarding Internet issues -- nobody
 does. The proposals above are not presented as any kind of fait
 accompli, but rather as an attempt to stimulate recognition that the
 Internet is facing serious problems that are in need of serious
 solutions.  The search for solutions will be difficult, and will be a
 continuing effort that far transcends matters relating to ICANN.  But
 half-measures will no longer suffice, and the status quo (however it
 might be disguised or "spun") can no longer be tolerated.

Some persons genuinely fear that alternatives to ICANN might lead to
situations even worse than the current dysfunctional ICANN environment.
That is indeed a non-zero probability, but the increasingly chaotic
situation with ICANN makes degeneration a decided *likelihood* if ICANN
remains involved with Internet matters.

The day of reckoning is already upon us.  Work should begin immediately
 to define and implement collaborative processes that can provide hope
 of assuring that the Internet will be the best possible resource for
 the population of the entire world.  The risks in change are real, but
 the need for change and the possibilities for meaningful and
 beneficial progress are even greater.  If we do not take these steps,
 we may well be dooming the Internet to a future of mediocrity at best,
 or of decay, fragmentation, greed, and even worse outrages.

   [1] PFIR Statement on Internet Policies, Regulations, and Control

   [2] PFIR Proposal for a Representative Global Internet Policy

   [3] URIICA Announcement

   [4] PFIR Declaration of Principles


David J. Farber
Tel: +1 (610) 304-9127
Member of the Board of Trustees EFF -
Member of the Advisory Board -- EPIC -
Member of the Advisory Board -- CDT -
Member of Board of Directors -- PFIR -
Co-Founder, URIICA - Union for Representative International Internet
                     Cooperation and Analysis -
Member of the Executive Committee USACM

Peter G. Neumann or or
Tel: +1 (650) 859-2375
Co-Founder, PFIR - People For Internet Responsibility - Co-Founder, Fact Squad -
Co-Founder, URIICA - Union for Representative International Internet
                     Cooperation and Analysis -
Moderator, RISKS Forum -
Chairman, ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy

Lauren Weinstein or or
Tel: +1 (818) 225-2800
Co-Founder, PFIR - People For Internet Responsibility - Co-Founder, Fact Squad -
Co-Founder, URIICA - Union for Representative International Internet
                     Cooperation and Analysis -
Moderator, PRIVACY Forum -
Member, ACM Committee on Computers and Public Policy

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