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> roving_reporter t byfield

Mon Sep 18 20:41:10 EDT 2000

ICANN MAL candidate questionnaire: Liz Bartlett

[Liz Bartlett is no longer an MAL candidate.]

1. ICANN presents itself as a "technical coordination body for the Internet." Do ICANN's activities to date support this description?

They support this description to a certain degree, but have strayed outside of the technical area into the political arena. However, I see this as inevitable for a body which has no direct political equivalent giving it direction for its technical activities.

2. ICANN describes itself as "transparent," "bottom-up," and "consensus-based." Do ICANN's activities to date support these descriptions?

No, but only because there is so little awareness of the organization and its activities so far. With greater public relations efforts, it will become such a body.

3. The "stability" of the internet is a staple if ICANN's rhetoric, as if to suggest that the net is a fragile entity that needs to be protected. What do you think ICANN is protecting it from?

The internet functions only because of the common protocols that the constituent computers use to communicate. This worked well, when the Internet was small, and consisted of entities with no commercial competition element. Now, with the combined elements of competition and technical ignorance, there is a possibility that the internet could fragment into different sections, each using different protocols and naming systems. ICANN is trying to protect it from such splits. Whether or not it really is that fragile, and such events could occur is another question.

4. "Global" top-level domains pose a basic quandary, which can be summarized thus: everyone in the world can point somewhere and say "there," but there can only be one there.com, one there.net, and one there.org. Many people have legitimate claims to what, within the limited context of DNS, appear to be the same words. Rather than expanding the namespace in order to produce a diversity more adequate to the rapidly expanding demand for new domains, ICANN has devoted much of its resources during its first two years to developing a global policy for arbitrating conflicts. In the balance, was this the best approach?

They were handed a situation that was already out of control, with the disappearance of the boundaries which originally dictated which entities should use which TLDs. Ideally, a rollback to enforce those original boundaries would have been best, but not practical. Both the arbitration policy and namespace expansion are necessary, and should be developed in parallel.

5. Should the refusal of the country-code domain registrars to pay the invoices ICANN submitted to them be seen as a referendum on ICANN's legitimacy as a "global" organization?

Possibly - but with no global government, it is almost impossible to create a global organization from scratch, that will be seen as having legitimacy everywhere. ICANN needs to concentrate on building this trust and image before attempting any enforcement actions.

6. ICANN's Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) stipulates that "the complainant shall select the [dispute resolution] Provider from among those approved by ICANN by submitting the complaint to that Provider." Is this an appropriate way to assign resolution providers to cases?

There is no guaranteed "fair" way to do this. If ICANN had the trust of the global community, there would be no question of its appropriateness. The only alternative, to allow complainants to select any resolution provider they choose, is to open the door to even greater abuse - resolution providers must be approved by some body in order to ensure their impartiality, and it is churlish to expect otherwise.

7. ICANN often mentions its limited resources as a decisive factor in justifying various actions -- in other words, there seems to be a serious disjuncture between ICANN's means and its goals. Has this cast doubt on the results of ICANN's activities to date?

Only in as much as the limited resources have prevented ICANN from being seen as a serious, trustworthy organization with the best interests of all parties at heart. If ICANN was able to build, and prove that they were such an organization, there would be far less doubt on their decisions so far.

8. The law firm Jones, Day, Reavis, and Pogue has played a huge role in ICANN, mainly through Joe Sims, ICANN's Chief Counsel, and Louis Touton, ICANN's Vice-President, Secretary, and General Counsel. Sims, with JDRP since 1978, was intimately involved in crafting ICANN's bylaws and selecting the initial boardmembers; he remains a cental figure at board meetings. Before joing ICANN, Touton spent the last 18 months of his 18-year practice at JDRP as a legal advisor involved in ICANN's formation, registrar-accreditation and dispute-resolution policies, and the NSI/DoC/ICANN agreements. Is it appropriate for an organization such as ICANN to be so closely aligned to a single law firm?

It is a matter which should be subjected to scrutiny, although it should not be assumed that the potential for "abuse of power" has automatically led to any such abuse. As ICANN grows in size, resources and legitimacy, legal issues should be a matter for a number of different lawyers/law firms, from different areas of the world.

9. ICANN may soon be a kingmaker, with the power to delegate the administration of new top-level domains. This will almost certainly be a multibillion-dollar business. Is an adequate system of checks and balances in place to ensure that ICANN's officers and staff do not abuse or exploit this power?

ICANN is registered as a non-profit organization with the State of California. If auditing and other reporting procedures are followed in accordance with the rules, regulations and guidelines for such organizations, these should form an adequate system of checks and balances. However, as I am not currently intimately acquainted with the internals workings of the board, I cannot say with any great certainty that an adequate system exists now. That would be one of the first items I would look as as a board member, however; I know that it is all too easy for these things to be ignored during the initial years of an organization that starts small and grows rapidly.

10. Based on ICANN's actions to date, should participants in the Membership At Large, specifically, and netizens, generally, trust ICANN to honestly report the election's outcome?

Yes, I believe the election results will be honestly reported. It would be all too easy for incoming and future board members to discover any improprieties after they were elected, and although some may be tempted to keep quiet, I do not believe all would. The risk of "whistle-blowing" should be enough to keep things above board and honest. I do find it disturbing that you would raise the question in such a survey, as it does shed a light as to your own biases and opinions.



The above material is Copyright © 1999 by t. byfield.

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