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Satellite policy expert named ICANN director

Kevin Murphy, August 31, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN has named Olga Madruga-Forti, an Argentinian telecoms policy expert, as the newest member of its board of directors.

Selected by this year’s Nominating Committee, Madruga-Forti will take over from R. Ramaraj when his second term ends at the Toronto meeting this October.

According to the biography provided by ICANN, she has extensive experience of telecommunications policy, particularly related to satellite, in both public and private sectors.

She currently works for ARSAT in Buenes Aires as international counsel. She’s previously worked for Iridium, Loral and the US Federal Communications Commission.

ICANN pointed out that she represents telcos at the International Telecommunications Union, a relevant data point, perhaps, given the WCIT conference coming up in December.

Madruga-Forti ticks one of the Latin-American boxes on the ICANN board.

NomCom has also reappointed two other directors for second terms on the board: Gonzalo Navarro (Latin-America) and the reliably contrarian George Sadowsky (North America).

New leadership members of three ICANN supporting organizations have also been selected by NomCom.

Jennifer Wolfe of the intellectual property law firm WolfeSBMC, which counts new gTLD applicants Microsoft, Procter & Gamble and Kraft Foods among its clients, has been appointed to GNSO Council.

I believe she’s destined to replace Carlos Dionisio Aguirre when his term is up later this year.

Canadian Alan Greenberg and Frenchman Jean-Jacques Subrenat have been reappointed to the At-Large Advisory Committee.

Mary Wong, who currently sits on the GNSO Council representing non-commercial stakeholders, has been appointed to the ccNSO Council.

The full biographies of all 2012 NomCom appointees can be found here.

ICANN cancels Fridays. Bad for transparency.

Kevin Murphy, May 2, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN’s next public meeting, and all its public meetings thereafter, will be a day shorter than usual, following a decision to cancel the regular Friday morning program.

No Friday means no public meeting of the board of directors.

While the move is being characterized as an effort to enhance the effectiveness of ICANN’s board – a particular concern, frequently voiced, of chairman Steve Crocker – it’s also a perplexing shift away from ICANN’s core tenet of transparency.

One of the effects could be to mask dissent on the board.

From now on, it appears that all of ICANN’s top-level decision-making will happen in private.

Instead of wrapping up each public meeting with a board session at which resolutions get voted on, each meeting will instead be book-ended by less formal “community sessions”.

During these sessions, the board will apparently report to attendees about what it has been doing since the last meeting and what it plans to do before the next meeting.

Crocker said in a statement:

We believe that the removal of the Friday public Board meeting and its replacement with two Board community sessions will improve the effectiveness of both the Board and the staff and increase the time that the Board has to interact with the community.

That may well be true — time will tell — but let’s look at what the ICANN community is almost certainly losing.

First, there will be no more transcripts of board meetings at all.

Today, only the public meetings have published recordings and transcripts. Intersessional meetings are minuted, but not transcribed. If recordings are made, they are not published.

Killing off transcripts completely is a pretty obvious step backwards for an organization committed by its bylaws to “operate to the maximum extent feasible in an open and transparent manner”.

Second, if there is dissent on the board, it will be essentially shielded from the community’s view for some time after the fact.

Take, for example, the approval of the new gTLD program or the approval of ICM Registry’s .xxx contract – the two most controversial decisions ICANN made in 2011.

In both cases, certain directors read prepared statements into the record harshly criticizing the majority view.

In March 2011, for example, George Sadowsky stated that ICM’s purported community support for .xxx was “illusory” and that approving the TLD could lead to DNS Balkanization.

And with new gTLDs last June, Mike Silber abstained in the belief that the program was incomplete and that the vote had been scheduled “based on artificial and ego-driven deadlines”.

In both cases, the ICANN community heard the dissenting views – in person, webcast, recorded and transcribed – moments before the vote actually took place.

With no public board meetings, it seems likely that in future that we’re going to have to wait a week to read the voting record for any given resolution and a month or more to read directors’ statements.

Under ICANN’s bylaws, the voting record, which breaks down who voted for and against resolutions, is contained in a preliminary report that is not published for seven days after the vote.

Also under the bylaws, directors’ voting statements are not published until the minutes of the meeting are approved at the board’s next meeting, typically one to two months later.

If the new procedures had been in effect last year, the statements of Sadowsky and Silber would not have been published for over a month after they were made.

With that in mind, it’s clear that killing off the public board meetings could in no way be seen as a positive step for transparency at ICANN.

It’s true that these meetings have for several years been pure theater, but it was theater with value.

ICANN directors ruled out of CEO search

Kevin Murphy, October 15, 2011, Domain Policy

ICANN’s directors have been barred from applying for the soon-to-be-vacated CEO position.

The board elected a panel of directors to get the CEO search underway last Tuesday, but noted:

no current or incoming member of the Board or liaisons may be considered as a candidate for the role of the CEO for the current CEO Selection process.

A replacement for Rod Beckstrom, who announced that he will step down when his contract expires next June, will now be overseen by a special CEO Search Process Management Work Committee.

The committee will comprise: Steve Crocker, Bertrand de La Chapelle, Erika Mann Chris Disspain, Cherine Chalaby, Ray Plzak and R. Ramaraj. George Sadowsky will chair.

I had previously put at least three of those on my speculative list of “insiders” who could conceivably apply for the CEO’s job.

New ICANN director appointed

Kevin Murphy, August 8, 2011, Domain Policy

Filipino businesswomen Judith Duavit Vazquez has been selected to join ICANN’s board of directors.

She will take the seat being vacated by Gambian development consultant Katim Touray at the end of the ICANN meeting in Dakar October 28.

Vazquez has a pretty impressive resume covering senior roles at major telecommunications, internet and media organizations in the Philippines.

Her corporate board experience includes 20 years at GMA Network, a major player in Filipino TV and radio, and time at a few non-profits.

Board work has included seats on compensation, audit and risk management committees – useful skills given ICANN’s ongoing accountability and transparency reform work.

In terms of involvement with internet addresses, Vasquez has worked with APNIC, the Asia-Pacific regional internet registry, according to her bio.

She’s also a woman, which will have counted in her favor.

ICANN’s Nominating Committee, which selects eight of ICANN’s directors, had made no secret of the fact that it wants the board to resemble less of a sausage-fest.

German politician Erika Mann is currently the only female voting director, following the departure of lawyer Rita Rodin Johnston in Singapore.

I speculated in June that NomCom’s selection “will almost certainly be a woman from a region currently under-represented on the board. My guess is Russia.”

I was obviously wrong about Russia, and while the Asia-Pac region has hardly been under-represented in the past, Vasquez is the first ICANN director to hail from South-East Asia.

NomCom also extended recently installed chairman Steve Crocker’s term on the board, which was due to expire in October, for another three years, as was expected.

For the full list of NomCom committee appointees, see the ICANN announcement.

Crocker picked to lead ICANN

Kevin Murphy, June 24, 2011, Domain Policy

Steve Crocker has been elected chairman of ICANN’s board of directors, following the departure of Peter Dengate Thrush, whose term on the board expired today.

Described earlier this week by CEO Rod Beckstrom as “one of the uncles of the internet”, Crocker is the creator of the Request For Comment format for internet standards.

Replacing Crocker as vice-chair is fellow geek Bruce Tonkin, chief strategy officer of Melbourne IT, the Australian domain name registrar.

Both men were selected by secret board poll.

The board revealed the unsuccessful candidates for the first time too: Cherine Chalaby and Sebastien Bachollet stood for chair, while Bachollet and Ray Plzak stood for vice-chair.

Because Crocker’s term on the board ends in October, his long-term future depends now on whether the ICANN Nominating Committee decides to renew his term for another three years.

I expect it will. Last year, NomCom kicked out all three of its appointees whose terms were up, irking some. Declining to re-appoint Crocker this year could look like regicide by committee.

This leaves NomCom with only one pick in 2011. It will almost certainly be a woman from a region currently under-represented on the board. My guess is Russia.

Also joining the board today was .au’s Chris Disspain, who replaces Dengate Thrush as ccNSO appointee, and Canadian consultant Bill Graham, who replaces Rita Rodin Johnston from the GNSO.

Graham beats Doria to ICANN board

Kevin Murphy, May 8, 2011, Domain Policy

Bill Graham of the Internet Society has won an election to ICANN’s board of directors.

Graham beat academic Avri Doria by 8 votes to 5 in the second round of polling from the Non-Contracted Parties House of the GNSO Council.

He will take his seat at the end of ICANN’s meeting in Singapore next month, June 24, replacing trademark lawyer Rita Rodin Johnson, who is reaching the end of her term.

Graham currently leads ISOC’s “strategic global engagement” initiatives.

(UPDATE: Thanks to Graham for alerting us to the fact that he actually retired from ISOC a week ago).

Until 2007, he was director of international telecommunications policy with Industry Canada, the Canadian government’s department responsible for the technology economy.

In that role, he also served as vice-chair of ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee.

The current GAC chair, who also has a non-voting seat on the ICANN board, is Heather Dryden, also a senior policy adviser at Industry Canada.

Graham will become the fourth former GAC member to join the ICANN board, after former CEO Paul Twomey of Australia and current directors Bertrand de la Chapelle of France and Gonzalo Navarro of Chile.

Here’s a useful infographic, courtesy of ICANN, that shows how the board is composed (click to enlarge).

ICANN Board structure

The two green squares are set aside for members of the GNSO. One is for “contracted parties” such as registrars and registries. Graham, elected by the NCPH, will take the other.

In the first round of voting, which concluded a week ago, Doria led by 7 votes to 6, one short of the 8 votes needed to win.

While the voting was private, it is believed that non-commercial and commercial stakeholders voted in blocs in the first round – commercial for Graham, non-commercial for Doria. In the second round, two of her supporters evidently switched sides.

Graham and Doria were the only candidates to be nominated.

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