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Three new ICANN directors started today

Kevin Murphy, October 22, 2015, Domain Policy

A former Dutch politician, a cable company VP and a Latin American ccTLD manager joined the ICANN board of directors today.

The three new directors took their seats at the conclusion of the ICANN 54 public meeting in Dublin.

Two were Nominating Committee appointees, the third was selected by the Address Supporting Organization to replace six-year veteran Ray Plzak.

Lousewies van der Laan is possibly the highest-profile new director.

She is a former politician who has sat as a member of both Dutch national and European parliaments.

She was a member of the super liberal D66 party in the Netherlands, briefly leading whilst it was part of a governing coalition before a leadership vote defeat and her subsequent retirement from politics in 2006.

Wikipedia has her as a former party spokesperson for “foreign policy, higher education, justice, technology, European affairs and gay rights”

Since then, she has spent time as chief of staff of the president of the International Criminal Court and an independent public affairs consultant.

She’s the second former MEP to sit on the current ICANN board, after German Facebook lobbyist Erika Mann.

The other NomCom appointee is Rafael “Lito” Ibarra, who runs SVNet, the ccTLD manager for El Salvador’s .sv domain.

According to ICANN, he is known as the “father of the Internet” in El Salvador, due to his contributions over the last couple of decades.

He seems to have received the .sv delegation from Jon Postel himself, in the pre-ICANN days.

He’s also on the board of LACNIC, the Latin American IP address registry.

The ASO appointee is Ron da Silva, VP of network engineering at US cable giant Time Warner Cable.

His previous employers include AOL and Sprint. He’s also been chair of ARIN’s advisory council.

The NomCom also reappointed incumbent George Sadowsky, who already has six years of ICANN board service under his belt.

The other two departing directors were Wolfang Kleinwachter and Gonzalo Navarro.

Why did the GNSO fail to pick a new leader?

Kevin Murphy, October 22, 2015, Domain Policy

Political infighting between sections of the Generic Names Supporting Organization seems to be responsible for the GNSO Council’s failure to elect a new chair yesterday.

Rumor has it that Contracted Parties House pick James Bladel, a VP at Go Daddy, only lost because of ructions in the Non-Contracted Parties House.

I stress these are just rumors — nobody with any first-hand knowledge of the situation was prepared to go on-record with me today — but they come from multiple sources.

As I reported earlier today, Bladel failed to secure the support of over 60% of the NCPH — the threshold to be elected chair — despite having the unanimous support of the CPH.

Roughly 47% of the NCPH chose to vote for “none of the above” instead, resulting in the GNSO Council now lacking a chair.

But I gather that this was not a diss against Bladel, his employer, or the CPH per se.

Rather, the story I’m hearing is that some councilors gave an empty chair their votes as a result of disagreements between the commercial and non-commercial sides of the NCPH.

Some say a deal had been made under which NCPH candidate Heather Forrest would receive at least 60% of the vote in round one, but some voters reneged on the deal, meaning she was knocked out of the running.

I don’t know if that’s true or not, but what it implies is that some votes that would have otherwise gone to Bladel in round two of voting were withheld, essentially out of spite.

Bladel only needed one additional NCPH vote to hit his 60%.

If this sounds like childish bickering, you may be right, but it wouldn’t be the first time a GNSO constituency has disrupted the council in order to make a point.

The last time that happened to a significant degree was over three years ago, when non-commercial users exploited a timing issue to protest new rights protection mechanisms for the Olympics, risking the new gTLD program timeline.

That led some at the time to predict the “death” of the GNSO.

That’s not happening this time. If anything, the wagons are circling.

Hastily reappointed council vice chair Volker Greimann, who became de facto chair at least for today, described the current situation as “business as usual” today, pointing out that ICANN bylaws envisaged and accounted for this kind of power vacuum.

The next vote on the chair’s position will take place at least a month from now.

Go Daddy veep loses ICANN election to “none of the above”

Kevin Murphy, October 22, 2015, Domain Policy

ICANN’s multistakeholder GNSO Council has been left embarrassingly rudderless after its members failed to elect a new chair.

The unprecedented result saw Go Daddy VP of policy James Bladel lose an election to “none of the above” yesterday.

Under GNSO rules, there are two candidates for chair. One is nominated by the Contracted Parties House (registries and registrars), the other by the Non-Contracted Parties House (intellectual property interests, ISPs, non-commercial users etc).

Bladel was the CPH candidate. He stood against Australian academic Heather Forrest, on the council representing the Intellectual Property Constituency.

To get elected, a candidate must get 60% of the vote from both houses.

In the first round of voting, conducted via secret ballot, Bladel won 100% of the CPH vote and 47% of the NCPH vote.

Forrest was then eliminated for the second round, which meant Bladel proceeded to a second round of voting: him against “none of the above”.

Council members took 15 minutes out to discuss among themselves what to do.

When they returned, Bladel’s CPH support remained unchanged, but he had only managed to get 53.85% of the NCPH vote.

If my calculations are correct, Bladel essentially missed the 60% threshold by a single vote.

That means the GNSO Council no longer has a chair.

The interregnum will last at least a month.

Each house now has until November 5 to make new nominations. The election will then be re-run “no sooner than 30 days” from yesterday.

In the meantime, the two vice chairs are running the show. The CPH said its current vice chair Volker Greiman will remain in the role while a new chair is being elected. The NCPH has not yet appointed a vice chair.

This morning, the CPH issued a statement that read in part:

Like many in the GNSO Community, the Contracted Party House is disappointed in the unprecedented outcome of the Council election. It is particularly unfortunate that this scenario occurred at a time when ICANN is in the global spotlight.

Throughout the election process, the common theme has been an agreement amongst all Councilors that either candidate would have made a competent and effective GNSO Chair. However, the qualifications of both candidates were ultimately disregarded.

In recent history, GNSO chairs have been drawn from the registries and registrars.

Since 2009, the chairs have been Jonathan Robinson (Afilias), Stephane Van Gelder (then Group NBT, a registrar), Chuck Gomes (Verisign).

This trend did not escape the notice of GNSO members, who quizzed Bladel and Forrest on Sunday on whether they would be able to give fair treatment to both houses on the Council.

Both candidates gave gracious responses. Bladel said:”The chair does not get extra votes when it comes to decisions. The chair does not have his votes taken away; his or her votes taken away. So really this is a question of optics.”

ICANN boss warns against “content policing” calls

Kevin Murphy, October 20, 2015, Domain Policy

ICANN should resist attempts to turn the organization into a content regulator responsible for fighting piracy, counterfeiting and terrorism.

That’s according to CEO Fadi Chehade, speaking in Dublin yesterday at the opening ceremony of ICANN’s 54th public meeting.

His remarks have already solicited grumbles from members of the intellectual property community, which are eager for ICANN to take a more assertive role against registries and registrars.

Speaking to a packed auditorium, Chehade devoted a surprisingly large chunk of his opening address to the matter of content policing, which he said was firmly outside of ICANN’s remit.

He presented this diagram, breaking up the internet into three layers. ICANN plays in the central “logical” section but has no place in the top “societal” segment, he said.

ICANNs remit

“Where does ICANN’s role start and where does ICANN’s role stop?” Chehade posed. “It’s very clear Our remit starts and stops in this logical yellow layer. We do not have any responsibility in the upper layer.”

“The community has spoken, and it is important to underline that in every possible way, ICANN’s remit is not in the blue layer, it is not in the economic/societal layer,” he said. This is a technical organization.”

That basically means that ICANN has no responsibility to determine which web sites are good and which are bad. That’s best left to others such as the courts and governments.

Chehade recounted an anecdote about a meeting with a national president who demanded that ICANN shut down a list of terrorism-supporting web sites.

“We have no responsibility to render judgement about which sites are terrorists,” he said, “which sites are the good pharmacies, which sites are the bad pharmacies, which sites are comitting crimes, which sites are infringing copyrights…”

“When people ask us to render judgement on matters in the upper layer, we can’t.”

With that all said, Chehade added that ICANN should not shirk its duties as part of the ecosystem, whether through voluntary measures at registries and registrars or via contractual enforcement.

“Once determinations are made, how do we respond the these?” he said. “I hope, voluntarily.”

He gave the example of credit card companies that voluntarily stop doing business with web sites that have been reported to be involved in crime or spam.

The notion of registrars adhering to a set of voluntary principles was first floated by ICANN’s chief compliance officer, Allen Grogan, in a blog post earlier this month.

It was the one bone he threw to IP interests in a determination that otherwise came down firmly on the side of registrars.

Grogan had laid out a minimum set of actions registrars must carry out when they receive abuse reports, none of which contained a requirement to suspend or delete domain names.

The Intellectual Property Constituency appeared to greet Chehade’s speech with cautious optimism, but members are still pushing for ICANN to take a stricter approach to contract compliance.

In a session between the IPC and the ICANN board in Dublin this morning, ICANN was asked to make these hypothetical voluntary measures enforceable.

Marc Trachtenberg disagreed with Chehade’s credit card company example.

“The have an incentive to take action, which is the avoidance of future potential costs,” he said. “That similar incentive does not exist with respect to registries and registrars.”

“In order for any sort of voluntary standards to be successful or useful, there have to be incentives for the parties to actually comply with those voluntary standards,” he said.

“One possibility among many is a situation where those registries and registrars that don’t comply with the voluntary standards are potentially subject to an ICANN compliance action,” he said.

It’s pretty clear that this issue is an ongoing one.

Chehade warned in his address yesterday that calls for ICANN to increase its policing powers will only increase when and if its IANA contract is finally divorced from US government oversight.

Grogan will host a roundtable tomorrow at 10am Dublin time to discuss possible voluntary mechanisms that could be created to govern abuse.

ALAC throws spanner in ICANN accountability discussions

Kevin Murphy, October 18, 2015, Domain Policy

The At-Large Advisory Committee has yanked backing for a key ICANN accountability proposal.

The ALAC, on of ICANN’s policy advisory groups, this afternoon voted unanimously “to withdraw support for the Membership model” at ICANN 54 in Dublin.

The Membership model is a proposal out of the Cross Community Working Group on Accountability (CCWG) that would change ICANN’s legal structure to one of formal membership, where a Sole Member gets legal rights to enforce accountability over the ICANN board of directors.

The model has some fierce support in the CCWG, but over the last few days in Dublin the group has started to explore the possibility of a “Designator” model instead.

That would be a weaker accountability model than one based on membership, but stronger than the “Multistakeholder Enforcement Mechanism” proposed by the ICANN board.

ALAC chair Alan Greenberg said in a statement to the CCWG mailing list:

In its formal response to the CCWG-Accountability proposal issued in August 2015, the ALAC said that it could support the model being proposed, but preferred something far less complex and lighter-weight, and that we saw no need for the level of enforceability that the proposal provided. Moreover, the ALAC had specific concerns with the budget veto and the apparent lack of participation of perhaps a majority of AC/SOs.

In light of the reconsideration of a designator model by the CCWG, along with the recommendations of the Saturday morning break-out sessions, the ALAC felt that a revised statement was in order. Accordingly we decided, by a unanimous vote of the 14 ALAC members present (with 1 not present), to withdraw support for the Membership model.

I want to make it clear that this is not a “red line” decision. Should a Membership model become one that is generally advocated by the CCWG, and supported by a supermajority of Board directors (who ultimately MUST support any changes that they will be called upon to approve, else they would be in violation of their fiduciary duty), then the ALAC reserves its right to support such a model.

The move revises the battle lines in the ongoing accountability debate. It’s no longer a simple case of CCWG versus ICANN board.

Dublin is a crunch time for the accountability proposals.

The clock is ticking — if the ICANN community cannot agree on a consensus proposal soon it risks delaying the transition of the IANA functions from US government oversight and possibly killing off the transition altogether.

Yet, while the CCWG is making steady progress cleaning up remaining areas of disagreement, the differences between itself and the board are still as sharp as ever.

DI will be live-blogging ICANN 54

Kevin Murphy, October 16, 2015, Domain Policy

I’m going to be doing something a little different for ICANN’s latest public meeting.

For various tedious reasons I was unable to attend in person ICANN 54, which started in Dublin this morning, so I thought I’d try to make the best of the advantages of remote participation and a friendly time zone to try something new.

Namely, live-blogging.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, a live-blog is essentially a single blog post that is updated and amended in real-time as a quickly developing news story continues to roll.

You can think of it a little like a Twitter feed, but without the restrictions.

If you have your browser open to the live-blog post, the updates should be automatically pushed to you in near real-tie without the need to manually refresh the page.

I say “should” because I’ve never done this before and, despite a bit of testing, the back-end software may not function precisely as I expect.

The auto-refresh function only seems to work, by design, in single-post view. If you’re looking at the DI front page you probably won’t get the auto-updates unless you manually refresh.

It’s all very experimental and I may quickly abandon the idea if it doesn’t seem to be working. Feedback is welcome.

The intention in some cases is to live-blog individual sessions, when they’re important enough to warrant my undivided attention — such as the opening ceremony or the meeting between the ICANN board and the Governmental Advisory Committee.

In other cases, the blog may dip in and out of conflicting sessions depending on what seems most interesting at the time.

While ICANN 54 doesn’t officially start until Monday, long-time ICANN watchers know that the real discussions begin much earlier.

In fact, in Dublin, they’ve already started.

A three-hour session of the community working group tasked with improving ICANN’s accountability, known as the CCWG, showed strong indications this morning that it may be ready to be the first blink in its ongoing confrontation with the ICANN board.

You can expect a lot of coverage of the accountability discussions, which have multiple sessions devoted to them, over the coming seven days.

ICANN on “knife edge” after accountability impasse

Kevin Murphy, September 29, 2015, Domain Policy

The ICANN board of directors and the community group tasked with improving its accountability have failed to come to a compromise over the future direction of the organization, despite an intense two-day argument at the weekend.

As the often fractious Los Angeles gathering drew to a close, ICANN chair Steve Crocker said that the board was sticking to its original position on how ICANN should be structured in future, apparently unmoved by opposing arguments.

Other directors later echoed that view.

The Cross Community Working Group on Accountability (CCWG) has proposed a raft of measures designed to ensure ICANN can be held to account in future if its board goes off the rails and starts behaving crazy.

Basically, it’s trying to find a back-stop to replace the US government, which intends to remove itself from stewardship of the DNS root zone next year.

A key proposal from the CCWG is that ICANN should be remade as a member organization, a specific type of legal structure under California law.

A Sole Member, governed by community members, would have to right to take ICANN to court to enforce its bylaws.

But the ICANN board thinks that’s too complicated, that it would replace the board with the Sole Member as the ultimate governing body of ICANN, and that it could lead to unintended consequences.

It’s suggested a replacement Multistakeholder Enforcement Model that would do away with the Member and replace it with a binding arbitration process.

Its model is a lot weaker than the one proposed by the CCWG.

Much of the LA meeting’s testing first day was taken up with discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of these two models.

The second day, in an effort to adopt a more collegial tone, attendees attempted to return to the basics of how decisions are made and challenged in ICANN.

The result was a discussion that dwelt slightly too long on technicalities like voting thresholds, committee make-ups and legal minutiae.

There seems to be a general consensus that the meeting didn’t accomplish much.

Towards the end of the first day, National Telecommunications and Information Administration chief Larry Stricking urged attendees to get their acts together and come up with something simple that had broad community support. He said:

At this point, we do not have a view that any particular approach is absolutely okay or is absolutely not okay. But what I can tell you is that the work that we need to see, the thoroughness, the detail, and I put this in the blog, it is not there yet. So that I don’t feel comfortable even taking what we saw in these reports and trying to opine on them because there are too many open questions

On Saturday, fellow government man Ira Magaziner, who was deeply involved with ICANN’s creation as a member of the Clinton administration, issued a stark warning.

“I think you can fail. And I think you’re right on a knife’s edge now as to whether you’ll succeed or fail,” he said.

He warned that the IANA transition is going to become a political football as the US presidential election enters its final year and unorthodox candidates (I think he means the Republican clown car) are putting forward “somewhat nationalistic” points of view.

“I think you have a limited amount of time to get this done and for the US government to consider it and pass it,” he said.

That basically means the transition has to happen before January 2017, when there’ll be a new president in the White House. If it’s a Republican, the chances of the transition going ahead get slimmer.

Sure enough, within 24 hours the first reports emerged that Republican hopeful Ted Cruz, backed up by a few other senators, is asking the Government Accountability Office whether it’s even within the power of the US executive to remove itself from the IANA process.

In a letter, Cruz asked:

1. Would the termination of the NTIA’s contract with ICANN cause Government property, of any kind, to be transferred to ICANN?

2. Is the authoritative root zone file, or other related or similar materials or information, United States government property?

3. If so, does the NTIA have the authority to transfer the root zone file or, other related materials or information to a non-federal entity?

If this kind of anti-transition sentiment catches popular opinion, you can guarantee other jingoistic candidates will fall in line.

So ICANN’s on the clock, racing the US political process. In Magaziner’s view, the meat of the disagreements needs to be resolved by the end of the Dublin meeting — three weeks from now — or not long thereafter.

He seems to be of the view that the CCWG has overreached its remit. He said:

The task of accountability that was assigned to this group was, as the chair said this morning, to replace the ultimate backstop of the US government with a community-based backstop. The committee was not charged to completely rewrite the way ICANN works. I’m sure ICANN can be improved and there ought to be an ongoing process to improve the way it works, but this particular committee and NTIA didn’t ask you to completely redo ICANN.

The LA meeting didn’t seem to help much in moving the accountability debate closer.

On Saturday afternoon, Crocker spoke to confirm that the board is sticking to its guns in opposing the Sole Member model.

“We certainly did not understand and don’t believe that creating a superstructure to replace them [the US government] in a corporate sense was intended, desired, needed, or appropriate,” he said.

“So in the comments that we submitted some time ago, we did represent a board position. We did a quick check this morning, and 100% agreement that what we said then still stands,” he said.

That’s a reference to the board feedback on the CCWG proposal submitted September 11.

Now, the CCWG has to figure out what to do before Dublin.

Currently, it’s combing through the scores of public comments submitted on its last draft proposals (probably something that should have happened earlier) in order to figure out exactly where everyone agrees and disagrees.

It seems ICANN 54, which starts October 16, will be dominated by this stuff.

Dublin picked for ICANN 54

Kevin Murphy, August 5, 2014, Domain Policy

ICANN had selected Dublin to play host to its 54th public meeting, which will be held in October next year.

According to a blog post from Michele Neylon, CEO of Irish registrar Blacknight, the venue will be the imaginatively named The Convention Centre, Dublin.

The primary sponsor will be INEX, the local internet exchange, he reports.

It will be interesting to see if the Irish government bothers to show up. It’s not a member of the GAC and Neylon has frequently criticized it for taking no interest in ICANN affairs.

The meeting will be held from 18 to 22 October, 2015.

Despite Ireland having only one accredited registrar, Dublin houses the nominal headquarters for a big chunk of the registry side of the industry, largely for tax purposes.

Afilias has been there for over a decade and recently Rightside, the Demand Media spin-off, also relocated its HQ there. A number of smaller new gTLD applicants founded in other countries are also “based” in Dublin.

ICANN still hasn’t named the city for ICANN 53, 2015’s mid-year meeting. I assume it will be in either Asia or Latin America. ICANN 51 is in Los Angeles this October, 52 is in Marrakech next February.

Personally, I’m looking forward to visiting Dublin. Despite what a startling number of you (even people who’ve known me for years!) seem to think, I’m not Irish and I’ve never been to Ireland.