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Beckstrom gets his bonus again

Kevin Murphy, June 30, 2011, Domain Policy

ICANN president and CEO Rod Beckstrom has been awarded a performance-related bonus for the 12-month period ending today, it has emerged.

The undisclosed amount was approved by the ICANN board of directors during an unannounced meeting last Saturday.

As it is classed as a personal personnel matter, the portion of his “at risk component” approved was not revealed, but it is known that Beckstrom’s annual bonus is capped at $195,000.

His base salary is $750,000.

It’s the second consecutive year that he has received some part of his bonus. For the year ended June 30, 2010, the board voted it through in December.

As Beckstrom enters the third year of his three-year contract, it’s understood that he has already been making overtures to the board to extend his tenure for a second term.

Pritz to defend ICANN in Congress

Kevin Murphy, April 27, 2011, Domain Policy

ICANN has confirmed that Kurt Pritz, its point man for the new top-level domains program, will represent the organization at a Congressional hearing next week.

As I reported yesterday, The House Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet will hold an “ICANN Generic Top-Level Domains (gTLD) Oversight Hearing” on May 4.

Pritz is senior vice president of stakeholder relations. He has led the development of the new gTLD Applicant Guidebook for the last few years.

Some, such as GNSO Council chair Stephane Van Gelder, have already expressed surprise that ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom will not be attending.

The last time Congress dragged ICANN to Capitol Hill, in 2009, it was former CEO Paul Twomey who took the brunt of the questioning.

As Domain Name Wire recounts, ICANN took a good kicking on that particular occasion.

The focus of next week’s hearing is expected to be the intellectual property implications of new TLDs.

Beckstrom calls for ICANN’s independence

Kevin Murphy, March 15, 2011, Domain Policy

ICANN president Rod Beckstrom has called for the organization to be allowed to further loosen its ties to the US government.

The two-hour opening ceremony of its 40th public meeting, here in San Francisco this morning, had a heavy focus on ICANN’s relationship with governments, and looked as much to its roots in the Clinton administration as it addressed more immediate concerns internationally.

Beckstrom and others tackled the renewal of the soon-to-expire IANA contract, with which the US grants ICANN many of its powers over the domain name system, head-on.

Beckstrom said some have expressed “a belief that the US government should live up to its 1998 White Paper commitment to transfer management of the IANA functions to the private sector-led organization entrusted to manage the DNS, which is ICANN. ”

That would mean severing one of the most frequently criticized links between ICANN and the USA.

In a press conference later, he confirmed that this is in fact his belief, saying that internet governance is “evolving behind the curve” as internet usage grows internationally.

The US handing the keys to the internet over to ICANN doesn’t appear to be immediately likely, however. But there may be some ways to continue to phase out the US special relationship on a shorter term basis.

Beckstrom took the stage shortly after Lawrence Strickling, head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, part of the US Department of Commerce, made some frank criticisms.

While stressing the Obama administration’s commitment to what he called “multistakeholderism” in internet governance, he had a few pointed remarks to make about ICANN’s decision-making process.

He accused the ICANN board of directors of “picking winners and losers” by making decisions in situations where the community has been unable to reach a consensus policy.

He singled out two recent policies where he believes ICANN has failed to sufficiently rationalize its decisions: registry-registrar integration and economic studies into new TLDs.

The criticisms are not new, and many of them may well go away if and when ICANN implements the recommendations of its Accountability and Transparency Review Team.

My initial sense is that the fact Strickling was able to speak so frankly and so publicly about the administration’s feelings is an encouraging sign of ICANN’s maturity.

And Beckstrom’s response was equally ballsy, urging ICANN’s supporters to lobby the NTIA for a loosening of US-ICANN ties.

The NTIA’s Notice Of Inquiry regarding IANA, which floats the idea of breaking up the IANA functions and possibly assigning them to three different entities, was released a few weeks ago.

During his address this morning, former ICANN chair Vint Cerf put forth the view that this kind of government procurement contract may be an inappropriate mechanism for overseeing IANA functions:

I believe that that concept of procuring service from ICANN really ought to change to become a cooperative agreement because I believe that format expresses more correctly the relationship between ICANN and the Department of Commerce.

Beckstrom evidently agrees with Cerf. At the press conference, he pointed out that the disadvantage of a procurement contract is that it’s short term, undermining confidence in ICANN.

It also requires ICANN to run the IANA to the benefit of the American people, rather than the international community, he said. This obviously can reinforce the perception in some parts of the world that ICANN has an untenable American bias.

“A cooperative agreement seems more befitting of the relationship the NTIA and ICANN has developed,” he said, noting that this is currently the structure of NTIA’s relationship with VeriSign.

The Number Resource Organization may give a further clue to ICANN’s game plan in this email (pdf) published today, in which the NRO says:

We strongly believe that no government should have a special role in managing, regulating or supervising the IANA functions.

The NRO suggests that ICANN, through these coming negotiations, should advocate for a staged reduction of the level of DoC’s oversight to IANA. This process could possibly involve a transitionfrom a contract to a cooperation agreement, and ultimately arrival at a non-binding arrangement, such as an affirmation of commitments

Beckstrom now wants your help to make this happen. During his keynote, he urged the ICANN community to make its disparate views known to the NTIA, “openly and in writing”.

“This is the chance to add your voice to those determining the fate of the IANA function,” he said. “If your voice is to be heard, you must speak up.”

“When all voices are heard, no single voice can dominate an organization – not even governments. Not even the government that facilitated its creation,” Beckstrom said.

Details about how to respond to the NOI can be found in this PDF.

Brussels’ biggest winner?

Kevin Murphy, March 10, 2011, Domain Policy

(Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by consultant Michael Palage).

Analyzing the aftermath of last week’s ICANN Board-GAC non-bylaws consultation in Brussels, the biggest winner may be Rod Beckstrom. Many who attended the meeting or followed it remotely may have found it unusual how little he spoke during the three-day session. Why was Rod so quiet in Brussels?

Soon Beckstrom will begin the third and final year of the contract that he executed in June 2009 – yes, it has been almost two years since Rod assumed the mantle as ICANN’s fourth President and CEO. He got off to a quick start with the successful expiration of the Joint Project Agreement (JPA), the execution of the Affirmation of Commitments (AoC), and the introduction of Internationalized Domain Names (IDN) in country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) earning the accolades of myself and others.

Then came the ICANN meeting in Kenya and Rod’s statement that “[t]he domain name system is more fragile and vulnerable today than it has ever been. It could stop at any given point in time, literally.” To say that this was not warmly received by many within the broader ICANN community would be an understatement. However, instead of back-tracking, Beckstrom doubled down with his high-profile DNS Vulnerabilities and Risk Management panel discussion in Brussels reinforcing his claims about the fragile nature of the Internet.

Some in the community have also voiced concern about the continued exodus of senior ICANN staff, while others have questioned some of Rod’s recent hires. While I have not yet had the opportunity to meet with John Nakamura, Advisor to the CEO on Government Affairs, and Elad Levinson, Vice-President of Organization Efficiency, these are two hires which I myself have a hard time reconciling while other key positions remain unfilled.

However, to Rod’s credit a number of his new senior hires appear to be making positive impacts and look to increase the overall professional skill set within ICANN staff. Although Paul Twomey’s original two senior staff hires, John Jeffrey and Kurt Pritz, continue to dominate important policy and operational matters within ICANN, this may be in part due to the fact that there is so little institutional knowledge left within the senior staff.

Since the June 2010 Brussels meeting, Rod has maintained a lower profile, focusing on ICANN’s continued accomplishments in the areas of new IDN ccTLDs being added to the root and the final allocation of IPv4 address space by IANA. Whether Rod would seek a second term is still an unknown. Of ICANN’s four Presidents, only Twomey ever made it to a second contract renewal, although the high churn rate can in large part be attributed to the stresses associated with the job.

This is why Beckstrom’s silence in Brussels was so interesting. While there were some pointed exchanges between ICANN Chair Peter Dengate Thrush and certain GAC members, Rod left the meeting unscathed. Over the next couple of months as the ICANN Board and GAC resolve their outstanding issues regarding the new gTLD implementation process, Beckstrom positions himself well for a potential contract extension as his Chairman continues to serve as a lightning rod in these consultations.

For the moment, only Beckstrom knows if he is actively seeking a contract extension. While he can go out on a high note listing the following high profile accomplishments during his three year tenure: AoC, IDN TLDs, new gTLDs, exhaustion of IPv4 address space, and a new IANA contract; Rod may wish to stick around and achieve some yet unknown additional accomplishments.

Michael Palage is an intellectual property attorney and an information technology consultant. He has been actively involved in ICANN operational and policy matters since its formation in both an individual and leadership role, including a three-year term on the ICANN Board of Directors.

Palage is President and CEO of Pharos Global, Inc, which provides consulting and management services to domain name registration authorities and other technology related companies.

US may break up ICANN powers

Kevin Murphy, February 25, 2011, Domain Policy

The US government is considering taking away some of ICANN’s powers.

The Department of Commerce today kicked off the process of reviewing the so-called IANA contract, from which ICANN currently derives its control over the domain name system root zone.

As I predicted yesterday, Commerce has published a Notice of Inquiry in the Federal Register. It wants input from the public before it officially opens the contract for rebidding.

ICANN has operated the IANA functions, often regarded as intrinsic to and inseparable from its mission, for the last decade. But the contract expires September 30 this year.

Significantly, Commerce now wants to know whether the three IANA functions – IP address allocation, protocol number assignments, and DNS root zone management – should be split up.

The NOI says:

The IANA functions have been viewed historically as a set of interdependent technical functions and accordingly performed together by a single entity. In light of technology changes and market developments, should the IANA functions continue to be treated as interdependent? For example, does the coordination of the assignment of technical protocol parameters need to be done by the same entity that administers certain responsibilities associated with root zone management?

I’m speculating here, but assuming ICANN is a shoo-in for the domain names part of the IANA deal, this suggests that Commerce is thinking about breaking out the IP address and protocol pieces and possibly assigning them to a third party.

The NOI also asks for comments about ways to improve the security, stability and reportable metrics of the IANA functions, and whether relationships with other entities such as regional internet registries and the IETF should be baked into the contract.

The timing of the announcement is, as I noted yesterday, interesting. It could be a coincidence, coming almost exactly five years after the IANA contract last came up for review.

But ICANN’s board of directors and its Governmental Advisory Committee will meet in Brussels on Monday to figure out where they agree and disagree on the new top-level domains program.

While it’s an ICANN-GAC meeting, the US has taken a prominent lead in drafting the GAC’s position papers, tempered somewhat, I suspect, by other governments, and will take a key role in next week’s talks.

Hat tip: @RodBeckstrom.

ICANN chief cancels .nxt keynote

Kevin Murphy, February 8, 2011, Domain Registries

With the first-ever .nxt conference on new top-level domains just hours away from opening its doors, it looks like star speaker Rod Beckstrom has canceled his appearance.

ICANN’s president and CEO, who was featured prominently on the web site of the San Francisco conference as recently as Sunday, no longer appears on the agenda.

His keynote slot, scheduled for 10am local tomorrow, has been filled by Kurt Pritz, ICANN’s senior vice president of stakeholder relations and point man for the new TLD program.

While Pritz perhaps lacks the name recognition and stage presence of Beckstrom, it could be argued that his more granular insight into the program may actually make him a better-value speaker.

Juan Diego Calle, CEO of .CO Internet, is still scheduled for the second keynote, on Wednesday. Here’s hoping he can provide an update on .co’s post-Super Bowl performance.

UPDATE: Conference organizer Kieren McCarthy has confirmed that Beckstrom was unable to make it to San Francisco in time for the keynote, but said he may still attend later.

ICANN chief gets bonus

Kevin Murphy, December 14, 2010, Domain Policy

ICANN chief executive Rod Beckstrom is to be paid a bonus potentially as high as $195,000 this year.

Did you know that there were two ICANN board meetings held in Cartagena last week?

I didn’t, but I just spotted that resolutions from a December 8 meeting have been posted on the ICANN web site.

There are only two resolutions. They grant bonuses to Beckstrom and to outgoing ombudsman Frank Fowlie.

The board approved “a proportion” of both men’s “at-risk component”, which basically means their performance-related bonuses.

The resolutions do not specify how big a proportion was approved for either, but it is known that the maximum Beckstrom could have been awarded is $195,000.

His base salary is $750,000.

Beckstrom: ICANN accountable to world, not just US

Kevin Murphy, December 6, 2010, Domain Policy

ICANN chief Rod Beckstrom opened the organization’s 39th public meeting in Cartagena, Colombia, with a speech that touched on many of the organization’s recent controversies and appeared to take a strong stance against US government interference.

Everything from its political tangles with the International Telecommunications Union, to the recent calls for high-security top-level domains for financial services, to Beckstrom’s own controversial pet project, the proposed DNS-CERT, got a mention.

But probably Beckstrom’s strongest statement was the one which indirectly addressed recent moves by the US government to slam the brakes on ICANN’s new top-level domains program:

We are accountable to the world, not to any one country, and everything we do must reflect that.

Beckstrom acknowledged the controversies in the new TLDs policy, given last week’s strongly worded letter from the US Department of Commerce, which was highly critical of the program.

Commerce assistant secretary Lawrence Strickling has called on ICANN to delay the program until it has justified its decision under the Affirmation of Commitments.

But this morning, Beckstrom echoed sentiments expressed on the ICANN blog last week (my emphasis):

As is often the case with policy decisions in that multi-stakeholder model, not everyone is pleased, and this diversity of opinion contributes to the policy process. For example, last week we received a critical letter from the US Department of Commerce. As with all contributions, ICANN will give these comments careful consideration as part of the implementation of the GNSO policy. We welcome the transparent way that Commerce provided their comments through the public comment process.

How ICANN chooses to deal with the demands of its former master, the US government, is one of the Cartagena meeting’s Big Questions.

Another such question is how ICANN plans to deal with ongoing threats to its legitimacy from international bodies such as the International Telecommunications Union.

Addressing ITU secretary general Hamadoun Toure directly, Beckstrom said:

We have always sought to build our relationships based on mutual respect and integrity, taking into account the unique and distinct mandates entrusted to our organizations. The strengthening of communication between us is a personal priority for me.

Security

Security is one of ICANN’s watchwords, and Beckstrom is a security guy by trade. His speeches typically address the topic to a greater or lesser extent and Cartagena was no exception.

Security policies inherently create tensions. Take, for example, controversies about the strength and enforceability of of Whois policies, or Beckstrom’s own call for a DNS-CERT to oversee DNS risk.

This morning, he said:

The staff under my leadership is willing to go as far on security as the community is willing. And whatever security effort this community decides, we will do our utmost to implement and support, given sufficient resources. Because when it comes to security, how can we ever say we’ve done enough?

And now you need to tell us: where do you want us to go?

Of course, I am sure we can agree that when it comes to security, the question is not what do we want to do? Or what is popular or easy? It’s what do we owe the world? Because all of us care about the global public interest.

He took, in my view, a subtle swing at the Governmental Advisory Committee for putting security at the heart of its ongoing policy demands, while largely failing to cooperate with ICANN’s requests for information on security issues in their own jurisdictions. Beckstrom said:

We have asked GAC members to provide information about security activities in their countries. We appreciate the information some have shared but there have been few responses. As governments urge us to remain committed to security efforts, we in turn request that they help us by responding and working with the ICANN community on this vital mission.

I know there are some European ccTLD registries a bit miffed that ICANN has in recent months gone over their heads, direct to their governments, for this information, highlighting what a tricky political situation it is.

The speech also touched on internationalized domain names, with a shout-out to the recent launch of Russia’s Cyrillic ccTLD, and general global inclusion activities. I expect the text and audio to be published on the ICANN web site to be published shortly.

ITU chief snubs ICANN’s Beckstrom

Kevin Murphy, August 24, 2010, Domain Policy

“If your name’s not down, you’re not coming in.”

That’s pretty much the message sent to ICANN chief Rod Beckstrom by the International Telecommunications Union’s secretary general, following his request to attend a top-level ITU policy meeting.

Beckstrom wrote to Hamadoun Toure last month, asking for observer status at October’s ITU Plenipotentiary Conference – the “supreme organ” of ITU policy-making, held every four years.

The idea was that ICANN and the ITU would start to develop a more formal relationship.

In a letter published today, Toure turned him down, noting that the guest-list for the Guadalajara meeting is strictly limited by convention to entities such as national telecoms regulators and UN agencies.

For your information, the Plenipotentiary Conferece, the supreme organ of the ITU, is the highest level of administrative conference for the Union.

I regret to inform you that the ITU is unable to respond positively to your request to attend

Ouch.

ICANN and the ITU have a spiky history. It’s well known that the ITU would prefer internet addressing to be handled from Geneva rather than Marina Del Rey. Over the years, it’s occasionally made the odd attempted power grab.

The fact that Beckstrom has been rebuffed is surely more evidence that, for all its flaws, ICANN is still a better place to manage the DNS.

If the head of ICANN can’t even observe the ITU’s top dogs at work, what chance would the rest of us have of being heard?

Browser makers brush me off on DNSSEC support

Kevin Murphy, July 29, 2010, Domain Tech

A couple of weeks back, I emailed PR folk at Microsoft, Mozilla, Google and Opera, asking if they had any plans to provide native support for DNSSEC in their browsers.

As DNS uber-hacker Dan Kaminsky and ICANN president Rod Beckstrom have been proselytizing this week at the Black Hat conference, support at the application layer is the next step if DNSSEC is to quickly gain widespread traction.

The idea is that one day the ability to validate DNSSEC messages will be supported by browsers in much the same way as SSL certificates are today, maybe by showing the user a green address bar.

CZ.NIC has already created a DNSSEC validator plugin for Firefox that does precisely that, but as far as I can tell there’s no native support for the standard in any browser.

These are the responses I received:

Mozilla: “Our team is heads down right now with Firefox 4 beta releases so unfortunately, I am not going to be able to get you an answer.”

Microsoft:
“At this stage, we’re focusing on the Internet Explorer 9 Platform Preview releases. The platform preview is a developer and designer scoped release of Internet Explorer 9, and is not feature complete, we will have more to share about Internet Explorer 9 in the future.”

Google: No reply.

Opera: No reply.

In 11 years of journalism, Apple’s PR team has never replied to any request for information or comment from me, so I didn’t bother even trying this time around.

But the responses from the other four tell us one of two things:

  • Browser makers haven’t started thinking about DNSSEC yet.

Or…

  • Their PR people were just trying to brush me off.

I sincerely hope it’s the former, otherwise this blog post has no value whatsoever.