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ICANN abandons face-to-face plan for Puerto Rico

Kevin Murphy, November 5, 2021, Domain Policy

ICANN has canceled its plans for a “hybrid” ICANN 73, saying this morning that the meeting will go ahead as an online-only virtual meeting.

Its board of directors yesterday voted to abandon efforts to have a face-to-face component in Puerto Rico as originally planned, as I predicted a few days ago.

ICANN of course said it’s because of the coronavirus pandemic, and more particularly the associated travel restrictions and the lack of access to vaccines in some parts of the world from which its community members hail.

The US Centers for Disease Control currently rates Puerto Rico as its second-highest risk level, meaning ICANN’s meetings staff have been unable to travel there to do on-site planning. ICANN said:

While there has been progress that might make it feasible to plan for and convene a meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico in March 2022, the current risks and uncertainties remain too high to proceed with an in-person meeting or with an in-person component.

Its board resolution stated:

Between the global inequity in vaccine availability across the world, continuing restrictions on persons from many countries or territories being allowed to enter the U.S., and backlogs in visa processing for those who are able to enter the U.S., ICANN org cannot estimate with any confidence the ability for attendees outside of the U.S. to attend ICANN73.

So 73 will be Zoom again. The time zone will remain UTC-4, Puerto Rico local time, which should make it less problematic for Europeans to attend.

The dates are still slated for March 5 to March 10 next year, but it seems likely that we’ll be looking at a March 7 kick-off, as March 5 is a Saturday and people don’t like working weekends if not somewhere they can also work on their tans.

ICANN said it “affirmed its intent” to attempt the hybrid model again for the mid-year ICANN 74 meeting, which is due to take place in The Hague, Netherlands, next June.

It’s bad news for ICANN participation, which has been declining in the new era of virtual meetings, but good news for its bank account. Virtual meetings cost a few million dollars less than in-person ones.