Preceding the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers' (ICANN) public meeting, its international Government Advisory Committee met today and endorsed the nonprofit's principles. The committee represents more than 25 nations, including China, Japan, Mexico, Sri Lanka, and members of the European Union, the World Intellectual Property Organization, and the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development.
ICANN was recognized by the Commerce Department to head a process to privatize administration of the Net's addressing system and other key functions, thus allowing the U.S. government to get out of the driver's seat.
"Today represented a significant milestone in the establishment of ICANN," Australia's Dr. Paul Twomey, chairman of the committee, said in a statement. "The governments and organizations attending today's meeting represent the vast majority of Internet users. We saw a broad cross-section of the community of nations express strong support for the idea that the Internet is best managed by the Internet community itself."
Over the next two days, ICANN and meeting attendees will discuss several draft proposals. ICANN is then expected to vote on the plans, which include its registrar accreditation guidelines.
ICANN is supposed to set up policies that open the door for companies to compete with Network Solutions (NSI), which now has an exclusive U.S. government contract to run the lucrative registry for Net names ending in ".com," ".net," and ".org."
ICANN will select five competing registrars based on the proposed criteria, which then will test NSI's shared-registration system for a two-month period starting at the end of April. When the test period is over, NSI is set to open up its database to all ICANN-accredited registrars by summer.
But NSI, for one, is not happy with the draft accreditation guidelines.
"NSI feels strongly that the overall approach taken by this document is not in the best interest of the growth of the global Internet and electronic commerce," NSI's senior vice president Don Telage stated in a letter to ICANN.
"In effect these draft guidelines would: 1) establish ICANN as the global governance administration for those in the Internet Domain Name System (DNS) registration business, 2) decide all the most contentious and difficult policy questions, 3) create a global licensing bureaucracy charged with micromanagement of Internet businesses, and 4) impose an Internet tax on millions of domain owners worldwide to support this structure," the NSI statement concluded.
ICANN's anticipated vote on registrar guidelines will be the most closely watched issue at the meeting, but the group also will hear comment about its proposed conflict-of-interest policy and reconsideration policy to challenge board actions.
In addition, the board will review proposed applications for ICANN's supporting organizations (SO). Per ICANN's bylaws, the SOs will include, for example, representatives from registrars of top-level domains and groups that approve Internet protocols and who will make important recommendations regarding the management of the Internet.
As it is with every step in the process to privatize oversight of the Net, ICANN's latest drafts are not free of controversy.
Some say the comment period was not long enough, in part because ICANN faces a tremendously tight timeline since being recognized in November.
"It's too much material to digest--there is not enough time to evaluate this," said Larry Erlich, owner of Domain Registry, who hopes to get his company accredited by ICANN. "How many people have the time or money to have a representative in Singapore?"
Erlich forwarded his concerns to Esther Dyson, who chairs ICANN's interim board. He wants to know who will control the InterNIC site, where individuals and third-party registries sign up domain names.
"Right now, [InterNIC] is controlled by Network Solutions," Erlich wrote in his public comments. "What is the point of being able to sell books, like Amazon.com, if all the book traffic goes to the Amazon.com Web site?"
Dyson did respond directly to Erlich's concerns about the time frame in an email message provided to CNET News.com.
"There are, indeed, quite a lot of comments on the ICANN site by now, and we'll be getting more in Singapore," she said. "Please rest assured that we are trying to create a system that will be flexible as the Net itself evolves."
Netizens can participate in ICANN's public meeting from remote locations by patching in through the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School.