ICANN board unanimously approves reform blueprint

The board of directors of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) voted unanimously on Friday to approve a proposed blueprint for the reform and reorganization of the nonprofit group that oversees basic technical matters related to the Internet.

"The vote was 18 to zero by the board; there wasn't any controversy. The board feels very strongly that this is the right way to go. It's a major step forward," said ICANN president and chef executive officer M. Stuart Lynn in a telephone news conference held after the meeting. One member of the board, Jonathan Cohen, did not attend the meeting or vote on the matter.

The vote by ICANN, headquartered in Marina del Rey, California, closed its meeting in Bucharest, Romania, begun on Monday.

ICANN was created in 1998 by the U.S. to oversee the Domain Name System and operates under an agreement with the U.S. Department of Commerce, which is due to expire on Sept. 30. As the deadline for renewal looms, ICANN has been under increasing political pressure from the U.S. Congress and the White House to streamline its operating procedures if it wants the Commerce Department to extend the agreement. The reform blueprint calls for ICANN to, among other measures, reduce the number of board members from 18 to 15, to replace at-large elections for some board members with selections by a nominating committee made up of a variety of constituencies and to create an Office of Ombudsman.

"Everyone on the board feels very strongly that we need a geographically and culturally diverse ICANN," Lynn said.

ICANN would also seek to make its procedures and proposed policies more transparent and open to public discussion. "We need a serious way of encouraging the (Internet) community to get involved and to promote public participation," Lynn said.

Among the criticisms of ICANN has been what some U.S. lawmakers called its historic ineffectiveness and failure to take broad public input into account when making decisions. Lawmakers have also accused the organization of morphing into a policy-making body while falling behind in developing operational and security requirements for its various divisions.

Lynn stressed that ICANN was not reforming itself simply to appease Washington, D.C., though the reform blueprint does call for more active governmental participation in ICANN and would establish a nonvoting liaison between the two, to be appointed by the Government Advisory Committee (GAC).

"ICANN is an independent, private organization. We can restructure as we want and we don't need approval from the Commerce Department (to do so)," Lynn said.

Structurally, the proposed reforms would include dissolving the Protocol Supporting Organization (PSO) and replacing it with a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), while also establishing a Country-code Names Supporting Organization (CNSO). The name of the Domain Name Supporting Organization would be changed to the Generic Name Supporting Organization (GNSO).

The revised ICANN structure would include three supporting organizations, the GNSO, the CNSO and the Addressing Supporting Organization (ASO), with four standing advisory committees of the board: the GAC, the TAC, the DNS Root Server System Advisory Committee (RSSAC) and the Security Advisory Committee (SAC).

In an effort to boost its funding, ICANN-accredited registrars and registries would be required to pay ICANN a per-name fee, estimated at $0.25 per domain name.

Lynn, who will retire his post in March, warned that the reform process would take time, proceeding in a staggered manner, and that the transition planning would not be able to begin until the reform blueprint was subjected to a "filling out" process between now and ICANN's next general meeting.

The next round of ICANN meetings will be held in Shanghai, on October 27-31.

New board members would not begin to be appointed until at least the end of March or April of next year, Lynn said, adding that he hoped to hand over to his new successor as much of an "intact" ICANN as was possible.

"There has to be some level of continuity (in the reform process). We are not going to blow up ICANN. (In Bucharest), we were focusing much more on the 'what' rather than on the 'how;' now we're going to focus on the how," Lynn said.

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