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Date: Tue, 15 Jun 1999 23:09:35 -0400
From: t byfield <>
Subject: [ [RRE]ICANN]

----- Forwarded message from Phil Agre <> -----

Date: Tue, 15 Jun 1999 14:22:58 -0700 (PDT)
From: Phil Agre <>
To: "Red Rock Eater News Service" <>
Subject: [RRE]ICANN

[Forwarded by permission and reformatted.]

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Date: Thu, 10 Jun 1999 08:32:43 -0700 (PDT)
From: Mike Roberts <>

Commentary on Professor David Post's Essay of June 5 Concerning ICANN

As a member of the American university community for more than thirty
years, I have the utmost respect for its standards of open inquiry, but I
find myself in strong disagreement with the premises, the asserted facts
and the logic of Professor Post's recent essay on ICANN, which opens with
the statement, " goal here is just to suggest that notwithstanding
the government's (and ICANN's) protestations to the contrary, this is
about nothing less than Internet governance writ large." 

I definitely do protest to the contrary; the facts do not support this
conclusion. The truth of the current situation is that ICANN is pursuing
its work program as spelled out in the Government's White Paper on the
Management of Internet Names and Addresses and in the Department of
Commerce's Memorandum of Understanding/Joint Project Agreement with ICANN
that was executed last November.  The tasks set forth therein include
(extract from the contract): 

"a. Establishment of policy for and direction of the allocation of IP
number blocks; 

b. Oversight of the operation of the authoritative root server system; 

c. Oversight of the policy for determining the circumstances under which
new top level domains would be added to the root system; 

d. Coordination of the assignment of other Internet technical parameters
as needed to maintain universal connectivity on the Internet; and

e. Other activities necessary to coordinate the specified DNS management
functions, as agreed by the Parties." 

In the interests of constructive dialog, I would like to submit
clarifications of some points contained in Professor Post's essay of June

1. Control of the Root Server

"... the root server, and the various domain servers to which it points,
constitute the very heart of the Internet, the Archimedean point on which
this vast global network balances." 

The system of [currently thirteen] functionally identical root servers set
up by Jon Postel is operated on a voluntary basis by a disparate group of
international organizations with a common interest in seeing the Internet
function well. In addition to the checks and balances inherent in this
distributed functionality and responsibility, there are the further checks
provided by the fact that the major ISP's ultimately have the power to
determine what name servers are actually used in the Internet. Various
efforts to create a different root environment, such as alternic, have
thus far failed because the leaders of the ISP industry see more value in
a transparent and interoperable Internet than in one in which multiple
root systems vie for attention.  Beyond this, the present voluntary system
is based on a broadly shared understanding that private collaboration in
maintaining universal connectivity is essential to minimizing government
regulation. More than sixty years ago, circuit switched routing in the
U.S. PSTN (Public Switched Telecommunications Network), which is the
telephony equivalent of packet switching in the Internet, was put under
government control.  Any significant evidence of the type of pathological
behavior in the management of Internet routing hypothesized by Professor
Post in his text almost certainly would lead to a similar type of
government control of the Internet, both in the U.S. and abroad. 

2. Support for ICANN's Budget

"... ICANN has imposed the requirement that each accredited registrar pay
ICANN a fee of $1 for each new domain name they hand out - can anyone say
'taxation without representation'?" 

The White Paper suggested that ICANN should be funded by name or address
registries, presumably by nomination of a portion of the fee charged by
those registries to fund ICANN expenses.  The ICANN Bylaws provide that
the budget be presented for approval annually, and that any fees and
charges be presented to the community for comment. This period was held
prior to the recent Berlin ICANN Board meeting without substantial comment
on the proposed fee, which was explicitly stated to be no more than $1,
because it is not clear exactly what ICANN's costs will be or how many
names will be registered. Since ICANN is a non-profit, cost recovery
vehicle, the fee will be adjusted over time to produce revenues that fund
expenses - no more or less. The comment period did not produce any
proposals for a more equitable means of supporting ICANN's activities.  In
the idiom of the ICANN Bylaws, consent of the governed is obtained through
the operation of the public notice and comment provisions.  If there is a
better way, let us hear it.  Among its other virtues, the ICANN levy
supports the administration of a new system of competition in the
assignment of domain names that will undoubtedly lead to much more than a
$1 per name reduction in registration fees, so the net impact on the names
consumer will be highly positive. 

3. The WIPO Report

"...ICANN, having now adopted the WIPO Report referenced earlier, is about
to impose a requirement on all domain name registrars that they collect
and make available 'accurate and reliable contact details of domain name
holders,' and that they agree to 'cancel the domain name registrations'
wherever those contact details are shown to be 'inaccurate and unreliable'
- a move with grave consequences for the continued viability of anonymous
communications on the Internet." 

(a) As is clear from reading the resolutions adopted in Berlin, which are
posted on the website, the ICANN Board did not "adopt" the WIPO
report in its action on May 27; instead, it took a series of detailed
steps which included referring the majority of the report to its newly
constituted Domain Name Supporting Organization for analysis, review and
recommendation. It took these actions after five months of study and
comment by members of its constituencies and its staff and the actions
reflected the consensus comments it received in the public notice and
comment periods of both the March (Singapore) and May (Berlin) Board

(b) At its March meeting in Singapore, acting on proposed guidelines for
accrediting competitive registrars for the .com, .org and .net domains,
after extensive public comment, the ICANN Board adopted a series of
requirements for the relationship between accredited registrars and those
wishing to obtain domain names, which included a requirement for the
initial submission of accurate contact information and for the maintenance
of accurate contact information as a condition of continuing to hold the
assigned name.  As I pointed out in the public meeting in Singapore, this
requirement for open access to the identity of those responsible for
operating a domain name in the Internet goes back to the very early days
of the American academic Internet and has been a mainstream attribute of
Internet culture for many years. It seems to me and to many others to be a
useful principle worthy of being continued. 

(c) The issue of anonymity was extensively discussed by the ICANN Board
and staff at the Singapore meeting, with reference both to the [upside]
value of protecting citizens from unfair harrassment and to the [downside]
potential of facilitating unethical and illegal activities.  Neither the
previous NSI guidelines nor the current ICANN guidelines on contact
information inhibit the legitimately anonymous use of domain names. They
do require that those interested in so operating find a trusted
intermediary to register and hold the domain name and furnish accurate
contact information [and to be responsible for any use of the domain name
which violates the law].  This has been done in the past and it can be
done in the future. ICANN explicitly took no action that would disturb the
status quo on this issue, although it heard from advocates of both
strengthening and eliminating anonymity in the use of domain names. 

4. Scope of ICANN Activities

"Now, some, or even all, of these may be good ideas.  But this is already
way beyond the realm of technical 'standards-setting,' and we really must
ask whether we really want or need this kind of global Internet policy and
whether this is the way it should be put together." 

This comment is an indication of the extent of the gulf between the
premises of Professor Post and those of ICANN and the U.S. Government.
ICANN not only doesn't set technical standards, it is specifically
enjoined from doing so by its chartering documents.  After extensive
discussion between Ira Magaziner and members of the Internet technical
community in 1997 and 1998, ICANN's role in this area is limited to
"coordinating the assignment of Internet technical parameters as needed to
maintain universal connectivity on the Internet."  That is one of the
historical functions of the IANA organization under Jon Postel and it has
been continued under ICANN management. The Internet Engineering Task Force
does an excellent job in the standards area and neither they nor we think
change is needed. 

The ICANN Board and staff are very interested in academic participation in
our work and in a robust critique of our performance.  However, ICANN
doesn't do Internet technical standards and it doesn't do Internet
governance. Misperception on these critical points presents a serious
obstacle to constructive dialog and to contributions to our work from the
academic community. 

It may be useful in the abstract to debate how we might behave under a
different set of assumptions, but that's not a current reality for a group
of hard working individuals, aided by many equally hard working volunteers
from the Internet community, who are in the middle of creating a new DNS
management entity under challenging circumstances. 

[N.B. The views expressed herein are those of the author.]

- Mike Roberts - Interim President and CEO, ICANN


From: "Johnson, David" <DJohnson@Wilmer.COM>
To: "'Dave Farber'" <>

In a response to David Post's concerns about the direction in which ICANN
is headed, Mike Roberts (interim President of ICANN) states: "In the idiom
of the ICANN Bylaws, consent of the governed is obtained through the
operation of the public notice and comment provisions." 

That statement eloquently illustrates the current problem -- reflecting
the apparent view of the current (unelected, interim) board that they are
authorized to promulgate policy directives that somehow bind internet
stakeholders. This is an illegitimate, top down view of the ICANN Board's
role -- not authorized by the White Paper or even by the current Bylaws or
MOU with the US Government. 

Properly understood and implemented, the ICANN Bylaws contemplate policy
formulation by open supporting organizations, with a minimal role for a
Board, whose major task is to facilitate the consensus- generating
process.  Consent of the governed is to come from an as yet unheld
election process, from the consensus in the stakeholder communities
(reflected in SO deliberations) and from bilateral contracts between ICANN
and those asked to implement any resulting policies. 

We are experimenting with the very nature of the social contract, online. 
The White Paper process clearly generated a consensus that any policy
standards (aka governance) should emerge (that's the meaning of bottom up)
from an open dialogue among stakeholders. Because the net thrives on
diversity, we should "standardize" (aka harmonize) rules only when there
is widespread agreement among those who must follow the rules. In that
context, it is decidedly NOT the case that "consent of the governed" -- or
any legitimacy -- can stem from allowing a public gripe session before the
Board goes into secret session and takes the view that the ABSENCE of
agreement among stakeholders (aka consensus and contracts freely entered
into among willing parties) gives it a license to decide important policy

David Johnson


[Dyson's reply is at <>.]

Date: Fri, 11 Jun 1999 13:46:46 -0400
From: James Love <>
To: David Farber <>

June 11, 1999

                         Ralph Nader
                         P.O. Box 19312
                         Washington, DC 20036
                         James Love
                         Consumer Project on Technology
                         P.O. Box 19367, Washington, DC 20036

Esther  Dyson 
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers

Dear Ms Dyson,

Could you tell us the scope of internet governance issues that the
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) aspires to
address?  For example, does ICANN seek to make any decisions regarding
allocation of trademark rights to those who seek domain names?  And
will ICANN use its control over root name servers to block access to
any IP address or domain name for any reason?  If so, could you give
us an idea of what those reasons might be, and how those decisions
will be made, and what legal recourse persons would have regarding
ICANN decisions?

Also, does ICANN seek the authority to levy fees on the use of domain
names?  If so, what are the legally binding limits on the use of funds
from those fees by ICANN?  Under any circumstances will the ICANN be
permitted to use these funds to promote public policy objectives on
broader internet governance issues?

Finally, is ICANN's interim board making substantive policy decisions,
before a membership is in place?  If so, can you explain how this
start-up procedure is justified given the terms of your agreement with
the United States government?

You are known for being meticulous.  We await your specific replies to
these questions.

Thank you.


Ralph Nader             James Love

James Love, Director, Consumer Project on Technology
I can be reached at, by telephone 202.387.8030,
by fax at 202.234.5176. CPT web page is


----- End forwarded message -----