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Congress Beats Up ICANN (Part 1)

Members of the House rip into ICANN over pricing, transparency, and security.

It wasn’t pretty.

For better than two hours today, members of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet took turns ripping into Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and its President/CEO Paul Twomey. If nothing else, ICANN’s experience on Capitol Hill today will give it all the more reason to try to get out of U.S. oversight. In addition to discussing the Joint Project Agreement, members also discussed the introduction of new top level domain names.

The hearings started with committee members spending two minutes on opening remarks. You can generally divide the members’ into three categories:

1. Well informed about subject matter
2. Didn’t know subject matter and admitted it
3. Didn’t know subject matter but read their staff notes and pretended like they knew about it

Almost all representatives were in favor of extending the Joint Project Agreement with ICANN, which they believe will provide more U.S. control in the internet’s naming system. Here are a few of their comments:

Rep. Cliff Stearns, (R – FL), seemed to focus on ICANN’s financial interests. He sharply questioned Twomey on ICANN’s reserve fund, Twomey’s salary, and even how much Twomey worked in the California office. Stearns repeatedly referred to ICANN as “I-CON” by accident in his opening remarks.

Rep. Mike Doyle (D – PA) questioned ICANN’s $4.5 million in stock losses. “I’m afraid ICANN seems better at furthering its own interests” than those of internet constituents, said Doyle. He also questioned the introduction of new top level domain names.

Rep. Lee Terry (R – NE) said control of the internet’s naming system “could be a matter of national security”. He also said the United States Government created the internet and needs to be in charge.

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D – CA) said she’s against cutting ICANN loose because countries that try to stifle freedom of speech may get control.

Rep. John Dingell (D – MI) was particularly harsh, saying ICANN was hardly a good model of governance and that it would be “wholly unwise to reduce further participation” by the U.S. Government. He also said ICANN’s contracting process with .com registry VeriSign (NASDAQ: VRSN) had a “deplorable lack of transparency”.

In the next part of Domain Name Wire’s coverage of today’s hearings I’ll summarize what some of the witnesses said and the line of questioning from committee members.

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  1. M. Menius says

    ICANN representatives should speak directly to questions asked. Anything less will obviously strain the dialogue further.

    The public is expecting high level responses, not pat answers. That means ICANN need to address the writers’ questions. Not filibuster.

  2. Colin says

    The US government created the internet and needs to be in charge?

    Oh dear oh dear. They havent done a very good job at being in charge of anything else. UN anyone?

    • Andrew Allemann says

      @ Colin – although I didn’t think that was well articulated by the Congressman, don’t blame the U.S. for the U.N. And we certainly don’t want ICANN to become like the U.N….which is part of the reason the JPA should be extended.

  3. Drewbert says

    >and with full expectation of an answer either during or >after the Sydney meeting later this month.

    Of course, “full expectation of an answer” doesn’t mean there’ll actually be an answer forthcoming.

    ICANN is expert at not answering questions they don’t care to.

    Kieran’s become very good at political double-speak since moving over to the dark side.

    • Andrew Allemann says

      @ Drewbert – they’ll answer it, it just may not be the complete answer you want to here. I think it’s good ICANN is doing this, but “real” answers are done live. They won’t get through all of the questions and will have time to respond accordingly at a later date with spin.

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