Question and answer period at hearing gets testy.
The real fireworks started when the committee members asked questions of the witnesses. Committee chairman Rick Boucher (D-Virginia) started the questioning by following up on Verizon’s comments about cybersquatting. (Verizon had said that cybersquatting is still rampant and that many of the cybersquatters are actually ICANN-accredited registrars.)
Boucher addressed ICANN president and CEO Paul Twomey about this, asking how registrars that are cybersquatters are allowed to exist. Twomey said ICANN has significant resources committed to enforcing its registrar agreements. Verizon Vice President Sarah Deutsch responded that ICANN hasn’t taken any steps against registrars that are cybersquatters. Twomey said his recollection is that they have taken action against cybersquatter registrars, but sometimes they take action under a different contract breach for expediency.
Boucher asked Twomey to write a letter explaining what ICANN has done to address cybersquatting registrars and the number of related de-accreditations.
Rep. Cliff Stearns, (R – FL) proceeded to blast ICANN’s financial surplus. He said ICANN should start acting like a non-profit and use excess money to lower costs to registrars and registrants. Stearns continued to berate Twomey, suggesting the current $7M surplus should be used to address cybersquatting or make domain names cheaper for consumers.
Stearns addressed Thomas Lenard, president of the Technology Policy Institute, during his questioning of Twomey. Stearns said that ICANN is able to choose what it does with the money because it is only accountable to itself.
Rep. John Dingell (D – MI) then asked a series of yes or no questions, such as if ICANN’s contract with VeriSign was transparent. For most questions the NTIA representative abstained, ICANN answered yes, VeriSign went with ICANN some of the time, and the rest of the witnesses replied ‘no’.
Next there was a bit of a showdown between GoDaddy’s General Counsel Christine Jones and Twomey. Jones chided ICANN for lack of transparency, citing its private board meetings and contract negotiations with registrars. Jones said Go Daddy has made several requests to ICANN for information but “we basically get stonewalled”. Twomey responded that Jones’ claims weren’t true, but Rep. John Shadegg ( R – AZ) strongly questioned Twomey’s assertions. For example, he questioned if Twomey’s assertion of meeting transcripts were true or if there were just meeting minutes.
I spoke with Jones after the hearing concluded. She was very happy with “huge turnout on that type of hearing” by representatives. She said ICANN won’t be accountable if it’s only accountable to itself. For example, ICANN’s outside review boards operate under rules created by ICANN’s board, and ICANN’s board ultimately decides what action to take based on the outside review.
Jones said she thinks most representatives want to extend the JPA “not because they want the U.S. government to have a heavy hand in the internet, but because the transition to private sector management is still in process. We just haven’t quite reached that destination yet.” Jones continued, “It’s not a partisan or controversial issue. Let’s keep the internet safe and secure until ICANN can stand on its two feet to do that.”