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Congress Beats Up ICANN (Part 3)

Question and answer period at hearing gets testy.

In part 1 of our coverage of today’s U.S. House of Representatives hearing on ICANN, DNW covered committee member’s opening remarks. Part two covered witnesses’ opening testimony.

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.”

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  1. Rob Sequin says

    Ouch.

    ICANN feels the heat but does it matter.

    Who is the overseeing body of ICANN?

    If no one is in charge then all the ICANN bashing in the world really doesn’t matter.

    Great story Andrew.

  2. M. Menius says

    What an excellent way to end the day. Coming home to read these posts and to see that ICANN’s pompous disregard for others’ interests is finally put on display.

    ICANN have continued to fail in their mission and most specifically in genuinely listening to the needs of constituents. ICANN have repeatedly placed self-interest above the greater good, and in so doing compromised the internet’s security with absurd, indefensible proposals & poorly conceived plans such as the new gTLD fiasco.

    My personal anger toward the organization comes from their notable arrogance. And the seemingly constant mismanagement of funds, and back door alliances designed to advance ICANN’s status & financial position. Not to mention a shocking inability to recognize obvious deficiencies in their contracts with registries … which would have left millions of domain name registrants vulnerable to damaging price exploitation.

    Of course these kinds of criticisms are too close to the truth for ICANN. Consequently, they seem to engage in the art of misdirection often avoiding direct answers to the most obvious questions and issues. They are experts at talking loosely around a key issue without actually providing a clear answer or clarifying their exact position.

    Gratitude to the men and women in Congress who took the time to gain a grasp of the issues, and who were not willing to rubber stamp ICANN. People are fed up with arrogant bureaucrats. ICANN have revealed themselves the poster boy for wastefulness, secrecy, and self-advancement.

    Furthermore, ICANN without strict oversight is a joke. They have a long way to go to restore trust and credibility. We need such an organization no doubt. But without the required integrity, common sense, and true openness to community input (not the current fake version), ICANN will surface as a greater failure than what has already transpired.

    A very different breed of management is needed to set a new course … which must depart almost completely from the present day ICANN.

  3. M. Menius says

    I’m two hours into the hearing video and would characterize ICANN CEO Paul Twomey’s demeanor as perfectly illustrative of ICANN fundamental problem: aloof, arrogant, entitled, and pathologically resistant to being held accountable.

    Incredible window into how unhealthy this organization has become.

  4. jp says

    LOL. They chastise ICANN for not taking their surplus to make domains cheaper, while in the meantime ICANN is working on removing the price caps all together.

    ICANN needs to be split into multiple entities to provide a system of checks and balances much like our government (although many might argue that our checks and balances are a bit out of whack). ICANN is the govermnet for the virtual world. What kind of goverment would you say it is?

  5. Drewbert says

    >Twomey said ICANN has significant resources committed
    >to enforcing its registrar agreements.

    Pull the other one Paul, it’s got bells on it.

    What a crock of shit. Was he under oath?

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