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Economist: ICANN Will Be Set Free This Month

According to The Economist, deal between ICANN and U.S. government is imminent.

The Economist is reporting that ICANN will likely be mostly set free this month, signing a four page “affirmation of commitments” with the U.S. government.

The Joint Project Agreement, which currently governs some of the government’s relationship with ICANN, is due to expire at the end of this month. The new “affirmation of commitments” is due to go into effect the day before the JPA expires.

According to The Economist:

[The agreement] gives ICANN the autonomy to manage its own affairs. Whereas prior agreements had to be renewed every few years, the new one has no fixed term.

The agreement sets up oversight panels that include representatives of foreign governments to conduct regular reviews of ICANN’s work in four areas: competition among generic domains (such as .com and .net), the handling of data on registrants, the security of the network and transparency, accountability and the public interest—the only panel on which America will retain a permanent seat. But there are no penalties if ICANN fails to heed its new overseers short of a termination of the accord.

ICANN’s other agreement with the U.S. government — to run Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) — runs through 2011.

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  1. Kieren McCarthy says

    I should state up front that I am ICANN’s general manager of public participation.

    But strictly from a personal perspective, if this article has got it right – and I suspect it has from the tone of the piece – this is a great result for all involved.

    ICANN and the whole model of DNS decision-making by all those affected, not just the most powerful, is given a solid foundation – and that is good news for the Internet (and a reflection of the Internet’s power of communication).

    The United States’ free market mentality and its open, democratic and accountable approach to the Internet, which made the Internet what it is today, is retained – but without there being this direct oversight by the US government that has been causing tension for years.

    And the international Internet community becomes the overseer of ICANN and its work, as well as getting an additional accountability mechanism in the form of a series of reviews.

    The actual agreement won’t be out until next week so who knows if there will be changes to what the Economist says will be in it and what actually appears, but from the perspective of someone that has followed this issue for eight years – and who sat through the very long and often painful WSIS discussions, this feels right to me.

    Again, I feel obliged to point out that, yes, I work for ICANN but, no, I haven’t seen the agreement. And, yes, I am writing from a personal perspective.


  2. Global Biz says

    If the U.S. gov’t gives Icann total freedom, it will be the beginning of the end of domaining.

    Within 4 yrs, Verisign will increase the renewal fee for DNW.com from $ 8. to $ 1,000.

    And, Google will have to pay Verisign $ 100K a yr. to renew the domain.

    It cements Icann and Verisign monopolistic control over domain pricing.

    Now is the time to sell your prime domains because they will be worth less in the future.

  3. Fanny says

    This is a disaster in the making.

    The U.S. Gov’t will live to regret this and once they let it go it will look bad trying to take it back.

    Congrat’s ICANN on outmaneuvering every legitimate interest other than the money-grubbing registrars, most notably ENOM, the NAF and WIPO, and the lawyers.

    Way to go! You just ruined up the Internet forever. I really mean that.

  4. jblack says

    “…the international Internet community becomes the overseer of ICANN…”

    Huh?? Who is this “international Internet community”? What specific authorities have been granted to that/those entities? What mechanisms do they have to assure ICANN compliance as “overseer”?

    The author does not live remotely close, let alone in, the real world.

  5. Domain Investor says

    It was Clinton that initiated this agreement.
    And, it will be Obama that lets them go.

    2 different democratic presidents.

    Icann (thru Verisign) is going to put the squeeze on every major domain owner. Are we sure that the Mafia hasn’t taken control of Icann. This looks like their style of operation.

    This is such a major mistake that it might end up putting the republication party in control.

  6. M. Menius says

    Hugely disappointed. ICANN have not been the ambassadors of good will.

    @Kieren – “…direct oversight by the US government that has been causing tension for years”.

    US government oversight has been causing tension? Honestly Kieren, I don’t think the US government is, or has been, the root of ICANN’s problems. That falls squarely on ICANN itself.

    Only time will tell.

  7. Kieren McCarthy says

    @Fanny: You have provided no analysis or explanation for your view. I think you’ll find the Internet will keep sailing along fine.

    @jblack: Panels of experts. And I am assuming the reports will be put out for public comment, as is the ICANN norm.

    @DomainInvestor: I’m not sure partisan politics has anything to do with this.

    @M.Menius: I have no idea why you choose to ignore bald facts but I’ll leave you to it.


  8. L Sprint says

    ICANN works for those they regulate (period).

    Now a green light is given to the ten rogue registrars accounting for 90% of the spam in our inboxes.
    True, ICANN never did anything anyway, but now they are allegedly under zero government oversight and cyber criminals can serially register thru the Xin Net’s of the registrar world with total abandon.
    —Heckofajob NTIA/DofC. Thanks loads…

  9. Terry Allen says

    Well, deregulation worked so well for the banks viz the world economy…

    Great news for the registrars, a VERY sad day for John Q Public.

  10. Rob Smith says

    What an enormous win for cyber criminals.
    The few rotten registrars they hide behind are now completely exhonerated -as ICA$$ just worries about very narrowly defined contracts.

    “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)

  11. Domain Investor says

    Quote –
    “Well, deregulation worked so well for the banks viz the world economy…”

    Isn’t that ironic. It was Clinton that initiated the de-regulation of banks.

  12. Terry Allen says

    “Isn’t that ironic. It was Clinton that initiated the de-regulation of banks.”

    You have your history backward. True, BC signed it. The bill was written by Phil Gramm- not BC.

    Be that as it may, history now repeats itself with a new boner.

  13. Chris Beach says

    If this goes ahead, ICANN will be answerable to no-one and when they remove the pricing caps, which they inevitably will, Verisign will have the internet community by its collective balls.

    I bet if we dig deep enough there is some corruption at hand here. Who in ICANN’s board holds Verisign shares either directly or through holding companies? Are there any commercial links between Beckstrom and Verisign? What shares does Paul Twomey now own?

  14. Pat Quinn says

    If true, this is an absolute travesty. ICANN has repeatedly shown that it pays no attention to its main constituency – domain name registrants. Instead it bows to the registrars and its’ own greedy vested interests.

    Yet another case where U.S. government control is better than private control.

    ICANN is an unmitigated disaster in terms of management, oversight or any meaningful measurement of administration.

    Call your Senators and Congressional Representatives NOW!

  15. jblack says

    “@jblack: Panels of experts. And I am assuming the reports will be put out for public comment, as is the ICANN norm.”

    Hilarious. What panel? What “experts”? What makes an expert? Public comments? What public comments has ICANN ever considered and used?? What a joke. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. You are in fantasy land if you think otherwise, go live there. Unless you renounce your U.S. citizenship and live elsewhere, you are a hypocrite.

    No answers to these questions….What specific authorities have been granted to that/those entities? What mechanisms do they have to assure ICANN compliance as “overseer”? Because there is no good answer.

  16. M. Menius says

    @Kieren – @M.Menius: I have no idea why you choose to ignore bald facts but I’ll leave you to it.

    Kieren, if it were only that simple. You are too deeply embedded into ICANN infrastructure to see anything above & beyond ICANN’s self-enhancement doctrine.

    They pay your check, no? And you’ve consistently echoed the ICANN bottom line for close to 8 years? Your representation of ICANN would be better respected, and ultimately more compelling, if you did not blindly defend the organization’s every move. You come off as the proverbial ICANN pansy by refusing to acknowledge any of ICANN’s mistakes, or the collective concerns of ICANN observers and critics.

    I don’t doubt the sincerity of your beliefs. It’s the blind indoctrination to ICANN’s policies and the “ICANN can do no wrong” mentality which characterize almost every public comment you post.

    “Bald facts” are that an enormous number of internet stakeholders, including government organizations and Fortune 500 corporations, informed ICANN their new gTLD proposal was ill-conceived. One either acknowledges the reality of that, or trivializes it. ICANN are generally dismissive, and your responses here pretty much the same. More of the same. That is not the way to build a bridge with the internet community.

  17. Larry Sprint says

    Given that ICANN is stuck in a narcissistic loop,
    WHY would NTIA make the decision ?
    It seemed they had ample public comment re: incompetence (or worse) of ICANN ?

    Looking forward to reading NTIA line of ‘reasoning’.

  18. anon says

    Kieren McCarthy used to have a low paying job where he would write articles critical of ICANN. Then they bought him off and gave him a job where he travels around the world trying claiming ICANN is legitimate. These people will soak the Internet users any way they can.

    As for spam control, that has nothing to do with ICANN and they have no business getting involved other than to make sure registrars comply with the requirements (which ICANN does not do). ICANN also has no business “protecting” trademark owners or any other specific business. if anything they should protect domain registrants and should not meddle in intellectual property issues.

  19. H Hoyt says

    Granted they bought Kieren off but–
    about the only control over cyber crime appears to be to reign in the rogue registers who serially sponsor the same filth over and over (ref Xin Net, China Springboard, etc) via an organisation that, uh, regulates.

    For years, ICAANN has contrived to build the RAA to narrowly reflect dollar flow considerations only. Transparency ? Yeah, sure. Uh where are those board meeting minutes ? AL is a joke.

    Without a “regulator” to put teeth into registrar activities (RAA), the rogue registrars are free to continue throwing away documented reports of their SERIAL sponsorship of spam sites (spelled Canadian Pharmacy). Eg, business as usual.

    Serially re-registering the same criminals over and over accounts for approximately 90% of inbox spam and is perpetuated by approx 10 registrars- who now have a green light.

    SpamHaus, URIBL, and Knujon (among others) do a great job of documenting the problem. To what end- if government washes their hands and control is finalised to a seriously corrupted amoral organisation running without a clue ???

    I agree with Rob,
    “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)

  20. anon says

    Spam is a problem but that is not ICANN’s job. There are many problems in the world and ICANN is not responsible for all of them.

    If there are issues of businesses operating illegally it is the job of law enforcement to get court orders. ICANN’s only role would be to enforce court orders, not decide who is or is not a spammer.

    For instance, there is telemarketing fraud but it is not the job of telephone companies to listen to everyone’s conversation and decide what is illegal. It is also not their job to look at the criminal, civil, or other complaints (such as something similar to spamhaus) to decide who and who should not get phone service. If someone is convicted of using a phone illegally then it is up to a judge to deny the person/business from using a phone. Can you imagine the phone company going around cutting off service because they received complaints from some private outfit that monitors phone call complaints?

  21. Larry Sprint says

    “Spam is a problem but that is not ICANN’s job”

    Ergo, the registrar should be able to disregard cyber crime reports re: registrant.
    Right ?
    There should be zero influence of the relationship between registrar and registrant.
    Even when it is proven the registrant is a criminal. Right ?

    Such is the state of things- this will obviously continue to degrade from the present state of 90% email = spam.

    Interesting- no one is responsible !

  22. Kieren McCarthy says

    Sorry not responded to comments directed at me earlier.

    @Andrew: Yes, the international community has been very vocal about the USG oversight mechanism for years.

    Both ICANN and the USG have said that there this is a very light touch relationship and there is no day-to-day management at all by the USG, but the oversight has become symbolic in many people’s minds. A global Internet treated as the property of one country.

    This new agreement should help remove that symbolism while retaining the very useful role and philosophy that the United States has imbued into ICANN (openness, accountability, multi-stakeholderism, competition, no direct controls etc etc).

    @L Sprint: This agreement will have no impact of the issue you mention of registrars and spam. You may not have seen the significant amount of compliance work that ICANN has done in the past year.

    Go here to see what is being done with this issue: http://www.icann.org/en/compliance/

    @howard hoyt: Corrupt how? All the money that ICANN receives is publicly announced; all the money is spends is published; the budget is put out for public comment before it is adopted; the community devises the operating plan that creates the budget. Where is the corruption?

    Please go to this blog post to see all of ICANN’s financial information: http://blog.icann.org/2009/08/all-our-financial-information-at-the-click-of-a-button/

    @Terry Allen and Domain Investor: Not sure your analogy with banks and deregulation has any connection in this case. This is actually a very good day for John Q Public re: ICANN. It means that the report previously provided just to the US government will now be published to the global community – and that includes you.

    @Rob Smith: I agree with your Edmund Burke quote. In this case, it will be up to you to make sure you don’t do nothing. ICANN will be accountable to the whole global community. It is now your job to make sure that you participate in ICANN’s work. So don’t do nothing, get involved in ICANN.

    @ Chris Beach: ICANN will be accountable to more people not fewer. And accountable to you – if you want to make changes, get involved. If you have never contributed to an ICANN public comment period – why not do it today? It’s a single email.

    @Pat Quinn: ICANN has two groups for the average Net user – the whole ALAC – which will shortly have a voting seat on the Board; and the NCSG, which will have several voting members on the GNSO Council – the main policy making body of ICANN.

    If you aren’t happy with the ways these groups work or how they organize or how they are received within ICANN, then get involved and use your passion to improve things than complain about them.

    @M.Menius, anon, H Hoyt: As tempting as it is to take the bait and respond to personal accusation, I’ll think I’ll just continue to let trolls be trolls.


  23. Chris Beach says

    @Kieran – I have contributed to various ICANN public comment periods. The point is ICANN fail to respond to our concerns. There is a complete lack of transparency within the organization and the best we can hope for are weasel-words that avoid the question.

    To give you a clear example – all domain owners are concerned that, due to the even playing-field rules for each registry, that once newGTLDs are introduced with no price caps, the .COM registry will request that their price-caps be removed, which ICANN will have to accept. Once this is done, what is to stop Verisign from asking me to pay $100,000 per year to renew my best domains? Tell you what – phone Rod Beckstrom right now, ask him that exact question and ask him to reply in an open letter to the internet community.

    We don’t want to here about “studies” by “leading economists”. Give us some hard evidence that it won’t happen, or set reasonable price caps to protect business owners – not just domain investors, but all internet businesses. So there’s a concern – let’s see a response Kieran.

  24. Domain Investor says

    Quote –
    “A global Internet treated as the property of one country.”

    As much as you say – “get involved if you want change”, Icann does what they want anyway.

    Icann request public input but they do the opposite. They just try to humor the stakeholders by requesting their input.
    Making them feel involved.

    Without re-hashing all that has been said, Icann needs to be accountable to someone.

  25. Kieren McCarthy says

    @Chris and Domain Investor: So both of your broad concerns appear to be that ICANN does not adequately explain how it makes decisions and how it responds to public comment.

    If that is a fair summary of what you mean, let me agree with you. I have been working for two years on making that process better. And it has got much, much better but it still needs plenty of work.

    What I can tell you is that precisely those concerns are addressed in the new affirmation agreement.

    I asked for an overview of what’s in the new agreement and specifically asked about those aspects that are most dear to me – namely effective reporting back to the community about what is done with their comments and how decisions were arrived at.

    So, if your concern is that this change in relationship with the US government will diminish that accountability process, I think you will find the opposite is true.

    Obviously it all depends on the document itself but I am led to believe your main concern is a part of the new agreement.


  26. Chris Beach says

    @Kieran, specifically our concern is whether we’ll have to pay thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to renew our domains if Verisign .COM, .NET and .ORG price caps are removed.

    For example, let’s say I have a business at Sunglasses.com which makes $10,000,000 per year. What will be stopping Verisign from charging me $1,000,000 per year to renew Sunglasses.com? They will be able to charge whatever they think the market can bear on a domain by domain basis. They could charge Google $1 billion to renew and ICANN would allow that.

    We want an answer.

  27. Chris Beach says

    Just to clarify the reasoning – the registry agreements state that all registrys must be given equal treatment by ICANN. Therefore, if there are no price caps on a newGTLD (.BANK for example), the .COM registry (Verisign) can request that its price caps are removed and ICANN must then comply.

    Once the price caps are gone, Verisign can charge anything they like to effectively force a domain owner to hand over his domain. If I own Bank.com, Verisign can ask me to pay $10,000,000 per year to renew and I will have to simply hand it back. Verisign has the monopoly on its TLDs, so there won’t be an alternative.

  28. Steve DelBianco's Labelmaker says

    If you think that ICANN will allow registries to discriminate between domains within registries (i.e. charging $1m for google.com, etc) you’re high. That will NEVER happen.

  29. M. Menius says

    @Kieren – The pointed criticism you find so offensive is the natural result of ICANN avoiding to answer the very questions posted by Chris Beach up above. You are obviously interested in communicating with the posters here. That seems like a good start.

    Why not listen carefully to the questions, pass them to Mr. Beckstrom, and post back an answer that addresses the concerns raised by Chris Beach. That is all we have ever asked.

    Please don’t humor the posters here with vague responses. Be clear, be concise, and to the point. Specific answers to clear questions. Many interested parties would sincerely appreciate an honest, substantive response.

  30. anon says

    “I’ll think I’ll just continue to let trolls be trolls.”

    Translation: I take no responsibility for my actions, I will not respond complaints about my actions, and I will ridicule anyone who complains about my actions. That is the ICANN way.

  31. Chris Beach says

    @Steve – as Andrew pointed out above, this already happens in ccTLD extensions like .TV, and is the pricing model that some of the new GTLDs are proposing. So no, I’m not high. If the new GTLDs get approved, the existing GTLDs, through the level playing-field clauses in the registy agreements, will be able to ask for the removal of price caps and ICANN won’t be able (or willing?) to deny them.

  32. Chris Beach says

    @Steve – think of it this way – Let’s say I own a business selling labelmakers at Labelmakers.com, making $50,000 profit per year. A leading manufacturer, let’s say Brother, approaches me and offers $100,000 for my domain. I refuse, of course, as it’s worth more than two year’s revenue.

    Brother then approach Verisign (a for-profit company) and offers them $100,000 for Labelmakers.com. That’s money for nothing for Verisign. When my renewal comes around I find the price per year is $100,000. I can’t pay and lose the domain. Verisign gets a “free” $100,000.

    And that’s assuming they don’t simply auction it off to the highest bidder. And who’s going to stop them? ICANN?

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