09 May 2014

Google Says ICANN Board may have IANA Conflict of Interest

Domain name registrants, and internet users globally, owe a big thank you to Google for its forthright and courageous response to ICANN's Draft Proposal to Transition NTIA's Stewardship of the IANA Functions -- full Google document here (pdf), excerpts follow --

"....Community should be empowered to determine the scope of the transition discussion - The draft scoping document enumerates the role of the ICANN Board of Directors as follows: “...1) ensure that the process executed adheres to the principles outlined by the community input and the NTIA principles outlined for this effort, and 2) ensure that the parameters of the scope document are upheld.”

"At a minimum, this proposed plan creates the appearance of a conflict of interest, if not an actual conflict of interest, for the ICANN Board. The role of ICANN’s Board is to oversee all of ICANN’s business and operational actions and to ensure its continued solvency as an organization.* As such, the Board has a vested interest in ensuring ICANN’s continued relevancy within the Internet governance ecosystem and arguably has an interest in scoping the process to preserve ICANN’s existing role. While we are confident that ICANN’s Board would not act in a way that would harm the Internet or the IANA functions transition, the presence of a conflict of interest -- even if perceived -- could impact the overall integrity of the process. We urge ICANN to reconsider this path forward.

"Instead, ICANN should delegate the authority for deciding proper scope to the steering committee. As noted in the NTIA announcement, determining the parameters of the scope of the IANA transition process is a decision that should be left to the community, and the Board of Directors’ fiduciary duty to ICANN as an institution may cloud its ability to scope the process objectively. Allowing the steering group to perform this task would also free up the Board to work on other pressing matters facing the ICANN community, such as implementation of the ATRT recommendations and broader concerns over organizational accountability and transparency, which are closer to the Board’s remit....in order to ensure maximum global support for the transition plan, which will likely include both technical and policy components, it will require buy-in from both the technical and non-technical communities alike. Therefore, we would urge ICANN to consider broadening their scope to include other fora such as the global and regional Internet Governance Forum (IGF) meetings, including IGF 2014 in Istanbul, EuroDIG, and APrIGF and regional Internet-based summits like the Africa Internet Summit...."


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