Election fever grips UK domain registry

Four places on Nominet's Policy Advisory Board up for grabs

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UK domain registry Nominet will announce the people standing for the four vacant positions on its Policy Advisory Board (PAB) on Monday.

Why is this of interest? Because the PAB is the link between everyday Internet users and Nominet's Council of Management that decides what it going to happen with the Internet in the UK.

The PAB effectively decides what should be done with existing domains (including disputes, transfers etc etc) and whether there should be any new ones (the creation of .me.uk last year for example). It also forms Nominet's official wider policy to the Internet and world at large.

Each year, four of the eight members voted onto the PAB go up for re-election (selection lasts for two years). Whoever wins joins two non-executive directors of Nominet and five representatives of important UK organisations (Companies House, CBI, Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys, DTI, National Federation of Consumer Groups) to make up the Board.

Since they are in the majority, democratically voted members can theoretically change the UK's approach to the Internet to whatever they deem necessary.

The four retiring members are: Adam Beaumont, Gordon Dick, Clive Feather and Peter Gradwell. They are entitled to stand for re-election, but will they? And who else is going for this influential role? We thought we'd find out.

In the 2001 elections when these four were selected, only five people stood. In 2002, this number jumped to 13. Will this number increase again this year? And will the low number of votes improve (201 in 2001, 261 in 2002)?

Existing Members

  • Adam Beaumont: YES Adam tell us he is standing for re-election. "It is important that there is representation from someone such as myself who understands the issues from a smaller businesses' perspective," he tells us.
  • Gordon Dick: NO Gordon tells us he is not going to stand for personal reasons. He will put out a statement soon, he says.
  • Clive Feather: YES Clive has been a part of the Internet since its inception and is standing again. Whether, if voted in, he will continue to press for the issue of .net.uk domains to be properly addressed will be interesting to see.
  • Peter Gradwell: YES Currently the chairman of the PAB, Peter tells us he will stand again. His intervention is thought to be behind the kicking of .net.uk into the long grass.

The following have all stood previously for the PAB.

  • Nigel Roberts: NO Nigel stood in 2001 and currently runs the Channel Islands domain registration service as well as being a member of its parliament. He tells us however that he has "plenty on my plate at the moment" and so will not be standing.
  • Andrew Banner: NO Andrew stood last year but won't this year. He says he might next year though.
  • Ray Bellis: NO Ray isn't standing and isn't sure if he will next year either.
  • Mike Blanche: DON'T KNOW We've left a message with his secretary. Mike is a former chairman of the PAB who retains strong links with Nominet. We wouldn't be at all surprised if he did stand.
  • Steve Bowbrick: DON'T KNOW Steve is making more of a name for himself as a blogger and occasional columnist for The Guardian these days. We reckon he'll stand if only for the good copy it would produce. He can call us back to confirm/deny.
  • James Conaghan: NO James says he was thinking about standing but has instead decided to support Sebastien Lahtinen.
  • Sebastien Lahtinen: YES Sebastien is standing for the second time this year. He reckons he is ideally placed since he understands both the consumer and ISP side of things. As co-founder of the excellent ADSLguide(.org.uk) he certainly has a point.
  • Matthew Thompson: NO "Not at the moment," Matthew tells us.
  • David Thurgate: NO David says he is not standing this year but his long-term business partner Angus Hanton is (see below).
  • Shirley Wood: NO Shirley is not standing as she has "more than enough going on at the moment". Shirley was part of Nominet before Nominet existed, including being part of JANET. She remains a big cheese at UKERNA which runs the ac.uk and gov.uk second-level domains.
New contenders:
  • Angus Hanton: YES Angus tells us he thinks the PAB could do with some fresh blood. He says he plans to 1) turn up to meetings, 2) promote .uk domains more and 3) push for lower costs.
  • Hazel Pegg: YES Character Hazel is well known on the Nominet mailing list and admits she is no techie but promises to be able to cut through the red tape.

So, in total, we know of six people standing. Hopefully there will be more, we shall find out on Monday - or sooner if any candidates feel like contacting us.

However, to end on a serious note. If these elections do not produce a larger number of candidates and certainly do not attract more votes (there are 2,800 members of Nominet who are all entitled to one vote, yet only 261 voted last year), then Nominet may have to reconsider how its carries out these elections.

The first we heard of them was on 3 February when the note "PAB Elections 2003" was posted on its site. The 3 February was also the closing date for nominations. This is hardly the transparent democracy that Nominet purports to follow.

The PAB also recently decided in its statement of purpose that gathering views from outside its "narrow interests" was essential. A wider understanding of the elections that make up the majority of the Board would seem to be the first place to start.

Voting papers will be issued along with individuals' statement on 10 February. Polls close one month later on 10 March and the results are announced two days later. The first meeting of the new PAB is then on 2 April.

If you're not a member of Nominet but would like to vote, you'll have to pay the £400 one-off entry fee and £100 annual renewal charge. And wait til next year. ®

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