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ICANN crunch meeting begins

Budget battle to define future of Net body

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Time and management

Pritz responded robustly to Centr's allegations that it is hoplessly inefficient (it has a huge per-capita cost): "That is a reaction to an increase in the budget. I challenge anybody to find an inefficiency." He said a lot of things were currently not getting done because the resources aren't there. "ICANN keeps have the same meetings with the same people." Everyone knows what the problems are, but they don't have the time or resources to get on with them.

He lists such issues. Proactive compliance - making sure that registrars act in compliance with their contracts. Allowing for a complaints procedure. Making all ICANN documentation and aims available in different languages. Setting up offices across the world. Few can argue with such aims.

Then there is adding IPv6 - a vital change to the Internet infrastructure to allow more devices to attach to the Internet. And the issue of new top-level domains. On both of these subjects ICANN has been forthcoming, rather than its usual reticent self. ICANN, Pritz reiterates several times, is "not increasing or expanding our role" - it is simply getting things done. And that's going to cost a bit exta.

Centr isn't exactly sure it needs to cost that much extra however. The actually listing and changing of the Internet main servers has gone from costing $250,000 in 1996 to $5m under the new budget, it stated - where is the justification? Pritz responded that the part of ICANN that deals with that aspect, IANA, had more on its plate that just changing servers: "IANA also has a technical operations department with several intiatives. The Department of Commerce requires a contingency plan for a natural disaster. Plus it need some new hardware, it is moving some systems."

What about the assertion that IANA shouldn't have anything to do with ICANN in the first - that it exists a purely functional entity that could be separately funded and run? Pritz is having none of it: "IANA is intrinsically bound up with ICANN - they have their technical operations here. If IANA was on its own, we would have to hire them." And that, Pritz says, would be very expensive.

Other things that the money will be spent on: an improved redelegation process, target waiting times for changes to made to the Net infrastructure (which ICANN will publish). A Whois reporting system; $175,000 will go in new computers for staff; the third annual meeting budgeted for is just an overlapping issue and there will still only be two main meetings a year.

Proportional representation

Pritz promised that each part of the budget was seen as a separate project and possessed its own project leader. However, that is as far as we were allowed to dig down into the figures. ICANN does not track the costs associated with each project, Pritz said. And while he agreed with our suggestion that a New Labour-style targets regime would be very useful is demonstrating to people that ICANN had changed its spots and was now working for the Internet community as opposed to itself, he failed to provide a single target that the organisation would meet.

But this will all be beside the point and academic by the end of the week. The big question, the only question, is will ICANN's budget get approved? And when it comes to approval, there is only one figure that you need to remember: two-thirds.

Registars - the people you buy domain names from - will pay two-thirds of the increased budget (70 per cent). The smaller registrars say the new fees will ruin them. But ICANN only needs a two-thirds majority vote to get it past them. And the big registrars - who stand to gain - account for that magic two-thirds, because voting rights are ascribed according to the number of domains sold.

The other problem - the country-code domain managers who don't like ICANN trying to impose its approach - well they remain in a minority on the Internet. Exactly two-thirds of the domains in existence are non-ccTLDs (country code top level domains). The problem however is that the UK and Germany account for two-thirds (59.4 pe rcent) of all those other domains and they refuse to play along with ICANN on any level.

But the one area where it works in ICANN's favour is that ccTLDs will contribute just five percent of the new budget. It can live without them - financially anyway. And for the moment. What ICANN is hoping is that the new money will enable it to persuade the rest of the world that it can get things done. Once it has done that, there remains no obstacles. At the end of the week, we will be able to see how much further down that path it has got. ®

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