Oi ICANN, you want the keys to the internet throne room? Open up to Freedom of Info law

Proposed Defending Internet Freedom Act resurfaces

Freedom to ask for information ... and be refused

The DIDP has proven virtually worthless, with ICANN refusing to provide anything but the most basic and publicly available information, citing a long list of justifications for doing so.

In possibly the worst example, ICANN refused to provide the conclusions of its own review team to one of two companies affected by an ICANN decision when one of the businesses decided to appeal the result.

ICANN then argued that the company was not able to make its case because it couldn't make a clear enough argument – largely because it didn’t know how the decision was made in the first place as ICANN had refused to tell it.

ICANN also a provided series of Kafkaesque responses in 2011 when asked to provide details of a secret board meeting where it decided to end its then-CEO's contract. Not only did it refuse to divulge the meeting's details, or even its existence, but the organization then refused to explain how it makes its decisions to refuse to provide information in the first place.

The second point in the bill about US government ownership of .gov and .mil is unlikely to prove contentious in the bigger scheme of things: no one is arguing that anyone else by the US government should be in charge of those top-level domains. But even the presumption that a group of internet volunteers should decide how critical parts of the US government's online machinery are allocated is likely to cause noise.

As to the last point about supporting the internet community efforts, this could prove beneficial to both the internet community and, ultimately, to the current administration.

Working together?

There are two main parts to the "naming" aspects of the IANA contract transition: the actual moving of the contract, and accountability changes that ICANN will need to make before it is allowed effective control of the contract.

ICANN's board and staff have been pushing back on the community's recommendations in an effort to take greater control of IANA, and to limit the depth of accountability measures so the board itself remains the ultimate arbiter of every decision.

The Obama administration has stated repeatedly that it expects ICANN to follow the community-derived plans. Last week, one ICANN board member made it plain that in the board's eyes at least, if ICANN was not happy with any aspect of the proposal, and it stated so, then that in itself would mean that consensus has not been reached and so the US government should not move forward.

In other words, the ICANN board is still trying to insist that it has a veto over any changes to its operations.

What this congressional bill, put before the House of Representatives, could do – especially if it passes into law – is undercut ICANN's own efforts to control the process by putting into law the requirement that the working group's proposals are introduced.

Of course, that supposes that the bill will in fact become law. Given Congress' almost superhuman inability to agree or pass anything at the moment, and given the fact that the IANA contract provides an easy rallying point for patriotic fervor, it is more than likely that Mike Kelly's proposed legislation will act more as a focuser of minds rather than a viable law. ®

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