What is the Right Model?
Consensus Limit ICANNís Authority?
the Right Standard?
Can ICANN be fixed?
b. †ICANNís Future
Could you define governance for us?
Governance?† In general?
In general? Then if you think there is a specialized definition
for the internet, what that would be?
I am thinking of political governance where there is an institution
that sets rules of conduct and enforces them.†
Do you have a different definition for the internet?
No but I donít think there is really an internet governance
Do you mean that as a descriptive matter Ė that it doesnít currently
exist Ė or do you think that it canít exist?
Well, I donít know if it can or it canít, but there doesnít
seem to beÖI would amend the first one and say that there is
some sort of centralized aspect to governance.†
Again I am thinking of institutionalized governance.† There doesnít seem to be anythingÖGovernance
of the internet seems to be kind of ad hoc.†
Do you think that is the appropriate approach?
No, I donít, but I am not sure.†
I donít have an answer about how things should be, but
I can describe the way things are now.† The way things are, it seems to me, is that there is no internet
laws that courts enforce in odd cases.†
Thereís some things that the FTC is looking into.†
Thereís ICANN.† It
does some little things on the fringes.†
Thereís the EU-US data protection, which seems to be
self-regulation.† Thereís nothing that is really regulating the
internet.† There are
a lot of little things.† It
is very chaotic.†
Is ICANN Governance?
So, I guess you just said that you donít believe ICANN is governance?
No.† What are they doing? What are they doing?† I think ICANN is kind of an interlude to something
that I donít quite know what will replace it, butÖICANN is in
an impossible situation basically.†
They were formed by the Commerce Department as kind of
non-profit corporation that was going to get in there and do
all this stuff in kind of a quick, no muss-no fuss manner that
the government is not capable of.† Thatís why they delegated all the stuff to a corporation.† Whenever ICANN tries to do something, everybody
howls because theyíre doing what the Commerce Department wanted
them to do.† People howl
that they are not acting enough like a government.†
They are in a no win situation.†
Whenever they try to do something, everybody cries about
it.† So I donít really think they can do anything. They are in an impossible
situation.† Like I say,
I donít think theyíll last.†
Itís just an interlude to something else is, but I donít
know what the something else is.†
For example, a year or two ago, they wanted to fund Ė
they had no funding so they put a tax on internet domain names
and Congress basically said what are you doing.† So they backed away from that.†
Now they have to borrow money or get loans from big corporations
to fund themselves.† I
thinkÖI read the other day in Cairo that they accept five thousand
dollar donations from law firms that want to distribute their
flyers on the outside of the meeting.† This is not my idea of a government.† I donít know what they are doing.†
far as the other aspect of ICANN Ė I know Harvard is working
on it Ė some sort of representation of the internet at large
through, I think the latest plan is that people would vote for
some sort of intermediary organization which in turn would nominate
people for certain seats on the board.†††
I am skeptical of that ever working too.†
I donít see how that is going to work.
In terms of the election process or in terms of what the board
I just donít think that the vast majority of people who use
the internet will bother to vote or take part in anything.†
Itís just too costless to tune it out.†
Q:† Who has a stake in ICANNís perpetuation?
The powers that be Ė the trademark owners, Hollywood studios,
people that want to protect their trademarks, law firms that
represent those clients, down the road others like copyright
holders.† There are a
coupleÖAs I said there are some consumer organizations, like
the Markel Foundation, that are trying to work within the system
to represent the average internet Joe.† But again I am skeptical.† I donít see how that process works.† The thing about Ė I used to have a professor
at college who I once asked and this was twenty years agoÖAt
that time there were just interactive T.V. experiments and I
can remember into him at the end of a political science lecture
and I said, ďSoon everyone will be voting by pushing a button
on top of the T.V. Isnít that a great thing.Ē He said, ďThat
would be a terrible thing because citizenship implies more than
just voting. It is taking an active part in the affairs of the
place you live.Ē† Thatís the problem with ICANN.† You need more than just a way to get some people
to vote.† You need some
sort of way for people to take part their own affairs and I
donít see how ICANN could do that.†
Whatís the major obstacle to that? Is it that ICANN needs to
be global and if itís going to be participatory and global,
it will never be efficient?†
Or is it a function of complex interests at home that
arenít going to allow it to succeed?†
I guess, the structure of ICANN.†
It is a not for profit corporation.†
I believe it is a non-voting, not for profit.†
The stockholders or the members of a not for profit donít
vote.† Itís not voting. So you basically have a board
that runs everything.† The
board by their own grace and favor will set up a system where
they are elected, but there are no voting members.†
I donít think theyíve changed the incorporation papers
to make it a voting thing.† Even if it were a voting, not for profit, thatís
not a government.† Thatís
not a governing system to me.†
A not for profit? I am not sure thereís going to be any
centralized thing, a global institution that runs everything.†
I have an open mind.†
I donít know what is going to happen.†
But I donít think ICANN is going to last very long.
What will bring it down?
At one point, they are going to try to do something that is
a little bit too much.† The people who donít like it wil complain to Congress or the Commerce
Department or in other countries and theyíll just kill it or
take away itís powers.† What
theyíve done is very little and itís not even on everyoneís
radar screen.† Law students are following it and certain reporters but my parents
donít know about it.† What
have they done?† They
have an arbitration system for domain names and I think that
is it.† Now they want to introduce some top level domainsÖbut that is really
nothing.† They would
argue that weíre not supposed to do anything.†
Everyone has it wrong.†
Weíre just a technical [group] that works out the domain
name system.† Everybody who is cryingÖwell, weíre really
not.† If they do very
little minor things, I think theyíll last.†
If they do big things like what youíd expect a government
would do, they wonít last.†
Does Consensus Limit ICANNís Authority?
It sounds a little bit like you are in agreement with ICANNís
argument about the way consensus works to check what they can
do Ė that, as you say, if they do something that really oversteps
what people think is appropriate for them, it will all fall
apart.† Is that right?
Well, that happened with the tax.†
Possibly.† I do think that if they did anything large,
the rug would be pulled out from under them.†
But I donít see them asÖwhen I think of internet governance,
I donít think about ICANN.†
I think about this crazy quiltÖwhat are the rules on
the net? Various court decisions, to me.† Thereís no real laws at this point.† Thereís no global organization doing anything.†
The World Trade Organization. I think some of the ICANN
stuff and some of the U.S. laws are in harmonization with W.T.O.
laws, but thereís nothing reallyÖthereís nothing.† Thatís what I keep getting back to.† I think what we are seeing is that the early
part of the internet is just very chaotic.†
Letís go back to that consensus idea for a second.†
When you hear people in ICANN talking about consensus,
what do you understand them as meaning?
What are they saying? I donít follow it that closely.†
Well that they take decisions by consensusÖ.
Whose consensus?† That kind of bubbles up through these supporting
what decisions are you referring to?
For example, the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy.
Well, I donít know.†
Is Consensus the Right Standard?
They say we donít have a voting mechanism.†
We do this all by consensus and consensus grows out the
technical origins of all of this, that itís the way technical
groups have always taken decisions.† Do you think thatís an appropriate standard
to be using in questions that look like they are becoming increasingly
I donít know what they mean by consensus.†
Who do they sound out to get a consensus from?†
My personal opinion? I donít like the idea of ICANN.†
I donít like the idea of a not for profit corporation
making decisions, delegated by the Commerce Department to make
decisions about anything involving the internet because I think
they are without accountability.†
Can ICANN be Fixed?
Is there any way to introduce accountability without totally
scrapping ICANN and starting over?
You have this indirect accountability.†
When they go too far, grand-standing politicians will
have a hearing, then ICANN will pull back.† Thatís what happened with the taxes but I wouldnít
really call that accountability.†
Itís indirect.† Maybe
the next time they wonít pull back but theyíll be emboldened.† Who knows?† Thereís no accountability.†
They donít represent Ė I donít think they can represent
or I am not convinced that they can represent the average internet
user.† I think that there
is just naturally a danger that they will sway towards the branches
that lend them money or give them money.†
Would you agree that there is a need for some centralized administrative
authority for assigning domain names and IP addresses?
I guess so.† There always has been one.† I guess so.†
I guess I am an old liberal but I would prefer it to
be run out of the Department of Commerce where thereís more
accountability.† But my way was rejected because when they tried
to do that, nothing happened.†
Thereís was gridlock.†
Congress and the government werenít capable of doing
anything.† So they dropped it off on this not for profit.† Ideally, I would like to see it more in the
government.† I am not
even sure why it is within their powers or interests to have
an arbitration system.†
Do you think keeping this within the U.S. government is appropriate
given the international character of the internet?
You mean domain names?
What is the Right Model?
Yes. Or would a treaty organization be a better model?
Probably a treaty organization.†
I just donít like the idea of a private non-profit setting
rules governing, without political accountability and without
the involvement of the average internet user.† Probably the better way to go would be a political
system, like part of the Commerce Department or part of the
United Nations.† But
that is not practical, that is not going to happen.†
Ideally, that should happen.†
My call Ė and weíll see if I am right in five years Ė
is that I donít think ICANN will be around very long.†
Do you think it is problematic that, given what ICANN has the
authority to do, that so many people seem to know nothing about
You mean the average person?
Yes, the average internet user. Someone who would say in response
to hearing the term ICANN, Ďyou can whatÖ?í
Theyíre not sure about a lot of things. †There
are also a lot of things about government people donít follow.†
But itís new.† [tape
corrupted]† Itís a my
eyes glaze over story.† The
average person canít really follow it.†
Itís just too new and too arcane.†
But that doesnít really mean anything. †
What do you think the internetís greatest promise is?
I think the global nature of the internet.†
Itís something that I am always reminded about as a journalist.†
When I write a story and I get emails from readers, frequently
some of my email comes from people in Australia, Germany or
India.† Itís just unbelievable.† I used to work for a newspaper and I never
got letters from readers Ė anywhere.†
Forget about foreign letters.†
So I am always reminded that this is really global.† Sometimes because I write about legal issues, so I hear from lawyers
in Germany saying you should write about this story here.† Itís just my personal feeling Ė and this is
a cliche Ė it really is a global thing.†
My personal feedback is global.†
I write emails to these people who write me.† I think that is its biggest promise.† Somehow it will bring people together in ways that havenít happened
have had these types of connections but people never have. Thatís
really important.† Thatís really unbelievable.†
Do you think there is anything ICANN can do today that would
Sure.† They could put a chokehold on things.† They are in a position to indirectly enforce
their policy by saying if you want a domain name or a license,
you have to meet X, Y, and Z conditions and one of the conditions
might be you have to follow ICANNís rules.†
I donít think they will do that but they could do that.†