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Interview: Rod Beckstrom on Affirmation of Commitments

September 30, 2009affirmation of commitments, Domaining, Domainnamewire, icann, Policy & Law, rod beckstromComments Off on Interview: Rod Beckstrom on Affirmation of Commitments

Domain Name Wire interviews ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom.

We have a new acronym to add to the domain name lexicon: AOC, for Affirmation of Commitments.

Earlier today the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) formally announced its new agreement to replace the Joint Project Agreement (JPA) with the U.S. Government.

On the surface, the AOC (pdf) sounds like a wish list of everything a domain owner could want: explanations from ICANN about how it makes particular decisions, a requirement to address important issues before releasing new gTLDs, and more openness and reviews. The problem is that the agreement lacks teeth.

I talked with ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom this afternoon to dig into some of the details of the agreement.

Beckstrom explained that the AOC replaces the JPA, allowing for more control by world governments; not just the United States. But the AOC is just one piece of the puzzle, and the U.S. government still has a hand by awarding ICANN the Internet Assigned Number Authority (IANA) contract.

“The IANA agreement gives us the authority to be the policy function globally for internet names and numbers, and that’s what holds the web together,” explained Beckstrom. “The JPA was the review process, a separate agreement that was trying to make sure that we grew up as an organization as a multi-stakeholder body.”

The AOC represents the handing off of the formal review process from the United States to the world.

But the AOC isn’t a binding contract and lacks teeth. If ICANN doesn’t fulfill its promises under the agreement, the U.S. government can’t do anything about it, other than make its voice heard on the review panels. In fact, the agreement has a clause that allows either the U.S. government or ICANN to cancel the agreement with 120 days’ notice.

“I don’t think anyone wants to see [the cancellation clause] invoked, but like any partnership agreement it’s prudent to have an out clause,” said Beckstrom.

Beckstrom explained that, as the priorities of ICANN change over the years, it may make sense for the agreement to be modified. For example, it might not make sense for frequent reviews of the effects of new TLDs ten years from now.

Section 9.3 of the AOC calls for ICANN to address many issues prior to releasing new top level domains. It’s unclear if this will slow down the introduction of new top level domains. However, “fast track” IDNs, which are essentially IDN ccTLDs, appear to be full steam ahead.

“It looks like the IDNs are tracking very much on time and feedback seems to be ubiquitously positive,” said Beckstrom.

Non ccTLD IDNs will be introduced as part of the new gTLD process.

The AOC, if followed, should be a positive thing for the domain name industry. And for those that thought the web would die when the JPA did, it appears to still be working.

© 2009.

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Reporters Without Borders: Keep the ICANN Status Quo

September 29, 2009affirmation of commitments, Domaining, Domainnamewire, icann, joint project agreement, Policy & Law, reporters without bordersComments Off on Reporters Without Borders: Keep the ICANN Status Quo

Press freedom advocate opposed to ICANN governance changes.

Reporters without BordersReporters Without Borders, an organization that pushes for freedom of the press, is urging the U.S. government to keep the status quo of internet governance. In an article on its web site, it suggests not handing any control of ICANN over to other governments.

No one underestimates the risks of maintaining an Internet governance system controlled by a single entity,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said. “But, given the current lack of a better solution, we think it would be better not to meddle with this mechanism. The EU proposal to create a sort of Internet G12 strikes us as dangerous. If it were implemented, nothing would stop countries that censor the Internet domestically, such as China, Saudi Arabia and Burma, from doing everything possible to restrict online access at the world level.”

Julliard added: “It is out of the question that governments that prevent their citizens from having unrestricted Internet access should tomorrow become the big shots in a worldwide Internet system. We prefer the current system which, despite its faults and weaknesses, has never threatened the free flow of online information. We therefore urge President Barack Obama not to rush into any decision that could do considerable harm to everyone’s right to unrestricted access to online information. The utmost prudence is required in this matter.

Reporters Without Borders, based in France, may be in for disappointment. The Economist has reported that ICANN is close to a deal with the U.S. government to enter a new phase of governance with more foreign government control.

The current agreement, dubbed the Joint Project Agreement, ends this month. Expect an official announcement on the future of the U.S.-ICANN relationship in the next 48 hours.

© 2009.

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