[CCWG-ACCT] Governments and ICANN

Andrew Sullivan ajs at anvilwalrusden.com
Sun Mar 6 10:02:19 UTC 2016

On Sun, Mar 06, 2016 at 09:28:14AM +0000, Nigel Roberts wrote:
> This is excellent and gets right to the heart of (one) of the
> misrepresentatons about the transition (that ICANN's fundamental structure
> will not change).

But it also unfortunately repeats another long-standing trope that
leaves people with the impression ICANN has a more central role
than it really does: "This includes developing and implementing
policies on how key technical functions of the Internet operate."

ICANN develops policies for one key technical function only: the root
zone of the DNS.  It is true that it implements other policies, but in
the straightforward sense of "follows the instructions of the
policy-developing organization" (i.e. the IETF and the RIRs).
Moreover, this CCWG has worked very hard to make sure the ICANN
mission is carefully limited in that one policy-development function.
This CCWG has also worked hard to make sure that it would be very hard
to change that mission in order to widen the scope.

I don't want to suggest that the root is not important: it is.  But
ICANN doesn't control the DNS, only the root; so the change in ICANN's
structure (which I freely acknowledge) does not mean that non-US
governments are somehow getting control over the DNS.  ICANN also
doesn't control the Internet more generally, and if governments and
the GAC were somehow able to use the new capabilites of the GAC to
attempt (say) to impose new conditions on IANA operation of protocol
parameters registries, I think we'd see pretty quickly a demonstration
of the operation of the IANA oversight measures.  And someone who is
worried about that anyway has to explain how the new GAC powers
actually make it capable of doing this anyway (the GAC is, after all,
only one of the SOs and ACs in the Empowered Community).

It isn't enough to observe that the structure of ICANN is changing.
It is necessary at the same time to understand the limitations on
action and the empowerment of the ICANN community that also comes
along with this structural change.  In my opinion, the trade off is
worth it, because I believe the community is sufficiently mature to
exercise its powers and thereby to counterbalance appropriately any
change in the role of the GAC.

Best regards,


Andrew Sullivan
ajs at anvilwalrusden.com

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