[NA-Discuss] Foreign Policy and the Internet

Evan Leibovitch evan at telly.org
Fri Aug 10 16:07:21 UTC 2012

On 10 August 2012 09:12, Eric Brunner-Williams <ebw at abenaki.wabanaki.net>wrote:

> You may recall that the US DoC/NTIA issued a Request for Information on
> the IANA Function, a NOTICE under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA).
>  The response of the CEO, and presumably the Board, a COMMENT under the
> APA, viewed the IANA Functions as integral to the larger role of the
> contractor (ICANN).
> The views of then-CEO Beckstrom were endorsed by the ALAC in its COMMENT.
> The DoC/NTIA received several comments which offered a
> significantly different view on the contractual dependency of the IANA
> Functions and other functions exercised by the contractor (ICANN). I wrote
> one, co-signed by Beau Brendler and Jean-Jacques Subrenat, as did
> Bill Manning and Dimtry Burkov.
> You may also recall that the DoC/NTIA rejected the theory offered in the
> Beckstrom letter and subsequently published a Request for Proposals in the
> Federal Register for a competitive award of the IANA Function, independent
> of the other roles carried out by the current contractor.

And then, after all that hemming and hawing, the IANA contract was
eventually awarded to....
the current contractor.

Given the lack of transparency on all sides, we have no way of knowing
whether the USG rejection of the original ICANN position was on genuine
philosophical grounds, political gamesmanship vis the EU and ITU, or simply
trying to extract more concessions from ICANN. But the end result was the
status quo.

The effect on this process of Beckstrom's letter, the ALAC agreement with
it, or any ancillary comments is impossible to determine but was likely

The point I'm attempting to make is that agreement isn't advice, and the
> ALAC, which includes a candidate in the current election, agreed with a
> view rejected by government -- its advice did not help the Board.

I am puzzled by the logical leap from "the ALAC's point of view being
rejected by the US government", to "its actions were unhelpful or the wrong
thing to do". I am quite sure I -- and many of you -- hold many personal
beliefs that are contrary to various facets of US (or for that matter,
Canadian or any) government policy. Expressing those beliefs is hardly
unhelpful, and sometimes it is absolutely necessary.

One thing is for certain, though...  ALAC's bylaw-defined role is to advise
ICANN, not the US government. Our advice to ICANN on other matters -- most
notably on the excesses of over-zealous trademark protection and use of the
DNS redirection as a tool of law enforcement -- would similarly be
rejected. But that does not make it wrong (let alone unhelpful) to provide
such advice. In our comments on the GAC "scorecard" on the gTLD program,
the ALAC sometimes sided with the governments (to the chagrin of some of
our colleagues in civil society). But we also frequently pushed back,
agreeing with the established ICANN positions as being closer to what we
perceived as the global public interest. And sometimes we suggested a
middle ground between the two.

What ALAC *has* done -- something in which I have played a significant role
-- is markedly improving the relationship between ALAC and governments
within the ICANN sphere. I was one of the co-authors of the
first-*ever*joint GAC-ALAC statement, on gTLD applicant support. That
effort produced
results, changing previously-firm ICANN's policy; having that kind of
results-producing collaboration happen was more important that having my
signature on it. And more collaborative work is yet to come, as we research
areas of common concern such as ICANN's lack of transparency and its
difficulty in enforcing its own contracts.


- Evan

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