[At-Large] - Price caps - was: The Case for Regulatory Capture at ICANN | Review Signal Blog

Karl Auerbach karl at cavebear.com
Sun Jun 30 07:22:25 UTC 2019

It is not often that someone characterized me as supporting the status 
quo at ICANN.  ;-)

I am in strong agreement with Evan that the stakeholder model is a failure.

I, obviously am a staunch advocate of absolute bottom up - by humans - 
governance.  But I know that I'm not winning that argument.

Political and economic forces are building that may drive the net to 
regionalize - either around nations, big companies [e.g. Facebook or 
Google], or institutions [e.g. the US military] .  And that could bring 
a plethora of mechanisms, possibly inconsistent. My own sense is to 
prepare for that and seek mitigations rather than to try to resist to 
the last breath.

What to do about ICANN?  Well, first we should agree upon the job(s) 
that ICANN, or a constellation of ICANN spin-offs, should be doing.  
(And, similarly, what it should not be doing.)

I've always felt that ICANN was too vaguely defined - for instance has 
ICANN ever come up with a definition of what is this "Internet" that 
they are dealing with?  (Until now this has been a somewhat academic 
complaint, but there are non-technical forces afoot that may make this 
quite important.)

Much as I like to make noises about competing DNS roots, I recognize 
that the current system, technically, is quite well run and that there 
is no reason for technical changes to the operations of the vastly 
dominant DNS root system.  (There are reasons to consider new protocols 
post DNS, but that's another topic altogether.)  Political forces may 
drive the world to have multiple, but I hope largely consistent, root 
systems.  And we are in luck that DNSSEC can still work in such a 
universe.  But ICANN and the root server operators have set a standard 
of technical performance that aspirants will have to work hard to match.

The IETF and ICANN have done a rather good job of dealing with the 
linguistic and cultural issues - it's hard to stuff all of those issues 
into what is really a sequence of no more than 256 bytes/octets composed 
of chunks each no larger than 64 octets.

And the IETF and ICANN can declare the provisioning protocols used by 
registrars and registries to be a success.

ICANN (and IANA and the IETF) can claim success in getting DNSSEC in 
place (even if it is still under-utilized.)

I don't agree with the business model that ICANN has imposed - but it is 
here and in place; we can't just cancel it.  (But we can slowly change it.)

But while that business model structure is in place - and it will be in 
place for a long time - part of ICANN needs to manage it. But I don't 
think that that management needs to be in one unified ICANN entity.  
Some parts could be entirely spun off - IANA really needs no tie to 
ICANN at all - it's tie to ICANN is merely a matter of administrative 
convenience (and if IANA is spun-off, it would take the ties to the 
RIR's with it.)  It would be a small thing, but ICANN could relinquish 
the L root server job to another organization.

It's in the business practices area and the bias in favor of 
intellectual property rights over other rights where ICANN is most in 
need of serious reform.

Thee are some parts which could be split out and about which I think we 
could come to an agreement - for example, a chunk of ICANN that makes 
sure that "contracted parties" actually adhere to the contracts and 
respond to the public could be a useful and well confined spin-out.

Similarly, as was mentioned the other day - the gap between legacy TLD 
registry costs and the ICANN defined registry fee (which is what the 
price-cap removal stuff is all about) ought to accrue to a 
public-spirited ICANN spin-off rather than the legacy registry.  We can 
argue about the level of the mandated registry fee, but that's a 
separate issue and involves a long and difficult discussion whether 
ICANN (and ICANN mandated pricing) ought to be used as a tool to fight 
some internet evils or whether that should be done by other means.

The three-way fight between registrants, trademark protectors, and law 
enforcement over "whois" and accuracy will continue no matter what we 
do.  But the stakeholder model has, in my opinion, given too little 
weight to those whose most immediate interest is privacy (I don't think 
that anyone is saying that IP rights or law enforcement are not 
important interests, rather this is a debate about relative weights of 
the interests and procedures to protect those interests.)

There was a small tweak to the stakeholder system that I suggested 
decades ago but was roundly ignored but which I still feel could be of 
value: This would be to require credentials from those claiming 
stakeholder roles.  For instance, does ICANN validate that those 
representing corporations actually have the permission of the 
corporation to speak in ICANN on the corporations' behalf.  Same for 
those who claim to represent governments - do they really have the 
credentials from the proper authorities in those governments to act 
within ICANN?  Such a requirement might fill those seats with people who 
have a more synoptic, broad point of view that encompasses more than 
whatever narrow issue drove that person to engage with ICANN.

An overall issue for ICANN is its tendency for expansion of both of its 
role and the size of its org chart.  Even though revenue is down there 
is still too much of it that is giving people ideas about new things to 
do.  And the number of employees has grown beyond my comprehension.  (I 
too often hear conversations that are almost as if they were a Hollywood 
movie studio looking for the next sequel of some successful film - 
ICANN, the Ultimate Generation To the Stars and Beyond....)  I believe 
that the stakeholder model has contributed its piece to this desire to 
extend, as has the tsunami of cash from the big round of TLDs a few 
years back.  But I think the largest cause has been a long held practice 
of ICANN's Board of Directors to hire "big name" Presidents (at ever 
more grand salaries) and let that person run the shop with relatively 
weak oversight or constraint from the board thus resulting in mission 
creep - or mission gallop - and ever growing org charts and staff.


On 6/29/19 4:57 PM, Evan Leibovitch wrote:
> Hi Roberto,
> Thanks for the good words. I agree about the unfortunate situation we 
> now have of an inability to have a true debate on this. But the 
> biggest problem with gap between my position and Karl's is that his is 
> the status quo at ICANN and has zero incentive to give any ground. 
> There is no reason to change existing entitlements, no interest to do 
> any thinking inside the box or out. There are no minor consequences 
> for bad behavior, the only remedy is the total abandonment of ICANN 
> which is already begun by China and Russia and increases in popularity 
> as an idea every time the ITU meets.
> What is telling is that among all the opinions here -- Karl's Barry's, 
> mine and others -- is a collective assertion that the ICANN model of 
> multi-stakeholderism is a failure. We all have different reasons but 
> the same conclusion is reasonable from multiple directions, and it 
> shares the position implied by the ITU. So far, what has kept ICANN 
> safe has been the FUD that a multilateral approach must surely be 
> worse than a multistakeholder one. But with every year that passes of 
> excess, entitlement, public harm and failed industry failed 
> self-regulation, ICANN's case worsens. Change is coming, all that 
> makes me wonder is whether the change will be incremental or 
> cataclysmic. We certainly know it won't come from the "empowered 
> community", which is simply a retrenchment of ICANN's unaccountability 
> outside of its bubble.
> Given the entrenchment of social darwinism -- well-expressed by Karl 
> -- deep inside ICANN's culture, I have serious concerns about its 
> willingness -- let alone ability -- to yield to even the middle ground 
> you suggest. If that is the case, is even seeking a middle ground 
> worth the effort?
> - Evan
> On Sat, 29 Jun 2019 at 08:26, Roberto Gaetano 
> <roberto_gaetano at hotmail.com <mailto:roberto_gaetano at hotmail.com>> wrote:
>     Good day/night all.
>     Having carefully read the contributions of Karl and Evan on this
>     topic, I must say that I lean more on Evan’s side. But this is by
>     and large irrelevant for what I want to say.
>     What I find unfortunate is that we seem unable to bring these two
>     great minds at the same table collaborating for a mutually
>     acceptable solution rather than insisting in making their own
>     points - that the other party rebuts with equal insistence.
>     I think that we all have by now understood the points. The
>     question is whether we do have a mediation possible that will be
>     acceptable for both parties that have anyway a common ground in
>     the attention towards the diverse user community.
>     Can we try to think out of the box?
>     Can we propose a price cap that differentiates between existing
>     registrations and new registrations?
>     Can we propose to analyse what means “use” and “not use” and
>     instead of a flat increase in fees have a diversified fee
>     depending on use (non-use being subject to a higher fee, obviously)?
>     Can we propose to set limits for the secondary market, like for
>     instance a limit for the sell/buy ratio?
>     Can we propose that the domain fee not be fixed but related to the
>     market value of the domain?
>     I know that most, if not all, the examples I am giving will be
>     proven (or supposed) impracticable, but that should not stop us
>     from brainstorming on what could be a common ALAC position even
>     outside the straightjacket of the perceived limitations that ICANN
>     is providing us - I am sure that others will have better ideas to
>     throw in for discussion in search of a common proposal instead of
>     the basically “well, we really don’t know” that is the only
>     possible outcome if we only stand in contraposition of eachother.
>     In my opinion, for too long we have been held hostage of an
>     externally defined picket fence. It is time that we start thinking
>     whether there is something that has to be said and done for
>     internet users in their own interest, and not just as a reaction
>     to the topics that are of interest to other parts of the
>     multi-stakeholder community.
>     And I have the belief (illusion?) that the ATLAS III meeting in
>     few months can be the cornerstone for building a strategy for ALAC
>     that is fully focused on Internet users.
>     Cheers,
>     Roberto
>     > On 29.06.2019, at 02:03, Karl Auerbach <karl at cavebear.com
>     <mailto:karl at cavebear.com>> wrote:
>     >
>     >
>     > On 6/28/19 2:36 PM, Evan Leibovitch wrote:
>     >
>     >> Here's another, anecdotal datapoint: I have been involved in
>     the Internet for nearly as long. But it's been helping family,
>     friends, small businesses, colleges, religious institutions, and
>     refugees in camps. I've worked with entrepreneurs both new and
>     established, struggling to make a presence on the Internet and
>     finding that their first 20 choices were only available at an
>     aftermarket premium. The result is that they either had to:
>     >>  * change their brand name to suit the available names (this has
>     >>    happened more than once)
>     >>  * agonize over whether to settle for a domain name using hyphens
>     >>  * pay a lesser premium in a new TLD they don't know is fully
>     reachable
>     >>  * resign themselves to having a non-memorable (ie, shitty)
>     domain and
>     >>    using other strategies to lead people to them.
>     >
>     > I agree that it is sad that we don't live in a world of pink
>     ponies, unicorns, perfect equity, and no competition for resources.
>     >
>     > Your people want "brand names" - which I read as a synonym for
>     "trademark" - and find that someone else has already registered it?
>     >
>     > That's pretty normal life in the land of trade names. Somebody
>     got there first.  Somebody else go there too late. That is not
>     speculation, that is not abuse.
>     >
>     > Athol Fugard wrote that "the saddest words ... are 'too late'."
>     >
>     > Or are you arguing that there is some sort of elevated goodness
>     attribute that should allow "family, friends, small businesses,
>     colleges, religious institutions, and refugees" to preempt prior
>     uses? And who shall be the judge that weighs applicants to measure
>     who is the more worthy?
>     >
>     > (Given that my wife and I make large contributions of our time,
>     labor, and money to non-profit and charitable organizations, we
>     might find that kind of preemptive power useful.  But I doubt that
>     such a thing would always be perceived as fair or just by the
>     prior users.)
>     >
>     > (And I do wonder about the inclusion of "small business" and
>     "entrepreneurs" in that list - I'd love to have my small
>     businesses to have a power of preemption.  And in the several
>     start-ups that I've done I would have welcomed the ability to take
>     a domain name away from another prior user.)
>     >
>     > Are you focusing on the notion of "use"?  If so, what is "use"
>     of a domain name?  Must it resolve - for any query from any source
>     - to an IP address, or a TXT record or something? If that
>     requirement were put into place you can bet that every registrar
>     will quickly deploy a "sufficient to pass muster" resolver service
>     for its customers to use.
>     >
>     > (Since you mentioned entrepreneurs - A common practice in start
>     ups is to register a portfolio of domain names as candidates for
>     products or corporate names, to hold them in private for several
>     years, and then to sell off the ones that were not selected to be
>     put into play.  Does that constitute a "use" or an "abuse"?)
>     >
>     > Regarding hyphenated or even non-semantic names - Anyone these
>     days who depends on humans making semantic sense out of a domain
>     name is living in days of fading glory.  Search engines,
>     especially when embedded in browser address bars, have long ago
>     started to diminish the use of domain names as carriers of
>     semantic content.  And the rise of application handles such as
>     facebook or twitter names has diminished that further.
>     >
>     >       --karl--
>     > _______________________________________________
>     > At-Large mailing list
>     > At-Large at atlarge-lists.icann.org
>     <mailto:At-Large at atlarge-lists.icann.org>
>     > https://atlarge-lists.icann.org/mailman/listinfo/at-large
>     >
>     > At-Large Official Site: http://atlarge.icann.org
>     > _______________________________________________
>     > By submitting your personal data, you consent to the processing
>     of your personal data for purposes of subscribing to this mailing
>     list accordance with the ICANN Privacy Policy
>     (https://www.icann.org/privacy/policy) and the website Terms of
>     Service (https://www.icann.org/privacy/tos). You can visit the
>     Mailman link above to change your membership status or
>     configuration, including unsubscribing, setting digest-style
>     delivery or disabling delivery altogether (e.g., for a vacation),
>     and so on.
>     _______________________________________________
>     At-Large mailing list
>     At-Large at atlarge-lists.icann.org
>     <mailto:At-Large at atlarge-lists.icann.org>
>     https://atlarge-lists.icann.org/mailman/listinfo/at-large
>     At-Large Official Site: http://atlarge.icann.org
>     _______________________________________________
>     By submitting your personal data, you consent to the processing of
>     your personal data for purposes of subscribing to this mailing
>     list accordance with the ICANN Privacy Policy
>     (https://www.icann.org/privacy/policy) and the website Terms of
>     Service (https://www.icann.org/privacy/tos). You can visit the
>     Mailman link above to change your membership status or
>     configuration, including unsubscribing, setting digest-style
>     delivery or disabling delivery altogether (e.g., for a vacation),
>     and so on.
> -- 
> Evan Leibovitch, Toronto Canada
> @evanleibovitch or @el56
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://atlarge-lists.icann.org/pipermail/at-large/attachments/20190630/03c89d65/attachment-0001.html>

More information about the At-Large mailing list