This page is being written on April 5, 2001.
On April 2, 2001 the ICANN Board held a telephone meeting. (Which I might mention, occurs at 5am California time. A time, which I might mention. that is hardly my best time of day. ;-)
Two matters were before the board.
The first was a new agreement from the US Government under which ICANN is to perform the "IANA" functions. The second was the amendments to the VeriSign contract.
I voted for this resolution.
The IANA functions are jobs that ICANN performs under an agreement issued by NIST (formerly the National Bureau of Standards) on behalf of NTIA. (I do wonder why NTIA is unable to issue this itself and instead needs NIST?)
The IANA functions are distinct and separate from ICANN's role established under its Memorandum of Understanding with NTIA. There is a link in that the ICANN role is mainly cast as policy and "technical coordination" while the IANA function is the actual putting of those matters into effect. However, there is an intermediate step - ICANN's decisions must pass to NTIA for the US Government's approval, which is then expressed as a directive to IANA to actually do something.
The IANA functions are performed on behalf of NTIA for no charge; ICANN bears all the expenses. And ICANN does have various personnel and other expenses that it incurs to perform this job. These costs are commingled with ICANN's normal operations so it would be difficult to come up with a clear quantitative statement of these costs. While I would like a more clear accounting, I do recognize that imposing the procedures needed to gather the raw data would be a nuisance and would probably somewhat expensive.
This resolution was to accept a new version of the agreement to replace one that expired at the end of March, 2001.
I voted against the amendments on two main grounds:
I felt that procedurally it was important that these contracts get the clear approval of the DNSO. Whether one bases that feeling on the ICANN bylaws or on simply a matter of prudence, I feel that ICANN's "primary" body for DNS matters ought to have had a chance to weigh in on the matter. My feeling in this regard is tempered by the recognition that the DNSO, particularly the name council and the "constituencies", are not fully representative of the Internet community and that the DNSO has procedural infirmities that make it difficult for a Board member to feel comfortable that the DNSO's decisions are the result of a fully open and fair process.
I felt that the agreements, while they do appear to have
some improvements, also contain several negatives and that the sum total is
not a gain, but indeed a loss, for the Internet community.
For example, I do not see the presumptive renewal of .com as being good for the Internet community. And I see the grant of the presumptive renewal as a loss of a major bargaining point for future contractual adjustments
Nor do I see means by which VeriiSign's fees will ever be reduced, no matter what the underlying efficiencies or costs, thus resulting in a permanent $6 (minimum) drag on the dominant portion of the domain name system.
I personally discounted the claims that the competitive situation has changed. Rather I perceive an ever-more wealthy VeriSign surrounded by a community of under financed dwarfs. I find a degree of dissonance between the argument that there has been increased competition and the assertion that it is good that there is a strong VeriSign to pick up the bones of failed registrars.
I have to admit that my thinking is colored by a feeling that VeriSign has more than adequately milked its original cost+fee contract, granted in 1993 for a term of five years. I am of the belief that it is high time that the gems we call .com, .org, and .net should be re-licensed out in by a new bidding process. But that opportunity, at least with regard to the richest prize, .com, is now gone as the result of these amendments.