At-Large Representative for Canada and the United States on the
ICANN Board of Directors

Karl Auerbac
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Diary - March 13, 2001
Melbourne, Australia

This is being written on March 30, 2001.  It is being updated on April 5, 2001.  I apologize for the delay in getting this posted.

(An additional one-word revision was made on May 14 to correct a silly typo - nothing substantive.)

The preliminary report may be found at http://www.icann.org/minutes/prelim-report-13mar01.htm.

This was a public board meeting.

When I left Santa Cruz, California to go to the Melbourne meeting, there was no well-formed agenda.  For the most part the resolutions below were formulated by ICANN "staff" on the night before the March 13 meeting.  Indeed the first time I saw the text of these resolutions was when they appeared on the computer monitors before me during the meeting.

The general sense of these resolutions was discussed in an almost closed meeting of the Board on the evening of March 12.  I say "almost closed" because of the presence and active participation of at least two people (other than ICANN's in-house counsel, who I believe is an appropriate person to invite to a board meeting) who are not members of the ICANN board, one of whom is neither an ICANN officer nor even an ICANN employee.  I do not feel that this is appropriate.  If these people want to act as ICANN board members, then it is my feeling that they ought to stand for election.  Otherwise I feel that as long as the public is excluded then these people ought to be excluded unless explicitly invited for a limited purpose to provide information on a specific matter.

It is my feeling that since real discussion of matters occurred at this March 12 meeting, that such meeting ought to have been open to the public or at least recorded so that the public could hear what what discussed.  I do not subscribe to the point of view that ICANN that board members require a cloak of secrecy except with respect to personnel matters, litigation, or contract negotiations.

I must say that I felt rushed.  I felt that "staff" had created a situation in which major policy matters were dumped in the Board's lap with inadequate time for study of for review by the Board or the public.  One point that I do want to make clear: I have no evidence or indication that this situation was the result of any intent or purpose and I see no reason why anyone should entertain any theory that this situation was the result of any manipulative intention.  That does not mean, however, that we (ICANN) ought to not improve procedures so that this situation does not frequently recur.  (We must recognize that some matters will always be changing right up to the last minute and that sometimes everyone ought to simply accept the situation and give such leeway as is reasonable.)

As an example of what happens when there is a rush - When the resolution on the report of the so-called Ad Hoc Group (on addressing) was presented it was not clearly pointed out that the report was not approved by the full membership of the Ad Hoc Group.  It was only later, in a chance meeting at an airport, that I found out that at least two members of that group - people whose technical judgment I trust - refused to sign-off on the report.

It is my belief that no resolution should be voted upon by the ICANN board until the exact text of that resolution has been posted for at least several days.

There is also a matter of completeness.  ICANN's web site is the primary vehicle by which information is made available to the public and to the board.  Yet that web site is sometimes as impenetrable as the Minotaur's maze.  Consequently it is now my belief that every resolution must contain usable references to all materials directly pertaining to that resolution.

I felt that the ICANN board was engaging in several significant procedural failures, principally the failure to have adequate time for public review and failure to properly delegate matters to the DNSO as required by the ICANN by-laws.

My primary focus during the meetings in Melbourne was the At-Large study.  I have significant reservations about that study, particularly since it's committee was selected without any input from the at-large community and with the expressed intention to exclude anyone who has indicated that they consider the at-large to be an important and necessary part of ICANN.  I endeavored to find a way to enhance the committee membership but found no way to do so that would have had even a prayer of being adopted by the ICANN board.

Although it was not a matter for vote, the proposed amendments to the VeriSign agreement did occupy a lot of discussion time.  Personally I was taken aback by the fait accompli "take it or leave it" package that ICANN's "staff" presented to the Board.  Given the gravity of those amendments I considered the process to be an inversion of the proper relationship between the should-be-master policy-making role of the Board and the should-be subservient policy-executing role of "staff".

Moreover, the VeriSign amendments do represent significant changes of Domain Name policy.  And the ICANN bylaws dictate that such matters be delegated to the DNSO unless the board makes a finding that there are facts to bypass that clearly defined requirement to delegate to the DNSO.  The board has not made any such finding with respect to the VeriSign amendments.  I recognize the argument that says that the VeriSign amendments were not "policy" changes, but I am not persuaded by them.

With regard to the DNSO, it is my perception that it is a body that is wracked with internal problems and structural biases.  As such I have a difficult time giving credence to its actions.  This makes it very difficult with regard to the fact that much as it is procedurally critical to delegate matters such as the VeriSign amendments to the DNSO, it is equally difficult to believe that the DNSO would be able to synthesize a decision that could be considered as having been fairly decided by all parts of the Internet community.

As an example of this lack of credibility of the DNSO, I am particularly concerned how the DNSO's Names Council eviscerated the proposals for structural reform of the DNSO that came out of the DNSO working group focused on those questions.

Now for the resolutions themselves:

Approval of Minutes

I voted for this one.  (There's usually not much controversy about approving minutes. ;-)

Recommendations of Reconsideration Committee

I  voted to accept the two reports.

The two "Requests For Reconsideration" that were up for approval did not strike me as particularly compelling in and of themselves.  In this case I felt that the Reconsideration Committee came up with the correct result.

However, I do find that these two requests are indicative of a larger pattern of discontent with the overall TLD selection process.

Ad Hoc Group

I voted against accepting the Ad Hoc group's report.  I consider the entire Ad Hoc Group to be beyond ICANN's proper scope of authority and hence it would be improper to accept its report no matter what its quality.

I note, however, that I have subsequently learned that the report that was tendered was not the report of the entire Ad Hoc Group - the report was unable to obtain the approval of at various group members in whom I place a great deal of technical credence.  It is not clear to me that other board members were aware of the report's shaky foundation at the time the vote was made on the resolution.

Membership of At Large Membership Study Committee

I voted for this one, even though, as I mentioned above, I have major reservations about this At-Large Study Committee, particularly its charter, its membership, and its ability to arrive at a result that will be granted legitimacy by the public.

I still hold hope that this committee can be expanded to include additional members who have strong at-large credentials.

Budget for At Large Membership Study Committee

I voted yes.  I see no reason why my reservations about the At-Large Study Committee's composition or charter should prevent it from at least trying to show me wrong.

Proposed Revision to VeriSign Agreements

Please note that this resolution was not to approve the proposed changes to the VeriSign contract but merely continues the admittedly limited process for public comment.

As I said during the meeting, my feeling is that proper procedure requires that this matter be passed to the DNSO, although I do have reservations about the ability of the DNSO to render a decision given its internal procedural infirmities.

New TLD Agreements

I voted for this.  That was a mistake.  I wish I had voted against.

My affirmative vote was the result of inadequate time to study and to receive public input.  I have since learned various things about these contracts that, had I known at the time, would have made me vote against approval.

I knee-jerk accepted these contracts based on a desire to move the long-delayed TLD process.  I am now resolved to not let myself be railroaded by last-minute "staff" agendas to accept something that I do not believe has received adequate review by myself or the public.

Among the matters that I learned about too late were the concern that these contracts may establish what amounts to a "most favored registry" situation in which incumbent registries may be able to use these contracts as a means to prevent experimentation and evolution of new contractual vehicles with respect to subsequent registries.

Another such matter was the nature of the buy-out situation that may occur when a registry contract comes up for renewal.

Similarly, I was unaware of the lack of an effective "full stop" mechanism or other protective means that would, to my way of thinking, be necessary parts of any live experiment or test, such as these new TLDs are purported to be.

DNSO Review

There was a bit of procedural chaos at this point in the meeting.  We managed to get off onto a short discussion of a DNSO constituency for individual people who own domain names.  I consider that to be something that we very much do want in the DNSO.  However, the matter on the table at that time was the DNSO review and, as I said, there was a bit of confusion caused by the mix of the two issues.

I wanted to discuss the fact that I believe that the DNSO review process was, simply put, unacceptable.  I do not accept that the report that emanated from the Names Council is an accurate reflection of the infirmities of the DNSO.

Appointment of Auditors

I voted yes.

Disbursement and Check Signing Authority

I voted yes.

Handling of DNSO Funds

This is something that I was very pleased to vote for.  I have been very concerned about the lack of clarity surrounding the funds that ICANN holds on behalf of the DNSO.  There is no reason to suspect that there is any problem; rather I feel that when money is involved, absolute clarity of accounting is important, particularly when there are discussions about alienating that money at some future date to another entity.

Agreements with ccTLD Managers

I abstained from this vote.  I simply do not have enough knowledge of this matter for me to feel comfortable that I could have made an informed decision.

Internationalized Domain Names

I voted yes.

Internationalized domain names are a big and complex issue.  And I believe that the committee that is formed by this resolution will help all of us better understand the issues.

Thanks to Local Hosts and Sponsors

Of course I voted yes.  The Melbourne hosts and sponsors did a very nice job and deserve much thanks.

Thanks to Lennie and Mike Roberts

Henry IV, King of France from 1589 through 1610 was reputed to have said to have avoided a battle by making a pragmatic recognition that "Paris is worth a mass".  I believe that the departure of Mike Roberts from ICANN will bring a significant change in the personality of the organization.  I thank him for leaving.


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2001 Karl Auerbach, All Rights Reserved.
Updated: Monday, May 14, 2001 03:46:50 AM