ICANN’s CEO Roundtable: ccTLDs and the DNS Sector

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I had the opportunity to participate in a round table discussion with other ccTLD CEOs and Fadi Chehadé, the President and CEO of ICANN.

Chehadé called the roundtable to take the temperature of the ccTLD community with regard to the DNS ecosystem and developments in the DNS like gTLDs. In my opinion, it was a productive meeting and a step in the right direction toward building a stronger relationship between ccTLDs and ICANN.

However, in the past week Chehadé has come under fire for this meeting, and I feel a couple of criticisms leveled against Chehadé should be explored a little further.

Chehadé has been criticized for hosting a roundtable with a select group of ccTLD CEOs, and that the attendees represented ccTLDs from the developed world or larger ccTLDs. This simply isn’t true; Frederico Neves from NIC.br (Brazil) was there, as was Richard Wein from NIC.at (Austria, but not one of the largest ccTLDs), and representatives from Singapore and Costa Rica. It is also important to note that African ccTLDs CEOs were invited and indeed accepted Chehadé’s invitation, only to cancel a couple of days before the roundtable.

Let me be clear – I believe that, as the group that comprises the Internet governance world, we need to either ensure our criticisms are valid and based in reality, or put in place a formalized process to ensure we are acting in ways in which we can all agree.

That said, in the multi-stakeholder model, is it wrong to for the head of ICANN to have a conversation with a few selected people? Do we all have to attend? Does the list of attendees have to be in some way representative of the global ccTLD community (whether geographic, size, and so on)? Or is it fine in some situations? For example, if it is not a decision-making meeting? And what if all of the invitees (who meet pre-determined criteria for participation – see previous question) don’t attend? These are important questions.

The fact remains that the president of ICANN needs input from all stakeholders. Sometimes this input , and in gathering this input sometimes it is done formally and at other times in a less formal manner . . . both are acceptable and have their place in the multi-stakeholder model.

The Internet governance ecosystem is no longer the Wild West. Collectively, we govern an entity that has become the greatest driver of social and economic change in centuries. And, as we saw during the World Conference on International Telecommunications in December, the eyes of the world are on us.

Let’s have the discussion about process now, and free up our time for more important discussions. What do you think? I would like to hear your opinions on this issue.

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  • http://pirateparty.ca Travis McCrea

    I agree that sometimes not everyone needs to be present, especially when you are not making decisions but rather having a meetup to discuss concerns. When doing market research, you don’t poll every single person in a community, you take a subsection of the community and you extrapolate based on that.

    There should be times for “town hall” style meetings where everyone is invited too, but in these situations unless you strictly limit the talking time and agenda you are not going to get a whole lot done, and especially in a situation like this: it is probably a lot of stuff you could learn by emailing around.

    The problem is the people who are into DNS and things are usually the “engineer” type people who are not thinking about things as a business but in terms of the internet system that usually is incredibly inclusive and open to their input… all the time. These people are great too and they are a cornerstone of the Internet we have today. That doesn’t change the fact that many of these people have a single focus and it’s hard for them to see the bigger picture or perhaps deal with the changes in the way things are done.

    As the leader of the Pirate Party, a political party which has strong roots in the Internet and also advocates transparency, I think that as long as agendas are open and that these meetings are not designed to keep the public out of the loop, but rather to streamline the discussion process and the results and minutes are either published or discussed, then all is good. The engineer types are going to have to adapt to some of the new ways of a world where the Internet is big business and requires higher levels of organization.

  • Natalie Dunleavy

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