ICANN committee recommends at-large change


The At-Large Study Committee of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has recommended that ICANN significantly alter the role of the organization's at-large membership.

The at-large membership represents individual internet users within the ICANN structure. If ICANN adopts all of the suggestions in the committee's draft report, significant changes will be made to the structure of the board of directors, the requirements to be met for at-large membership in the organization, and the advisory powers and responsibilities of the at-large constituency.

Under ICANN's bylaws, the at-large constituency elects nine of the ICANN board's 18 members. It does not, however, participate in the ICANN advisory process. This is currently controlled by the supporting organizations, which represent the three other ICANN constituency groups.

The committee report concludes that at-large involvement in ICANN decision-making is insufficient to create the kind of democratic, transparent process demanded by the groups with interests in how the Internet operates. In light of complaints about last year's at-large elections for the board, and to meet the demands of internet users and the other ICANN constituency groups, the committee makes three specific proposals:

  • altering the definition of 'at-large member' to include only "individual domain name holders";

  • reducing the total number of board seats assigned to the at-large membership from nine to six, each from a different geographic region of the world; and

  • creating an At-Large Supporting Organization to advise the ICANN board on issues of import to users and to foster participation by individuals in the governance process.

The committee found during its research that most internet users were not interested in ICANN's administrative activities. As a result, the committee recommends the new definition of 'at-large member' because domain name holders, as opposed to general users, "have a strong and tangible vested interest in ICANN activities, not just the Internet in general."

The committee believes that its recommendations provide the fairest approach given the limited resources available. They are designed to increase at-large participation in ICANN decision-making. It makes one wonder, however, just how overloaded ICANN governance will become by adding layer after layer. Those who have been involved with the Internet for many years undoubtedly yearn for the days when a few people who were united in the quest to open the frontier ran the entire show.

Douglas Wood and Linda Goldstein, Hall Dickler Kent Goldstein & Wood, New York

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