ICANN president proposes controversial governance reforms

International

The president of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has proposed replacing its current board members representing internet users with representatives of national governments. The restructuring issue is expected to be taken up for approval by the board at ICANN's quarterly meeting in Ghana this week (March 10-14).

President Stuart Lynn's proposal calls for the current 18-member board of directors - half drawn from technical groups and businesses that run the Internet, and half elected by users - to be replaced with a 15-member board of trustees composed of five government representatives, five technical and business representatives, and five others to be nominated by a special committee.

Lynn believes that allowing government representatives onto ICANN's governing board is necessary to put in place a more reliable funding mechanism and create a more efficient, stable organization, rather than one preoccupied with internal controversy and intrigue.

Others believe that Lynn's proposal, if approved, would represent a dramatic renunciation of ICANN's commitment to take into account the interests of internet users through user-elected board members. By proposing to replace user representatives with government appointees, the proposal counters internet culture by threatening the independence of internet governance.

If successful, it remains unclear whether the new board structure will result in more reasoned and effective ICANN operations, as Lynn hopes. Experience shows that the involvement of government appointees in policy-making bodies delays the process and makes it partisan. Furthermore, how one chooses which five countries will serve on the board is a nightmare all its own.

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

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