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ICANN and the US Government Signed Historic Agreement

Derek Iwasiuk
October 01, 2009

ICANN and the U.S. Department of Commerce concluded historic Affirmation agreement supporting model of international multi-stakeholder and bottom-up governance of the global Internet addressing system. The EU Commission welcomed the news, while CADNA stated that the agreement is incomplete.

When ICANN was created in 1998 it was envisioned that the Internet’s addressing system would be coordinated by a private, multi-stakeholder, non-profit corporation, specifically ICANN. The rationale was that the Internet not be controlled by any single government, group of governments or special interest.

Under the Affirmation agreement, the U.S. will remain committed to participation in ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), which is one of the bodies that advises the corporation in its crucial mission of assuring that one human being can contact another anywhere on the planet.

The agreement also mandates that ICANN’s accountability to the Internet community must be reviewed at least every 3 years by a committee made up of representatives of the community, which will include the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Communications and Information of the Department of Commerce.

To read the Joint Affirmation Agreement and to see a videotaped interview with CEO Rod Beckstrom discussing the Affirmation Agreement go here.

The Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse (CADNA) declared officially that the Affirmation agreement is falling short on the fundamental issue of ICANN accountability.

CADNA has stated in its press release:

The agreement does not endow the entities charged with overseeing ICANN with the power necessary to ensure that ICANN follows through with recommendations and commitments”.

Furthermore, while the AOC calls for periodic internal reviews, only an independent review can provide an honest and objective assessment of the operations of an organization”.

Congress should maintain its momentum and establish a federal commission to review ICANN's governance, structure, and policies. This federal commission should take six to twelve months to fully audit ICANN and develop recommendations for steps moving forward. The commission should draw from businesses, governments, academics, and other experts.

Ultimately, CADNA is disappointed that the underlying issue of accountability has not been addressed and encourages the Obama administration to continue working to correct ICANN.

Viviane Reding, the EU's Commissioner for Information Society and Media, welcomed the news that ICANN will become more open and accountable. "Internet users worldwide can now anticipate that ICANN's decisions on domain names and addresses will be more independent and more accountable, taking into account everyone's interests. External review panels will periodically evaluate ICANN's performance. If effectively and transparently implemented, this reform can find broad acceptance among civil society, businesses and governments alike," said Viviane Reding. Since 2005, the European Commission has repeatedly called for reform of the governance of the internet's key global resources with the arguments that this is necessary to ensure important public policy objectives such as freedom of expression and facilitating stable business transactions online.

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