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[atlarge-discuss] 14 groups call for rebid of ICANN contracts

Harold Feld put this letter together. Jamie

                          May 29, 2002

Nancy J. Victory
National Telecommunications and Information Administration
1401 Constitution Ave, NW
Washington, DC  20230

Dear Assistant Secretary Victory:

     The non-profit civic, consumer, public advocacy, and policy
organizations listed below respectfully call upon the United
States Department of Commerce (DoC) to re-compete the three
agreements (collectively "the MoU") under which the Internet
Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) manages the
Domain Name System (DNS) when these agreements expire.

     The history of United States telecommunications policy has
proven time and again that competition inevitably yields better
results than top-down management.  Requiring ICANN to compete
against qualified bidders will provide a strong incentive for
ICANN to engage in a thorough housecleaning and become more
genuinely responsive to the comments of stakeholders.  It will
also ensure that, if ICANN cannot put its house in order, the
Department will have alternatives.  In this way, re-competing the
DNS management contracts will benefit the ICANN reform process,
the American people, and Internet users around the world.

     Four years ago, the Department of Commerce embarked on an
experiment to test whether  public resources could be managed by
private parties.  However well intentioned, and despite some
efforts to address the concerns raised in the initial competition
for the management contracts in 1998 relating to openness, trans
parency and accountability, there is general consensus that ICANN
as currently constituted cannot carry out the functions assigned
it by DoC.

     Indeed, ICANN President Stuart Lynn, in a widely published
paper, proclaimed that ICANN has failed in critical areas.  ICANN
has failed to gain the trust of the country code top level domain
(ccTLD) administrators and has lost the trust of many in the
technical community.

     Of particular concern is the fact that ICANN has deployed
new top-level domains (TLDs) at a snail's pace.  This has stunted
the opportunity for free and open expression on the Internet.  At
the one meeting at which the ICANN Board approved new TLDs, it
did not even consider the possible opportunities for non-
commercial and civic discourse.   Nor has it generally
considered, as part of its overall policymaking,  how its
policies impact non-commercial and political speech.

     Nor has ICANN complied with the transparency and
accountability requirements of the MoU and its 1998 by-laws. It
has not created an Independent Review Board. Although ICANN
promised to create an At-Large membership that elects half the 18
member Board, ICANN abolished this provision of its bylaws.  In
the one public election it permitted, ICANN retained four seats
for its sitting unelected representitives, reducing public
representatives from a majority to a minority on the 18-member

     Finally, ICANN's staff and executive committee routinely set
policy in secret.  Nor has it made the details of its finances
known, even to one of its own directors.  As Representative
Markey stated at one Congressional oversight hearing: "We know
more about how the Cardinals select a new Pope at the Vatican
than we do about ICANN's internal affairs."

     ICANN has begun a process of internal reform. The
signatories to this letter support this process and intend to
participate in it.  Nevertheless, this does not change the need
for DoC to take immediate steps to announce that it will rebid
the MoUs when they expire.

     The signatories expect that ICANN will undertake strenuous
efforts to reform itself.  The necessary reforms, however, may
well prove painful, and ICANN staff and directors may find it
difficult to make the final decisions without the incentive of
competition to compel consideration of alternatives that limit
the scope of ICANN's authority or impose suitable accountability

     Furthermore, if ICANN cannot reform itself successfully,
beginning now a process to re-compete the DNS management
agreements provides DoC with a suitable alternative or with
public comment on which to base new bidder requirements. Prudence
would suggest that, while Commerce can hope for success of
ICANN's internal reform process, it must prepare for failure.
Commerce's duty to the American people requires Commerce to act
with planning and forethought, rather than to accept, for lack of
a better alternative, whatever solution ICANN may propose.

     Finally, ICANN's failures to date to fulfill its obligations
under the existing agreements raise doubts as to ICANN's ability
to solve its own problems. ICANN's current problems stem largely
from its failure to work in an open and transparent manner. This
has made it difficult for stakeholders to offer solutions to
ICANN's problems, discouraged stakeholder participation, and
engendered mistrust. While ICANN's Board and staff surely have
worked with the best of intentions and to the best of their
ability, bad processes produce bad results.

     The Department of Commerce has the authority, through the
well proven method of competitive bidding, to ensure a good
process and a good result.  It should seize the opportunity to do
so quickly, when it can do the greatest good.

                         Respectfully submitted,
                         Harold Feld
                         Associate Director
                         Media Access Project
Barry Steinhardt
Technology and Liberty Program
American Civil Liberties Union
125 Broad St.
New York City, NY 10004-2400

Solveig Singleton
Senior Analyst
Competitive Enterprise Institute
1001 Connecticut Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20036

Hans Klein
Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility
P.O. Box 717
Palo Alto, CA 94302

Mark Cooper
Director of Research
Consumer Federation of America
1424 16th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036

James Love
Consumer Project on Technology
P.O. Box 19367
Washington, DC 20036

Chris Murray
Internet and Telecommunications Counsel
Consumers Union
1666 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC, 20009

Milton Mueller
The Convergence Center
Syracuse University School of Information Studies

Mikki Barry
Domain Name Rights Coalition
800 Nethercliffe Hall Drive
Great Falls, VA  22066

Sarah Andrews
Research Director
Electronic Privacy Information Center
1718 Connecticut Avenue
Washington, DC 20009

Shari Steele
Executive Director
Electronic Frontier Foundation
454 Shotwell Street
San Francisco, CA 94110-1914

Michael Calabrese
Public Assets Program
New America Foundation
1630 Connecticut Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20009

Gigi Sohn
Public Knowledge
1875 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20009

Robert Chase
United Church of Christ Office of Communication, Inc.
700 Prospect Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44115

James Love mailto:james.love@cptech.org
http://www.cptech.org +1.202.387.8030 mobile +1.202.361.3040
James Love mailto:james.love@cptech.org
http://www.cptech.org +1.202.387.8030 mobile +1.202.361.3040

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