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Melbourne Report J Northover 23/03/01


I have been an At Large member for some years, and Melbourne is my third attendance at international meetings following Geneva in 1998 and Los Angeles in 1999.

Despite Scandinavian countries regularly topping surveys of internet uptake and usage, strangely there is little representation from them at these meetings. I understand they are much more active at a regional level. ICANN business is carried out in English and is therefore mostly dominated by English speaking countries.

I continue to be impressed by the outstanding representation of New Zealanders in ICANN both in terms of respect from other countries, the level of active participation, (and you will note the recent introduction of Grant Forsyth), and attendance both on-line and off-line.

New Zealanders need to know of the very significant contribution made by Peter Dengate Thrush and Sue Leader which has followed on relatively seamlessly from the outstanding pioneering contribution made in earlier years by Jim Higgins and Patrick OBrien in the international arena. The demand for accountability from members now requires us to submit reports, and thats as it should be. Equally, reports submitted in earlier years should have been made available to the public, but the lack of cohesive policy meant that this was not done and so efforts and successes in those times remain largely invisible.

I had earlier thought, say when I was at meetings in Los Angeles, that progress was being made, international meetings would reduce once the set-up was in implementation phase, and our resourcing requirements to participate would equally diminish. I now believe that the opposite is more likely to be the case.


I cannot overstate the importance of being physically present at these meetings. I will not go into the shambolic and ineffective ICANN process (or lack of), as others are elaborating on this in far more florid terms than I would have the creativity to use.

However, in my view there should be an absolute minimum of two New Zealanders at every meeting, fully funded. If at all possible, representation of four would be highly desirable, either fully funded or substantially subsidised. I have suggested more than once in the past that Council should have a core pool of four people (Councillors) from which at least two are selected to attend every meeting. Additional New Zealanders may or may not come from this pool. I believe Council should evaluate this and prepare a policy on international representation that considers needs, benefits and economic factors.

My over-riding impression is that the whole entity and business of ICANN is

  • Becoming much more complex as the internet grows in size and uptake;
  • Slowing down in its ability to make decisions and progress;
  • Now subject to more demands such as multi-lingual that can only, and will inevitably, increase the complexity many times over, which will slow it down even further;
  • Struggling to deal with major economic and commercially-driven business imperatives (Verisign) that hold a gun to ICANNs head.

The set up of ICANN is characterised by representation from participating constituencies a structure which is difficult to refute since the whole " internet" is not held in trust by ICANN. This contrasts with country codes which are entrusted to organisations which are thereby responsible for effective policy and operations but subject to redelegation disciplines if needed.

The ICANN arrangement on the other hand is challenged with accommodating a whole raft of competing and conflicting groups of users, ethnic and cultural groups, political and economic tensions, Registry/GAC regional differences, to mention a few. This inevitably has led to a structure that must exhibit democracy at every level, and thus to exponentially compounding mass. The ISOCNZ and Domainz structure is vastly simpler as we do not have most of these issues that would grind us to a slower pace. If theres a lesson we (ISOCNZ) can learn from this, its to ensure that we identify and minimise potential traffic blocks in how we operate, to adhere to governance prinicples, and to manage the risk created by some of the things that ICANN is likely to spring on us.

Members need to know that there is a cost to all of this that will inevitably be borne by users (of all domain names). Overheads are created by the multiplicity of committees, sub-groups, working groups, Support Organisations, Constituencies etc etc and these are not small. A proposal to fund real-time interpretors and subsequent document translation doesnt bear thinking about. Its a delicate matter to suggest that in the interests of balancing racial participation and economics we could perhaps suggest that surely each country must have either suitable English speakers, or could supply interpreters on a voluntary basis. Even without allowance for translation, costs are escalating. To an aghast audience, Peter de Blanc, representative to the Names Council of the ccTLD constituency announced he was proposing a budget increase of $US1.5m despite clear direction from the ccTLD constituency to explore ways of containing expenditure. A vote of no confidence in Mr de Blanc from horrified attendees was subsequently lost in technicalities of voting authorities and count. We simply must continue to lobby and pressure on economic grounds as smaller Pacific nations that look to us for assistance, are relatively powerless against the large-scale jurisdiction spend machines. Beware!
Business Constituency

Grant Forsyth (Clear Communications) was introduced to those present. Grant, as many of you will know, was prominent in his role as CEO of TUANZ prior to taking up his position at Clear.

He has been selected to represent the Business Constituency at the Names Council. This is great for New Zealand as it provides more presence and profile in areas that have potential influence in decision-making.

The Business constituency aims to provide businesses with ICANN issues and developments specific to commercial users. Through this constituency the intention is to provide opportunities to participate in decisions that may influence e-commerce.

Annual fees are:

Type of organisation Fee Votes
global company/association 750 Euros 3 votes
domestic /one region association 500 Euros 2 votes

SME (a company of less than 100 employees or a turnover of less than $ 1million )

100 Euros 1 vote

Some businesses also attend other constituency meetings and there is a suggestion that fees might be reduced for those. Im not sure how they propose to do this when this constituency, as other constituencies face demands to increase revenue, by way of both membership numbers and fee levels.

To be honest, there was not a single topic in the BC meeting (see below) that would have distinguished this from other constituencies. Given that ICANNs primary function is naming and numbering architecture it is hard to see why this constituency even exists. There was little if anything discussed in this forum that was not also debated in the General Assembley and the Public Forum.

Topics discussed may be found on the BC website at They include:

  • Status and implementation of new gTLDs;

Separation of registry and registrars is not mandatory but will depend on each TLD. If run in the same company, the registry and the registrar will have to set up organisational firewalls.

  • Aternate root vs One-root system:

ICANN (Louis Touton) believes a single root system is important for internet stability and consumer trust; therefore much more preferable to any other system.

  • Verisign new agreement (commented by other attendees);
  • Multi-lingual domain names (presentation by Dr Jon Klensin).
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