By Nick Patience It was Harold Wilson, British Prime Minister during two periods in the 1960s and 1970s who coined the well-worn phrase, a week is a long time in politics. No kidding, Harold. The internet and the world of politics are two areas that have had their own temporal distinctions, but they are basically […]
By Nick Patience
It was Harold Wilson, British Prime Minister during two periods in the 1960s and 1970s who coined the well-worn phrase, a week is a long time in politics. No kidding, Harold. The internet and the world of politics are two areas that have had their own temporal distinctions, but they are basically the same: a week may contain just seven days, but if you stay up most of the night as well as all day, you can make it seem a lot longer.
That seems to have been the case in the world of internet politics the past week or so, as the level of debate descended into farce with personal abuse and petty point-scoring winning over constructive debate like never before. Whether that is due to keyboard-fatigue or something deeper we’re not quite sure, but we have our suspicions a lot of people have had about as much as they can take and are now being a tad more open with their opinions, as it were.
The only problem with such venting is that it can play into the hands of those who think they know best how to run the internet’s addressing systems, leaving the others, many of whom have been involved in it for a lot longer, out in the cold. Worse still, in the eyes of some, it could lead to US government intervention, or at least Congressional meddling, which could postpone further the introduction of true and fair competition into a system that has been effectively run by Network Solutions Inc for more than six years, albeit as a US government contractor.
It seems for many in the community who are not directly part of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the series of ICANN-related meetings in Berlin at the end of May were something of a nadir, as far as their input into the process is concerned.
Then came the meeting of the nascent names council of ICANN’s newly-recognized domain name supporting organization (DNSO) at the end of last week, held over the phone and from which some would-be participants were unceremoniously disconnected. NSI believes it was just trying to play its role as a member of the generic top-level domain constituency member, and exercising its right to self-organize the constituency by bringing in two others. But at the Berlin meeting, ICANN ruled that there should only be one seat designated to the gTLD constituency, NSI should have it, but it will have to nominate somebody, which it has not officially done yet.
ICANN president Mike Roberts puts it down to NSI making mischief, but says the rules are clear and NSI knows what they are. He says people were thrown off because NSI failed to comply with the board’s direction. He says that even though the ICANN bylaws says that the constituencies can self-organize, there must be some boundary conditions otherwise anybody could join any constituency, making constituencies themselves meaningless. Prior to ICANN’s adoption of constituencies there were proposals put forward that there should not be any set constituencies, rather they should be permitted to self-form, within a very limited set of ground rules.
On the same day as the now-infamous teleconference (notes from which are at www.dnso.org), Ralph Nader stepped into the breach with a letter to ICANN chair Esther Dyson that, while not proving the final straw in itself, was the catalyst for the public airing of the ICANN’s board’s feelings about NSI, it’s alleged delaying tactics and its covert behavior – at least that’s how the ICANN board sees it.
The next spat will be probably come next week when the 60-day test-bed period for the five accredited registrars officially ends on June 24. After that, NSI has to work as a registrar on the same terms as all the others – and that includes signing an accreditation agreement with ICANN. NSI has resisted doing so thus far because it gives ICANN, the power, potentially to withdraw that agreement and with it, its main source of income. As unlikely as that scenario is, it’s a problem for a publicly traded company such as NSI. As of yesterday, only one of the five test-bed registrars, Register.com had got the system working.
Some have upped their involvement – or at least their volume of email – in the past week or so, while others have become disillusioned. One, Jay Fenello, president of would-be registry, Iperdome Inc has had enough and has withdrawn from the ICANN process because, he says ICANN has been captured and the process is unfair. He proposes to purse other political channels, because, he says, this is not about domain names, it’s a political fight.