March 21, 2012

Saving the Internet by Ending ICANN

It was a bittersweet moment for those of us who have spent many, many moons concerned about the increasingly erratic course of ICANN, especially in recent years culminating in their atrocious, extortionist, and exploitative get-rich-quick "domainer" scheme for vast numbers of new top level domains.

Last week at one of their typically exotic meeting locales -- this time in Costa Rica -- ICANN's outgoing CEO publicly blasted his own organization's rampant conflicts of interest.

"How," asked Rod Beckstrom, "can [ICANN place commercial and financial interests in their appropriate context] if all top leadership is from the very domain-name industry it is supposed to coordinate independently?"


In all my past criticisms of ICANN, I've always concentrated on what I believed to be the insurmountable structural problems with the organization vis--vis the evolving Internet. I have purposely refrained from pointing fingers at the behaviors of any specific individuals within ICANN itself.

But with his own words, Beckstrom invoked into full view the demons that have poisoned a once fine organization irreparably to its very core, beyond even the scope that I noted in my recent Terrorism, Money, the Internet, and ICANN posting.

For as long as I can remember, those of us who have felt that the ever-changing ICANN status quo was unsustainable, and leading toward ever darker outcomes, have been faced with two main arguments in retort.

We've been told repeatedly to wait, that "ICANN will be fixed."

ICANN will not be fixed. It cannot be fixed. It is structurally constituted in a manner that cannot reasonably serve the broad interests of today's global Internet community and the world community at large.

Year after year we've watched ICANN suddenly shift and sway like the proverbial bull in the china shop, smashing past promises and pronouncements in its wake. And now, like an out of control starship that has lurched beyond a black hole's event horizon, it is being sucked inexorably toward a dark chaos of greed, a maelstrom of its own creation.

We've also been told -- repeatedly -- that ICANN must be preserved because "any alternative might be far worse" -- with the United Nations and/or ITU often cited as the most feared possibilities.

An Internet takeover by the ITU or UN could indeed be catastrophic. But assuming that continued blind support of ICANN would necessarily hold off such forces has been foolhardy in the extreme.

The day of reckoning is already speeding toward us.

Around the world, countries fed up with ICANN are pushing for exactly the scenario of ITU, UN management of the Net that has been justifiably feared for so long.

And even here in the U.S., our own government's Commerce Department NTIA has refused -- at least for now -- to renew ICANN's coronation for one of its key Internet functions.

The upshot of all this -- the output of the ICANN equation -- now seems glaringly obvious.

We have three choices, but we no longer have the luxury of generous time in which to make our selection among them.

We can keep throwing "good money after bad," and despite all evidence that ICANN has become unsalvageable, continue to hope for miracles, as forces antithetical to the global Internet community continue to array themselves around us, whispering in the darkness.

Or, we can sit back and perversely enjoy the spectacle of efforts to turn the Internet into a nightmarish model of cloistered and suffocating UN/ITU micromanagement, leading to a very different -- and I would assert vastly inferior and potentially repressive -- Internet than we know today.

Or ... we can chart a new route entirely. Recriminations regarding how we reached this stage are not particularly useful towards productively moving forward.

Instead, we can start right now -- today -- toward the creation of a new purpose-built international organization (or organizations) specifically dedicated to the tasks
of completely supplanting ICANN over time -- for the benefit of the global community, not mainly the well-heeled interests at the top of the current Internet DNS food chain.

These new creations would not be weighed down with the political and historical baggage of either ICANN nor other currently existing organizations. They would move us productively forward for the Internet of the 21st century, without having to continually dissemble the policies of the past.

This is not a simple task. It will take much time to reach full fruition and there is no guarantee of success. The domainer and other selfish entities benefiting from ICANN policies today -- and looking forward to even vaster riches tomorrow -- will not see their amoroso fade from the scene without a fight.

The decision time is now. The longer we wait to start toward a new way, a new alternative to ICANN, the more constrained our operational options become, and the more likely that the Chimera awaits us.

Please let me know if you or your colleagues would like to help in such an effort.

Thanks very much. Take care, all.


Posted by Lauren at March 21, 2012 08:01 PM | Permalink
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