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Internet RFC overseer snubs ICANN and co's web power grab offer

This is going so well

In a further blow to efforts by domain-names overlord ICANN to create a body to steer the future of the internet, the NetMundial Initiative has now been snubbed by the Internet Architecture Board (IAB).

In a letter published on Thursday, the board – which oversees the influential Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), a critical player in the development of internet standards – said it was "concerned that the creation of a highly structured coordination council for the initiative may impede the development of broad participation, and so may be premature."

It goes on to say that the initiative's coordination council, likened by El Reg to a UN security council for the internet and which has proven highly controversial, is not needed and "therefore the IAB will not participate in the council at this time."

That snub follows on the heels on a host of other rejections, from the Internet Society, parts of civil society, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), all of which have called into question the creation of the "coordinating council" and criticized the organizers for making unrepresentative decisions by themselves.

The initiative is backed by governments including Brazil, France and India, plus various bodies.

Asked about the latest rejection by the IAB, the NetMundial Initiative organizers bizarrely argued that it was a letter in support of their efforts.

"I do believe the IAB in the same letter is very positive about the NetMundial Initiative and the need for such initiatives," said ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade in response to a direct question from The Register about whether the organizers would delay creation of the coordination council until a later date. "No one is saying 'we don't need this'."

Asked again if the organizers would delay creation of the council, Chehade said they would not. "The more we delay the council the more the three of us will have to answer questions," he argued, seeming to miss the IAB's entire point.

Time to take the blue pill

That was just the first in a series of black-is-white comments made during a public conference among the organizers' on Thursday, where they continued to build castles in the sky despite public rejection of the very process they were following.

"Everything we are doing is open and inclusive," Chehade said, despite acknowledging moments later that one of the IGF's main concerns was that being forced to agree to a set of principles before taking its allotted seat meant that the initiative was not open and inclusive.

"We don't decide anything," Chehade commented, before making a series of decisions about the agenda of the meeting, how the initiative should proceed, when the next meeting should be held, whether the nomination deadline should be extended for a second time, and before asking the secretariat (which comprises staff of the three organizers) to set up a series of meetings with the IGF, I* organizations, ICC and the United Nations.

"We are doing everything as bottom-up as possible," the internet's Don Quixote said while talking about an unpublished paper created by his own vice-president at ICANN about crowdfunding options for the initiative – a topic that moments later he acknowledged is the source of significant concern for the ICC.

"There is nothing top-down about this council," Chehade explained, while deciding to put off until the next meeting the process by which the three organizers would decide who could sit on the council.

Most surreally, Chehade posited that people's concerns were the direct opposite of what they had written down and published. "I think some people are worried that [the Initiative] is that open, that it is that bottom-up," in response to letters whose chief concern was that the initiative was not sufficiently open or bottom-up and had in fact been decided behind closed doors by the three organizers.

Follow by example

And in a supreme irony, Chehade highlighted the IETF's approach to working on solutions as the ideal model for the NetMundial Initiative, praising it as the "gold standard" while seemingly unaware that the IAB – which had just rejected the entire notion of the coordination council as being too highly structured and likely to impede broad participation – is the oversight body of the IETF and responsible for designing its decision-making processes.

The IAB's rejection means that two of the seats that the organizers set aside as "permanent seats" on the 25-person council will now not be filled.

With a deadline fast approaching, there are so far only 16 nominations for the 20 or so positions, with another three being processed. "We are pretty much coming to a full line," said Chehade.

His co-organizer Virgílio Almeida gently suggested that maybe it would be better if they had more nominations than seats. ®

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