ICANN running the global internet? It's gonna be OK, it's gonna be OK, US Congress told

IANA power transfer questioned during Washington DC hearing


Delusional

And that leads to ICANN's biggest weakness: accountability.

ICANN continues to tell itself that despite the repeated and blunt assessments of its community, it is an accountable organization.

Chehade told the hearing: "I recently met with one of the leading authorities on governance in the US and he told me that ICANN was more accountable than 95 per cent of US corporations. My response was that that was not enough."

He continued: "ICANN is very, very accountable – but we are looking to further improve it."

This is the same line that ICANN has been spinning for over a decade – during which time there have been no less than seven full reviews into its accountability, each time because the internet community was unhappy with implementation of the changes recommended in the previous review.

The truth is that ICANN's staff and Board retain complete control of final decisions. Safe in the knowledge that they can never be overruled or forced to change a decision, an internal culture has developed where the broader ICANN community is treated with increasing disdain if it questions a course of action.

What this should look like

True accountability would mean that if concerns are raised, ICANN the corporation is obliged to take them increasingly seriously. What happens in reality is the opposite: as ICANN is questioned, it introduces more and more procedural barriers as a way to avoid looking at the situation.

The "accountability mechanisms" that the organization introduced in the last significant review of its accountability have been shown to be largely worthless through actual use, with even ICANN's Board recently decrying the fact that its "independent review panel" is unable to do its job thanks to highly restrictive rules written and revised by ICANN's legal department.

In an article last year, we boiled down ICANN's accountability problems to a single question: can it be forced to agree to oversight of its decisions? After a year's worth of work, ICANN corporate continues to fight furiously to prevent that question being answered in the affirmative.

Chehade highlighted a range of proposed changes to the organization's accountability, including the firing of Board members, the creation of "fundamental bylaws," and improving the discredited "appeals mechanisms." But he, the staff, and the ICANN Board continue to attack any proposal that would introduce actual oversight.

Chehade provided Congress with the current language ICANN is using to undermine efforts to that end. "It is important not to unintentionally introduce things that could destabilize what we have been working on for the past 16 years," he said in response to a question about what had actually been proposed.

That battle will continue at a meeting in Paris next week when the working group on accountability will look at revising its proposal in the light of public comment – not least from Larry Strickling.

Timeline

As to when all this will wrap up, it was proposed at ICANN's recent meeting in Buenos Aires that the whole thing could be wrapped up by the end of July 2016 – nine months later than originally planned.

However, it might take even longer than that, and a letter sent from the chairs of the working groups to the US government last week noted: "Our assessment is based on best case scenarios and this timeline could slip if further adjustments to the proposal should be needed in order to find consensus within our group. It may therefore be prudent to anticipate that CCWG-Accountability might need additional time, perhaps until September 2016."

The NTIA will now be looking at whether to extend the current IANA contract by either nine months or a year. The hard truth is that even with Congress currently looking favorably on the transition, if it extends beyond September 2016 it might never happen at all.

The US presidential elections will take place on 6 November 2016 and there is no reason to believe that the 45th president of the United States will want to hand over US government control of the IANA contract. ®


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