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APNIC election sparks move for rapid rule changes to prevent council stacking

Some of the actors involved in AFRINIC's recent controversies want to reform Asia's regional registry

The imminent elections for executive council members at the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) – the non-profit organization that distributes and manages IP addresses and AS numbers in 56 nations – has sparked calls for a rapid rewrite of the organization's bylaws to ensure no single entity can dominate its governance.

APNIC last week closed nominations ahead of an election of four members to its executive council (EC) the org's top decision-making body, which comprises seven elected members and one APNIC staffer. 13 nominations were received for the four positions open in this year's elections. The list was nominees was published on February 9th and confirmed on February 15, once nominees were confirmed as able and willing to serve on the APNIC EC.

So far, so democratic.

But Karl Kloppenborg, a veteran telecoms engineer from Australia, has issued a call to APNIC members in the hope they will use processes that allow the organization to stage an extraordinary meeting at which its bylaws are changed, in the hope of rewriting them so that only one representative of a company or other entity can nominate for and be elected to the EC.

Kloppenborg's rationale is that several candidates for the election are endorsed by the Number Resource Society – a Morocco-based organization that has in the past nominated candidates to the board of the African Network Information Centre (AFRINIC), the regional internet registry for Africa.

NRS has endorsed several candidates for the APNIC election and advanced a reform platform that criticizes APNIC's governance on the grounds its corporate structure represents "a form of dictatorship" and calls for members to "seize control."

NRS also calls for "a free market where businesses are free to run unhindered", for APNIC to relocate from Australia to Singapore, and has promised a substantial cut to membership fees, among other policies.

One of the NRS-endorsed candidates is Heng Lu – a Hong-Kong based entrepreneur who is CEO of an organization named LARUS that bills itself as "the global market leader in IP solutions".

Heng has previously criticised APNIC's structure and governance, but his concerns were rebutted by APNIC legal counsel in this thread.

Another entity to which Heng is linked, Cloud Innovation, is embroiled in multiple legal actions against AFRINIC.

AFRINIC alleges [PDF] that Cloud Innovation acquired over six million IP addresses from it, but broke its contract with actions including allowing the addresses to be used by dubious websites. Representatives for Cloud Innovation denied any wrongdoing took place, and prevailed against AFRINIC in the courts by challenging the allegations.

In 2021, an individual named Lu Heng was accused by the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) of having sought to purchase IPv4 addresses from it for use allegedly outside the region the registry administers. Representatives of Lu Heng told us he has had never purchased any IP addresses.

As IPv4 addresses are scarce, and are allocated to regional registries for use within the areas they administer, third party sales of addresses for use elsewhere are frowned upon.

During the litigation between Cloud Innovation and AFRINIC, the former sought and was granted a court order freezing the registry's bank accounts. ARIN described that action as having the potential for "significant impact to the overall stability of the Internet number registry system."

The Register understands that the call to reform APNIC's bylaws is therefore motivated by a desire to avoid a repeat of the controversy and legal troubles AFRINIC has experienced.

The NRS's candidates, meanwhile, appear to be campaigning hard. The nominee profile for one of its candidates, Larissa Santos, lists a code of conduct violation for unsolicited "electioneering using information which was highly unlikely to be obtained from any source other than the APNIC Member list or Whois data." The Register has encountered reports of APNIC members receiving unsolicited phone calls from NRS-aligned candidates.

Kloppenborg told The Register he hopes that the mechanisms allowing an extraordinary meeting to be called will result in delays to the APNIC EC election.

The Register has requested an interview with Lu Heng, and APNIC director-general Paul Wilson. The latter felt it is not appropriate to comment on matters initiated by members. ®

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