Thursday, February 10, 2005

ICANN Strong-Arm Tactics -- Again

The Register's Kieren McCarthy investigates the redelegation of the Falkland Islands .FK domain which was under discussion at 24 January Special Meeting of the ICANN Board:


"The changes were requested in March last year, and all parties agreed and signed "a lot of documents" which were then sent to ICANN in June. So, why has it taken ICANN six months to make two agreed, simple changes and why were they put to a board meeting?

The answer, explained ICANN's man-in-Brussels Paul Verhoef, is the new contract being drawn up between the world's countries and ICANN. ICANN was waiting on a letter from the .fk domain authority that stated their commitment to hold talks with ICANN over a new contract between the two. The redelegation request was approved at the next board meeting after this letter was received, Verhoef said.

There is some history to this. ICANN in the past withheld important registry changes - including redelegations - from being enacted by the organisation charged with keeping the technical side of the internet working, IANA. Its aim each time was to force the country registries into signing a contract that recognised ICANN as their ultimate authority. The strong-arm tactics caused a split between the organisation, based in Los Angeles, and a large number of powerful countries around the world.

While it appears that ICANN has repeated the same tactic, Verhoef was at pains to dismiss the previous ICANN contracts and the tension caused by their attempted introduction. Instead, he assured us, the letter required from the Falklands was not legally binding and stated simply that the registry was keen to start discussion over a new agreement between the two."

No matter what the spin put forth by ICANN staff, it should not take six months for relatively simple changes to be made in the IANA database. The management of the IANA functions should be efficient and timely and should not be delayed in order to induce nations into entering into what has been termed "pay and obey" contracts with ICANN.


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