Postcard from Cartagena

Posted by Paul Szyndler on 7 December 2010

Chris and I are currently in Cartagena, Columbia, for the 39th meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

These face-to-face meetings are held three times a year, in various locations across the globe.

Although the organisation and its stakeholders are very adept at consulting and communicating online, nothing beats an intense week of in-person meetings to progress the multitude of technical and policy issues currently under consideration.

While the various locales in which the meetings are held may seem exotic and random, ICANN meetings are purposely rotated across five broad geographic regions, in order to make the forum accessible to as many regional stakeholders as possible.

ICANN meetings can tend to seem chaotic and intimidating to newcomers – mainly because there is so much going on at any given moment, across ICANN’s numerous advisory committees, supporting organisations and working groups. It makes for a busy week and it is difficult to cover all of the hot topics in a relatively brief blog post.

That said, some of the most significant issues that will be discussed at the Cartagena meeting include:

  • New gTLDs – ICANN has released a draft “Final” Applicant Guidebook, the product of years of intense discussions and consultations and four previous drafts. The current guidebook features a few significant changes, such as:

o   allowing registry-registrar vertical integration (new gTLD registries can own registrars and no prohibition on registrars operating new gTLD registries)

o   application ‘batching’, in the event of an extremely large response to the call for new gTLDs

o   a number of changes to deal with objections raised on the grounds of morality and public order

o   an economic analysis of costs and benefits

A number of significant issues still remain unresolved and debate will heat up as ICANN and its stakeholders slowly edge towards launching new gTLDS.

  • The draft recommendations of the Accountability and Transparency Review Team (ATRT).
    The review was the first undertaken in accordance with requirements established by ICANN’s Affirmation of Commitments with the US Department of Commerce. While the recommendations are still being developed, they will provide advice on potential improvements to:

o   The ICANN Board’s composition and performance

o   The role of the GAC and its interactions with the Board

o   Solicitation of public input and the incorporation of these comments in policy development processes

o   Mechanisms for reviewing Board decisions

There are also a number of projects of direct relevance to the country code Names Supporting Organisation (ccNSO – Chaired by Chris and where auDA participates):

As you can see, the agenda is fairly full…..and I’ve glossed over only a few highlights, without any great detail.

One final point before I sign off and head to (yet another) meeting...the ICANN model is open and multi-stakeholder. Governments, ccTLDs, businesses and individual users all participate, on equal footing. If, as an individual or group of individuals, you are interested in participating in ICANN, you can do so through the At Large Advisory Committee (ALAC). It costs you nothing and is the best way for your voice to be heard when Internet-related policies are being developed.