Hello from ALAC

by Jacqueline Morris on April 7, 2007

Hi everyone
I’m Jacqueline Morris, the new Chair of ALAC, the At-Large Advisory committee. The At-Large is the vehicle for individual Internet users to have a voice in ICANN, on policy matters, or on anything that’s of interest to the global community of individual Internet users. We’re one of two vehicles for Civil Society participation in ICANN, the other being the Non Commercial Users Constituency in the GNSO.

I was voted Chair on Monday, March 25th at the Lisbon meeting. Our previous Chair, Annette Muelhberg, voted Chair at the Sao Paulo meeting in December, recently resigned for personal reasons.

This is a really exciting and busy time for the ALAC. Finally, we have nearly finished building the global structure for participation, with 4 regional organisations formed, and one (North America) being discussed. This will give the individual users some access to ICANN decision making processes. There is a long way still to go, but we now have both feet firmly on the road.

We are about to undergo our external review – the Terms of Reference were posted March 30 for public comment. We are looking forward to the recommendations that come out from this. There are also a lot of policy issues arising now, including the new gTLD working group, IDNs, WhoIS, and more. The global internet user community will have a way to participate and comment on these policy issues.

I’ll post here from time to time, to let you all know what’s going on with the ALAC, or you can go to the ALAC site at http://alac.icann.org or join our mailing lists to provide input.

I’m looking forward to a really productive and interactive discussion with the ICANN community!

Jacqueline
ALAC Chair

{ 14 comments }

Dave Zan 04.07.07 at 8:14 am

Understandable why you’d feel that way. But sorry, that’s not going to happen when you don’t care to understand what you’re potentially getting yourself into.

On the other hand... 04.08.07 at 2:02 am

That’s not very helpful, Dave.

I am sure this person truly _cares_ to understand what recourses are available here without necessarily displaying a firm grasp of the options. After all, how is your comprehension of the legal system in, say, Thailand?

Not having a zip code and a 1-800 number to call the BBB does not make you stupid. It just leaves you stranded and desperate on the other side of the world as your domains are sinking. Watching each one default into the domain-tasting scheme does not help matters.

Since you blog on these things, how about writing something about how the domain market has become like the real estate market, in terms of speculation, but here all the agents are allowed to buy and sell the same properties they handle on behalf of customers? In my country, there are criminal laws against such practices in the real estate market.

Danny Younger 04.08.07 at 5:21 am

Jacqueline, you claim that the ALAC is the vehicle for individual Internet users to have a voice in ICANN; let’s examine that claim in light of the RegisterFly developments. The ALAC has been in receipt of more than 70 messages regarding RegisterFly issues sent to the ALAC Public Forum dating all the way back to February 2006.

What did the ALAC do about all of these messages during the course of the last 14 months? In a word, nothing.

Institutions only gain legitimacy by doing their job well over an extended period of time. The ALAC hasn’t done its job well, and the outpouring of individual user complaints regarding Registerfly through a multitude of different forums has demonstrated that users don’t need the ALAC “vehicle” just to have a voice.

Jacqueline Morris 04.09.07 at 6:10 am

Hi Danny
The oldest RALO, LACRALO, is barely 3 months old. EURALO and AFRALO are just over 2 weeks old. The representaives of the users haven’t even attended a single monthly teleconference yet, and have just been added to the mailing list (over Easter holidays, even)

Maybe it would be fair to give them a little time to try to do some work before you say that they are not doing their job well over an extended period of time – I really doubt that 3 months or 2 weeks would count as an extended period of time in any sense.

ICANN is cool in that there are multiple vehicles for participation, both official and unofficial. Just because unofficial ways work as well, does not mean necessarily that the official pathways should be dumped, especially since they are only now starting. NARALO hasn’t even formed yet, so what official mechanism would NA users have in which to participate?

But anyway, the ALAC review is due, and the ToR is out fo comment. I’m sure that you will pass your opinions on to the external review agency that is chosen.

Jacqueline

Danny Younger 04.09.07 at 7:13 am

Re: “so what official mechanism would NA users have in which to participate?”

While some of us participate on the GNSO General Assembly discussion list, most of us write directly to ICANN. In 2006, ICANN received a total of 8,778 registrar problem reports (you can see the breakdown at http://www.icann.org/compliance/pie-problem-reports-2006.html ).

— we have learned that when you write to the ALAC Forum (be it about RegisterFly issues or anything else), you don’t get an answer, or even any indication that someone is paying attention. Your ALAC Public Forum seems to be a place where bricks-with-notes get thrown over the wall. This is not what we should be expecting from the official vehicle for the user voice… and it’s been that way for the last four and a half years. You can’t fob off the ALAC’s poor performance on the fact that it has finally managed to create the regional organizations that no one really wanted in the first place — the limited participation on your regional discussion lists is sufficient proof of that.

Veni Markovski 04.09.07 at 2:18 pm

The positive thing to do, Danny, is to join the ALAC, and try to contribute to fixing the problem (that is, to become part of the solution). The easiest (and non-productive) is to just sit outside, in the landscape, and complain.
We all know the problems which people have had in the past with ICANN; our task, however, is to fix them, and not just to spend our time in discussing old problems.
Please, either start to contribute to the process, or stop complaining that you’re not being heard.

Danny Younger 04.09.07 at 3:00 pm

Veni, the discussion was about “listening”. We send our comments to the ALAC Forum; they are disregarded by the ALAC members. The ALAC sends its comments to the Board; they are also ignored — see the blog of the ALAC Chair on this point: http://www.jacquelinemorris.com/2005/12/icann-in-twilight-zone.html

As it pertains to RegisterFly-related issues, I put my comments formally on the public record regarding the need for registrant data escrow almost two years ago at the Marrakesh GNSO Public Forum — see http://www.icann.org/meetings/mardelplata/captioning-gnso-forum-06apr05.htm

This was during a time that you were sitting on the Board. Obviously, you weren’t in either a listening or action mode at that point.

Jacqueline Morris 04.09.07 at 4:22 pm

Don’t take my blog post of 2005 out of context – this was a comment made by the then chair of ALAC, responded to by the Chair of the Board, at my first ICANN meeting. It’s in the transcripts.
BUT – since then, the Board has been quite responsive, meeting with the ALAC regularly etc.

With regard to Mar Del Plata – as I wasn’t involved with ICANN at all then, sorry – I didn’t hear your comments, so cannot speak to them.

I agree with Veni. It’s better that you spend your apparently considerable available time creating input on policy issues that you can send to ICANN’s attention in whatever way you wish. If you want to use the ALAC to do that – great. If you don’t want to join, don’t. But it is a waste of far too many people’s time (including yours, I think ) to focus on old history, rehashing what was done or not done and said or not said 4 years ago.

The system is what it is.

If the system needs changes, in your opinion, the review is coming up. After the review, we may have a new system, or some tweaks to the current one, or even no change. I don’t know what we’ll get. But whatever it is, I will work with it. In my mind, the issues are important. The vehicle to work with isn’t, so much.

So I won’t spend any more time talking around and around the system as it exists, except with regard to the Review. I think by now we have all got the point that you think the system as it exists is horrible.

So can we put this to rest and work on more important things now?

Thanks
Jacqueline

Wendy Seltzer 04.12.07 at 12:57 pm

Veni, Danny has contributed more to ALAC than most of the “At Large Structures” who have gone along with the pyramid scheme. His complaints have typically been on actual matters of policy, where they’ve helped ALAC to clarify comments and make recommendations (which have typically been ignored, but that’s ICANN’s fault).

To rewrite the old adage: If you’re not part of the problem, you’re not part of the solution. ICANN needs more people listening to criticisms, not just sending gleeful press releases.

–Wendy

Veni Markovski 04.12.07 at 1:31 pm

Wendy,
it’s not a question about Danny’s contributions. However, to compare his work to the work, of let’s say, ISOC-Bulgaria, is not quite fair. We live in different countries, and do not share same culture; what’s important for Danny in the USA, has no meaning at all in Bulgaria. And perhaps the other way around, too.

What matters here is that the ALAC is not a US-centric, or US-Internet-users-centric organization. It represents many more interests, many more cultures, than you can find in the (narrow) US segment of the Internet business, related to domain names.

ICANN needs more people who not only say what the problem is, but provide some solutions for it. So far I see only complaints that either the ALAC, or the Board, or someone else disregarded the opinions, expressed somewhere. That fact (if it is a fact!) doesn’t mean anything. I don’t remember anywhere obligation of the Board to agree with Danny’s comments. If the case was that the Board should listen and execute every opinion, then I’d agree with Danny. But there are people on the Board, who are quite capable of thinking on their own, and if I were trying to contribute to their work, I’d give them the facts, and leave them the choice. That’s the fair way to deal with complicated issues.

Whether Danny is happy with one Board decision or not, is a different question. But, then, I don’t think it’s among the obligations of the Board, to make people happy. It’s to make sure that the DNS/IP work is being handled properly. So far, the complaints I hear, are mainly aiming at the Board behaviour. But that’s very subjective – someone will like what the Board does, someone will not. I’ve said it long time agi, and will repeat it – whatever decion ICANN takes, there will be people who will not like it. Regardless of the decision.

I can give you an example, which is easy to adjust for the ICANN community:

When the Secretary General of the UN founded the Workging Group on Internet Governance, some people complaint, but not people from the Internet Governance Project (IGP). When the same SG founded the Advisory Group to the IGF, there were people who complained. I remember, if I am not mistaken, some complaints from the IGP, although they had representatives in both groups. That explains why some people would complain. Complaints are good only if they are constructive. If one only complains because he’s not happy, that’s not enough. That can be done by anyone, but we should be more demanding on people with knowledge, wouldn’t you agree?

Paul Levins 04.12.07 at 2:35 pm

Wendy/Danny

We’ve not had a lot of engagement with each other. So I will treat this as our first (even though one of my very first actions in my present role was to talk to ALAC at Marrakech and you were present there, Wendy) .

We are listening to criticism. I think it is only fair that critics acknowledge that and recognise it. Let me list a few of the responses: A new comprehensive set of Board minutes; a news alerts service; a weekly newsletter; an annual report; this blog; the appointment of a general manager public participation; the creation of a public participation website; the commencement of a process to develop management operating principles for transparency and accountability; the commissioning of a report on transparency and accountability by One World Trust which we have published; the publishing of all correspondence inbound and outbound; a new web site; a new more accessible approach to understanding ICANN’s processes (see the processes button on the main page); the development of strategic and operating plans in consultation with the community.

There is more to come.

Are these bad things? Would you accept that they are good things? Would you be prepared to say so?

On press releases: I’m not sure which ones are gleeful. Point them out and I’ll take all the glee away. If they have a positive tone I don’t apologise for that. I don’t really favour sad or negative press releases.

We are not in the habit of ignoring people. At least I’m not and the staff I’ve met in my 8 months here so far aren’t either. The runs are on the board as they say, in relation to that. You only need look at the initiatives above. Or you could look at the responses to just about every person who commented on the blog about RegisterFly. Or you could look at the thousands of complaints about RegisterFly that have been personally handled by ICANN staff.

Are we some times not as responsive as everyone would like? Sure. Are we aware of that and trying to respond? Yes. I think that should be recognised.

I think ICANN has and is coming a long way. I am interested in encouraging people and change not in discouragement and standing still. I am interested in dialogue because I think the criticism that we weren’t engaging had some legitimacy.

So we will keep learning and responding. But, in my view, encouragement will always help to produce change.

Wendy Seltzer 04.12.07 at 5:32 pm

Thanks Paul,
I do appreciate the greater efforts to disseminate information. The working RSS feeds and blogs and the real-time feed of the scribes’ notes have made it easier to follow ICANN’s work. I hadn’t seen the “processes” tab, but I really like the timeline there. Thank you.

Here’s a press release I found particularly disingenuous: “Thousands of Voices Get Direct Say At ICANN,” since the path from individual, through ALS and RALO, to ICANN, is anything but direct.

My concern is that there’s still no effective way for individual Internet users to respond to that information flow. They have no representation in policy development processes or on the Board. I propose, as I have for a long time, that we return to direct elections, or as a half-way point, give the ALAC structures voting Board seats.

–Wendy

Danny Younger 04.12.07 at 6:24 pm

Paul,

Thank you for your constructive approach. I would like to take this opportunity to put forward a few suggestions:

(1) The registrant community remains burdened by the imposition of onerous Redemption Grace Period fees. This is due in part to a failure to introduce competition into the RGP segment of a domain’s life-cycle. A proposal was put forth at the ICANN Bucharest session by the Technical Steering Group:

“it is proposed that six months after this Redemption Grace Period Proposal is adopted, ICANN’s President should re-convene this (or a similar) Technical Steering Group to review the implementation of the Redemption Grace Period, to suggest possible improvements to the Redemption Grace Period, and to develop a specification for Stage 2 of the implementation of the Redemption Grace Period, which will enable registrants to choose the “restoring” registrar.’”

It would be appreciated if the Technical Steering Group could be re-convened to finish their work so that RGP prices, through competition, will be driven down to a reasonable level. Perhaps you could have a word with Paul about this issue.

(2) The registrant community remains concerned that our issues are not being addressed by the GNSO. Stakeholder interests therein would rather debate the merits of additional protections for IGOs and trademark interests than discuss matters such as policy to guide registrant data escrow provisioning. What has long been needed is a registrant constituency within the GNSO. ICANN Staff could be of service by briefing the ICANN Board and/or the Board Governance Committee on the relative merits of this proposal so that they could act on their own motion (per the bylaws) to establish such a constituency to better protect, and advocate for, the interests of the registrant community.

(3) The current ICANN Operational plan with respect to escrow provisioning posits two choices: either an in-house approach or contracting for such services. We would deem it advisable to put forward a Request for Information (RFI) so that the community may weigh in regarding the best way forward after having examined that which has been tendered by such providers.

(4) We see the need for properly funded research that draws on empirical data to support policy development activities. We are aware that certain registrars currently charge transfer-away fees. We would deem it appropriate to conduct a study to determine the scope and magnitude of this problem that thwarts the intent of the Transfers Consensus Policy, namely facile domain name portability.

(5) With respect to compliance issues, registrants would value a greater degree of transparency in the process. If a registrar is not in full compliance with its obligations under the RAA, we would value an advisory to that effect so that the public may make informed registration decisions.

Finally, I would suggest that you ask the ICANN webmaster to restore the public comments that formerly were posted at http://forum.icann.org/lists/registrar and at http://forum.icann.org/lists/registry . When he has the additional time, a brief description of the subject matter of each of the forums listed at http://forum.icann.org/ would be of help as the public finds it difficult to muddle through an acronym-laden list.

I appreciate the recent contributions of ICANN Staff and I am willing to give credit where credit is due. I would ask you to understand that much of the long-standing animosity between parties stems from the complete loss of all Board seats for the At-Large community, a community that had been promised representation on half of the ICANN Board.

The loss of those seats in practical terms has meant that issues that concern the public have not had the advocacy that they deserve at the decision-making level — this has meant that matters such as formalizing the schedule, terms, and format of the escrow arrangement have lain dormant for years instead of being acted upon.

The current ICANN structure hurts us as a community. We look forward to your renewed commitment to the public interest and hope that ICANN comes to its senses sometime soon.

Alan Levin 04.29.07 at 12:18 am

Hi,

There is an impression that At Large users are in favour of hiding registrant details from the whois. My experience is that users take advice from their ISP (domain reseller) on what to do with their contact details. Most end users don’t know how to configure their own DNS so they rely on those that do. Unfortunately this ends up with some ISPs abusing their position but on the whole it seems to me that people who use the DNS alot, are in favour of keeping the whois like it is. Appears to me that the proposed changes only fuel those ISPs that take ownership from the registrant.

The African representatives to the ALAC both admitted that they know little about this. I also think that some of this is already a fait accompli in this regard, please can you explain how the ALAC achieved its (seemingly consensus) view and how that view aligns with end users?

Sincerely,

Alan

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