The Board made a number of important decisions at its May meeting. You can read the preliminary report online now at http://www.icann.org/en/minutes/prelim-report-21may09.htm, but here is a quick rundown of the decisions made and their import.
- A new registrars contract
After two years of work, a new contract covering the relationship between ICANN and registrars was approved by the Board.
The contract contains no less than 17 amendments and was the first overhaul of the contract since it was first approved in 2001. Read more in the official announcement: http://www.icann.org/en/announcements/announcement-2-29may09-en.htm.
The review came about after the collapse of registrar RegisterFly back in April 2007. It was clear then that there needed to be greater protections for those registering domains, and to have a system that would work better in the case of a future registrar collapse.
So ICANN did what it does and went to the broad Internet community to ask what changes to make and how to make them. The end result is something that everyone has signed up to and should strengthen the domain name system as a whole.
- Document Deadlines
A frequent complaint in the community for years has been the fact that documents for ICANN meetings often arrive just a few days before they are due to be discussed, which doesn’t give people enough time to review them.
This issue was picked up by the new Public Participation Board Committee and the idea of introducing document deadlines was raised at the Mexico City meeting in March. Everyone agreed that it would be a good idea, with the GAC even asking for a 15-working-day deadline in its official communiqué.
So, the Public Participation Committee worked on the proposal and recommended to the Board the introduction of such a deadline, which the Board approved and is now in place.
Since Sydney was so close however, two deadlines were created: one of 15 working days for material that the GAC would be expected to review, and a second one of 10 working days for everything else.
The first deadline is actually today (1 June 2009) – which is why so many documents were published over the weekend and are now available on the front page. The second deadline is next Monday.
The intent for the next meeting (Seoul in October) is that there will be a single deadline of 15 working days, although that will depend on what happens with Sydney and what the community makes of the approach (you’ll be able to discuss the matter at the Public Participation Committee’s public meeting on Wednesday).
Something that the community does need to understand however is that while the deadline provides much more time to review documents (which can only be a good thing), it also comes with a cost.
The time available to do the actual work of ICANN is growing shorter. With the community also asking for longer public comment periods, and for there to be more translation of documents, it becomes increasingly difficult for both staff and community to make sufficient progress on documents in between meetings.
The most obvious solutions – and one that has been put forward twice before over the past three years – is to move to two meetings a year rather than three. Another solution is to hold different types of meetings. Another, to increase the time between meetings. Or the community may need to decide what it will work on at the next meeting and what it will not so resources can be allocated in the right places.
In the meantime, everyone should be able to enjoy having more time to review documents for Sydney.
- Internet user seats on the Board?
It has long been a bone of contention that the “At Large” community i.e. average Internet users do not have voting seats on the Board.
The original intent in ICANN’s formation was that representatives of average Internet users would have a significant number of Board seats, but following public elections in 2000 and then a long and rancorous restructure, ICANN ended up with a Nominating Committee and an ALAC structure with Regional At Large Organizations (RALOs).
As part of the ALAC review started last year, it was recommend that the broad Internet community again be given the right to choose voting Board members. The review is still ongoing but a Board Committee recommended that the Board agree “in principle” at this stage with the idea of allowing ALAC to choose voting Board members.
The result of that discussion was that the Board noted it was not opposed to the principle of having civil society given a voting voice on the Board, but it wanted to know more about how it would be done before actually approving it.
So the Structural Improvements Committee was asked to come back with “detailed scenarios and options” and ways to implement them.
- ccNSO review
The ccNSO review was kicked off with the production of the review’s “terms of reference” for public comment. Here’s a very brief and incomplete rundown of what happens from this point:
- After the community has a change to review the terms, bidders for the review are sought out.
- Reviewers are hired, and they interview a wide variety of relevant people
- The reviewers produce a report that is put out for public comment and reviewed at the next ICANN meeting
- This report goes through iterations as needed and ends up with a variety of recommendations
- The report is typically given to a Working Group which then tries to turn the recommendations into reality
The ccNSO is one of the last ACs and SOs to go through this process. It all started with the GNSO – which is now coming to a close. Also going through review at the moment are: the ALAC, Board, Nominating Committee, SSAC and RSSAC.
- Faster, simpler UDRP filing.
The Czech Arbitration Court (CAC) has been running a pilot project to allow UDRP filings to be done online. UDRP is the system for deciding domain disputes.
It has had no reported problems so the Board approved the CAC’s request to implement the pilot. This means that documents in disputes will be able to be sent and – crucially – signed electronic and online.
This should speed up and simplify the process.
Other quick highlights of the Board’s May meeting:
- Nairobi, Kenya was chosen as the location for the Africa 2010 meeting
- The introduction of one and two-character domains under .biz were approved
- A paper outlining lessons learnt from the independent reviews of ICANN’s structure, complete with a few suggestions for changes to the system, will be published for public comment
- The recommendations of the working group looking at review of the Board will be published for public comment
- The charters outlining the four stakeholders groups within the GNSO will be published for Board review and action in Sydney
- There will be a US Congressional hearing regarding ICANN and the Joint Project Agreement on 4 June in Washington. CEO Paul Twomey will represent ICANN.