Where does this idea that the employees of all non-profit organizations alike shall lead a public-transportation lifestyle come from? ICANN's monetary resources do not come from war widows and pensioners, for ICANN to feel guilty about every penny that it spends on administration. Nor does its resources, wherever they come from, are any that are earmarked to be spent on famine relief or on basic health care for the most unfortunate.
ICANN's legal status is non-profit, because it is so constituted as not to pursue profits like a Microsoft or a Toyota Motors. But it so happens that its role and responsibilities are larger than the largest of business corporations. ICANN requires the CEOs of a Microsoft, a Google and a Toyota Motors rolled into one to attend to the complexities in policy, and this applies in varied degrees to the positions of the Directors of ICANN Board and to the paid staff at every level of this Corporation who handle the tasks.
It is true that there are committed individuals who come forward to work for an ICANN or to develop standards for an IETF — individuals who are motivated, whose concern for monetary rewards are minimal, but why should the organization take advantage of these individuals' weaknesses for the cause they volunteer to work for? If it can pay, it should. Besides it often becomes necessary on the part of non-profit Corporations, as large as ICANN, to be open to the idea of getting the required talent whatever it takes by way of compensation.
ICANN is transparent, its important decisions follow a certain process and this would ensure that there are no excesses or abuses in its status as a "Public" entity. But beyond constructive and meaningful participation why would anyone stretch the freedom to participate or question beyond acceptable limits bordering on a degree of trivial interference?
The gTLD rationale to charge a certain fee is criticized badly without going into the complexities of managing new gTLDs. (There are non-commercial entities interested in gTLDs, some exceptions could be made, but that is besides the point of the essence of this argument). What is often glossed over is the fact that ICANN, as a non-profit corporation, is doing business mostly with the profit oriented business, and even if it waives all fee for gTLDs to commercial entities who apply for gTLDs, the end user would invariably be charged the same commercial prices, sometimes fair and sometimes unfair.
IANA allocates address blocks at a negligible fee per address space, at less than a dollar if I am right, but do I as a user get an address space for a dollar, for five or even ten? At least one or two ISPs I have dealt with as a customer, bundled IPV4 addresses in their internet service plans in such a way that if I required an IPV4 address as a static address I would commit to pay as much as $500 a month (an entry level subscription plan for an internet connection with a static address and usually there are much higher plans). The price, on paper, is not for the IPV4 address but for a "dedicated internet connection".
ICANN actually happens to be afraid of allowing revenues to come in. And what is ICANN spending what little money that it has on? Fellowships to enhance participation. And why is this criticized? I don't wish to impute motives to everyone who comments on it, but merely would like to point out that any limitation placed on fellowships would result in a greater advantage for the affluent participants from affluent geographeries and affluent sectors.
I don't understand the morality that inspires the position that ICANN should spend no money nor make any. ICANN carries out a huge task and it requires huge monetary resources to sustain itself and manage the Corporation. Is it desirable to reduce ICANN as an entity on a maintenance grant from the Department of Commerce? Or is there an even more imaginative suggestion such as an ICANN Foundation to send out weekly calls for donations from charities?
Whether or not intended, all this ICANN-bashing could possibly lead to a position where ICANN and other non-profit Internet Organizations are reduced to a position of even greater inability to resist the rich and powerful forces that propose to make the Internet what it is not.
Is it possible that all this is really not about ICANN but about Internet's Resources and Internet's capacity for profits for the private enterprise? Is it possible that all this is not against ICANN but against open and participative governance becoming the norm for the Internet?
Internet is an economic sphere of trillions of dollars, if truly measured for direct and indirect economic activity. ICANN handles Critical Internet Resources. It is necessary for ICANN to operate from Plenty, operate from Abundance, not from poverty. I move that ICANN becomes larger, I move that ICANN finds harmless ways of improving its revenues and move that it increases its program spending several fold.
By Sivasubramanian M, CEO, Turiya and President, Internet Society India Chennai. Views expressed here are those of the author's only. Sivasubramanian Muthusamy also contributes to the Wealthy World weblog located here.
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