Home / Blogs

U.S. Government Strongly Affirms ICANN Model and New gTLDs

Antony Van Couvering

Larry Strickling, who runs the NTIA (the part of the U.S. Department of Commerce that handles ICANN), yesterday gave an important and remarkable speech to the Practicing Law Institute about Internet governance. His speech, timed to coincide with an orchestrated ICANN-bashing across town in the Senate, was a striking defense of the ICANN model and a repudiation of special pleading outside the process.

Meanwhile, across town, the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), who a few months ago decided to become the public face of opposition to new gTLDs after years of only desultory interest, had managed to convince the Senate Commerce Committee to hold a hearing on the matter. It was supposed to be a great party, but nobody came. The most powerful group of public-opinion changers in the United States barely got a quorum at their public event on how awful new gTLDs would be for the 1%.

Space in People's Heads

The Senators that did appear were somewhat cool to the New Luddite message being peddled by the ANA and Esther Dyson, ANA's star performer. Esther, fully inhabiting her new role of grumpy ex-Chair of ICANN, said:

"The rationale is that there's a shortage of domain names… but actually, there's a shortage of space in people's heads… So was that Marriott.com or Marriott.hotel, or dyson.com or dyson.hotel if I decide to rent out my apartment?"

Of course Esther doesn't own dyson.com, that's owned by a vacuum cleaner company in the UK. And ".com" doesn't indicate whether the site is about renting your apartment or sucking up loose dirt — but never mind....

Apparently there was enough space in the head of Senator Rockefeller, Chair of the Commerce Committee. He said,

I think we have to get used to .hotel.... I think we have to get used to .auto… I start from that position, but I listen.... I think a surge of new names and addresses can create opportunities: whether they will or not, I do not yet know...

A Principled Defense

Larry Strickling's speech was the opposite of the low comedy in the Senate. His principled and passionate defense of ICANN's model of Internet governance is worth quoting at some length (emphases mine):

This year has been a very active one for NTIA in the area of Internet governance as well as in privacy policy. In fact, the Senate Commerce Committee had a hearing this morning on the new top level domain program that Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) will be starting in January. Our work at NTIA in this area has focused on how we can preserve and expand the marvelous economic and job creation engine that the Internet has become. As we address these issues, we are guided by two principles.

First is trust. It is imperative for the sustainability and continued growth of the Internet that we preserve the trust of all actors on the Internet. For example, if users do not trust that their personal information is safe on the Internet, they may not use it to its full potential. If content providers do not trust that their content will be protected, they may be reluctant to put it online.

Second, as we find ways to address Internet policy challenges, we want to preserve the flexibility companies need to innovate. Our view at NTIA is that multistakeholder processes are best suited for striking this balance. By engaging all interested parties, multistakeholder processes encourage broader and more creative problem solving, which is essential when markets and technology are changing as rapidly as they are. They promote speedier, more flexible decision making than is common under traditional, top-down regulatory models which can too easily fall prey to rigid procedures, bureaucracy, and stalemate.

The United States strongly supports the use of a multistakeholder process as the preferred means of addressing Internet policy issues. We have been active in promoting the multistakeholder model in the international arena through our work at ICANN and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

...we are now seeing parties that did not like the outcome of that multistakeholder process trying to collaterally attack the outcome and seek unilateral action by the U.S. government to overturn or delay the product of a six-year multistakeholder process that engaged folks from all over the world. The multistakeholder process does not guarantee that everyone will be satisfied with the outcome. But it is critical to preserving the model of Internet governance that has been so successful to date that all parties respect and work through the process and accept the outcome once a decision is reached. When parties ask us to overturn the outcomes of these processes, no matter how well-intentioned the request, they are providing "ammunition" to other countries who attempt to justify their unilateral actions to deny their citizens the free flow of information on the Internet. This we will not do. There is too much at stake here.

We all know the Internet for its technological achievements. What is less understood, but possibly just as important, is that it has pioneered a global decision-making model that involves the people who are interested in and affected by the decisions, irrespective of status or geography, and de-emphasizes the power of moneyed interests. Going forward, if the ANA or some other group cares about an issue, they may have to rub shoulders with the hoi polloi, listen to other viewpoints, and reach a compromise that can attract wide acceptance.

With the speech by Larry Strickling (and, in a different context, similar remarks by Hillary Clinton), the U.S. government has now stated unequivocally that it won't open a new door to censorship in order to placate the ANA, and for this defense of the right of free speech they should be applauded. With rights come responsibilities: now it's up to the operators of top-level domains, and ICANN, to vindicate this faith in consensus decision-making.

By Antony Van Couvering

Related topics: DNS, Domain Names, ICANN, Internet Governance, Top-Level Domains


Don't miss a thing – get the Weekly Wrap delivered to your inbox.


great article, AVC Milton Mueller  –  Dec 10, 2011 7:27 PM PDT

I hope Stricklingls admonitions were intended to apply to the ANA as well as to meddling foreign governments

To post comments, please login or create an account.

Related Blogs

Related News

Explore Topics

Dig Deeper


Sponsored by Verisign

Mobile Internet

Sponsored by Afilias Mobile & Web Services

DNS Security

Sponsored by Afilias

IP Addressing

Sponsored by Avenue4 LLC

Promoted Posts

Buying or Selling IPv4 Addresses?

ACCELR/8 is a transformative IPv4 market solution developed by industry veterans Marc Lindsey and Janine Goodman that enables organizations buying or selling blocks as small as /20s to keep pace with the evolving demands of the market by applying processes that have delivered value for many of the largest market participants. more»

Industry Updates – Sponsored Posts

Domain Registrations Reach 331.9 Million, 6.7 Million Growth Year over Year

.brands Spotlight: Banking and Finance Industries

Google Buys Business.Site Domain for 'Google My Business'

Radix Announces Global Web Design Contest, F3.space

Global Domain Name Registrations Reach 330.6 Million, 1.3 Million Growth in First Quarter of 2017

.TECH Gets Its Big Hollywood Break

Why the Record Number of Reverse Domain Name Hijacking UDRP Filings in 2016?

UDRP: Better Late than Never - ICA Applauds WIPO for Removing Misguided 'Retroactive Bad Faith'

The Rise and Fall of the UDRP Theory of 'Retroactive Bad Faith'

.PRESS Supports Press Freedom Day for 3rd Consecutive Year

Leading Internet Associations Strengthen Cooperation

5 Afilias Top Level Domains Now Licensed for Sale in China

Radix Announces Largest New gTLD Sale with Casino.Online

2016 Year in Review: The Trending Keywords in .COM and .NET Domain Registrations

Global Domain Name Registrations Reach 329.3 Million, 2.3 Million Growth in Last Quarter of 2016

i2Coalition to Present Tucows CEO Elliot Noss With Internet Community Leadership Award

A Look at How the New .SPACE TLD Has Performed Over the Past 2 Years

Michele Neylon Appointed Chair Elect of i2Coalition

Neustar to be Acquired by Private Investment Group Led by Golden Gate Capital

Startup League Reports from WebSummit, Lisbon