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The Real Threat to the Single Root of the Internet Seems to Come from ICANN Itself, of All Places

Khaled Fattal

The proposed final Guidebook for the New generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) and Internationalized Domain Name (IDN) gTLDs contains elements that raise grave risks to the ICANN single root of the Internet caused by none other than ICANN itself.

Below is my intervention at the ICANN Cartagena Public Forum today. ICANN President and CEO Mr. Rod Beckstrom was prompt to reply and acknowledge the validity of my statement adding that ICANN is fully aware of the problem. This was echoed subsequently at the close of the session by ICANN board member Mr. Jean-Jacques Subrenat who agreed and thanked me for raising it and called on his fellow board members to give this serious attention.

All this beg the following initial question: Why were we given a Guidebook that is labeled "proposed final" but which contains a component that not only appears far from being final but which can potential cause breaking the single root of the Internet?

What is clear is that this will instigate leading sovereign nations to start considering not only possibly boycotting ICANN's new gTLDs but perhaps prompting them to start considering alternatives that are today technically very implementable and which have now been given serious international political fuel and palatability.

Was this ICANN's only choice and manner of dealing with the US Government's singular control of the net? I don't believe so.

And before we all rush to blame it on the US Government and the Department of Commerce we need to factor heavily the U.S. Dept of Commerce's role on ICANN. The DOC is the foremost legitimizing authority to ICANN's role and its existence. Furthermore, the DOC's very stern letter of "NO confidence" on December 2nd, 2010 identified many areas ICANN's has poorly performed per The Affirmation of Commitments and also concluded that ICANN is not yet ready to launch the new gTLDs as planned. So one can conclude that even the US Government may not be pleased with the manner this area has been managed by ICANN's leadership.

This is not only resurrecting the biggest debate of the WSIS from 2001-2005 and whether the control the Internet should remain in the hands of a single country, instead it has made it top priority in many capitals around the world.

Below is the actual transcribed text of my statement at the ICANN Cartagena Public Forum for referencing purposes.

I thank ICANN for going out of its way in putting under bright neon lights something new in the final proposed Guidebook which I find of great concern to the core ICANN values and mission and the single root I believe in, and I quote:

Page 25 Section 1.2- Information for All Applicants- Page 28- Legal Compliance - ICANN must comply with all U.S. laws, rules, and regulations. One such set of regulations is the economic and trade sanctions program administered by the Office of Foreign Assets Control ("OFAC") of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. These sanctions have been imposed on certain countries, as well as individuals and entities that appear on OFAC's List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (the "SDN List"). ICANN is prohibited from providing most goods or services to residents of sanctioned countries or their governmental entities or to SDNs without an applicable U.S. government authorization or exemption. Etc…

For those who are not familiar with OFAC and the SDN list, they reflect the US Government's list of undesirables that reflect legitimate but ONLY US legal and foreign policy interests.

Now the very loud fire alarm bells on Internet Governance
Does ICANN really want to tell international communities and many sovereign nations it seeks to turn into ICANN supporters like China, Russia, India, Brazil, the Arab States and many others that the Internet that reaches and will reach them and their territories and especially in their local languages thru IDNs will be governed by and is subject to US laws and US foreign policy?… Because this is what this is telling them.

I believe this has grave risks on to the single root, and the credibility of the Affirmation of commitments (AOC). A detailed statement of the ramifications will be submitted shortly.

By Khaled Fattal, Group Chairman, Multilingual Internet Group & Producer "Era of the Unprecedented
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Internet is not the same as ICANN registries McTim  –  Dec 10, 2010 10:49 AM PST

so when you say that "the Internet that reaches and will reach them and their territories" what you mean is that ICANN can't contract with registries in pariah states, right?

What is your solution to this issue?  Have it move to Geneva?  Wouldn't it then be subject to Swiss laws?  Operate ICANN from a Space Station?  Make ICANN an Intergovernmental Organisation?

In that latter case, we would kiss the open, transparent, bottom up nature of Internet policy making goodbye!

I would say the real threat to a unified root comes from the US actions in the last two weeks to seize domains and to pressure various folk regarding leaked cable traffic. Alternative roots have always been a fringe movement, but after the last few weeks, the idea of alt roots is becoming more mainstream.

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