New ICANN Board members decided this weekend

The super-secret [tag]ICANN[/tag] Nominating Committee is meeting secretly in Frankfurt this weekend to decide who will fill various positions within the Internet overseeing organisation, including three members of the ICANN Board of Directors, one member of the [tag]GNSO[/tag], one member of the [tag]ccNSO[/tag], and two members of the [tag]ALAC[/tag].

[tag]NomCom[/tag] chairman George Sadowsky outlined the process at the last ICANN meeting in Marrakech: “By 15th, 17th of September, we’re going to hold a face-to-face selection meeting. The whole committee will meet in Frankfurt for two, two-and-a-half days and we will work through this selection process. And that’s where our decision is made. From mid-September into October, there’s a due diligence process.”

NomCom member Michael Froomkin has also pointed out on his blog that: “I’m on my way to Frankfurt today, where I will do hush-hush stuff for the ICANN NomCom.” And Tony Harris revealed he’s also heading to Frankfurt.

Apart from that, there is no information whatsoever. If the NomCom follows the same process as previous years, people in contention will have received an email asking that they provide contact details in case they the NomCom wants to clarify anything during discussions.

Shortlist?

Although I note that Brett Fausett was on the first NomCom and he says that no applicants had been decided upon or dropped before the first meeting. I understand that that process has changed in the two intervening years.

Fausett also says it is “one of those rare occasions when I can support the secrecy” – although he gives no reasons for saying why. Presumably he could tell you but then he’d have to kill you. It won’t come as a surprise to anyone that I am of the complete opposite view. We’re not talking state secrets, it’s a board position on an Internet overseeing organisation.

The UK Internet body Nominet appears to share the same philosophy as me. It has made its process entirely open and yesterday released the list of candidates for its Board, complete with statements, to be voted in at the end of the month at the company’s AGM.

What do we know?

But back to the super-secret MI5 ICANN. There were 89 applications to the NomCom in total for the seven positions, although we do not know how many were going for each position. We do not know how many people are on the shortlist (in fact there has been no confirmation that there even is a shortlist), who they are, how many are in line for each role, what the geographical or male/female breakdown is, or in fact anything.

I applied for an ICANN Board position and broke with the NomCom’s self-imposed secrecy by making my application public. I received receipt of the application. I understand from my proposers that they were asked to provide a reference, although I have not seen any of them. I have received no information since then, and a number of requests over the NomCom basic procedures have not received a reply. I am assuming I have not made it onto the shortlist.

I know several people who have put themselves forward for positions, two of which have made their applications public and several others who feel that even making their application known could count against them and so have decided to keep it quiet.

Such is the process for deciding Board members for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. An organisation dictated by “bottom-up, open and transparent” processes, as ICANN chairman and co-creator of the TCP/IP protocols, Vint Cerf, told the US Congress, and ICANN CEO Paul Twomey told this reporter.

ICANN progress

However there is some progress in general ICANN reform. ICANN staff actually requested at an ICANN Board meeting on 7 September that their summary of public comments on the new gTLD contract been made public. This is the first time I have heard of such a thing, and even though it is no more than a summary of publicly available comments and contains no staff reflections or recommendations, it is a small step in the right direction.

The real step toward accountability will be when, rather than ask the Board to publish its summary, the staff has to request that a summary *not* be published and state its reasons why. And then the real step will be when the actual staff reports to the Board, rather than the summaries of publicly available information, are made public.

The ICANN Ombudsman, Frank Fowlie, has also released for the first time one of his reports to the Board, which is strikingly critical [pdf] of the ALAC constituency for its voting processes for accepting new “at large structures” – namely small self-running Internet groups across the world.

Again, a small but significant step forward, although it remains to be seen if an Ombudsman report critical of a more powerful group will be published. Plus the Appeals process remains untested.

The MoU

Is it enough for the US government to cut ICANN free when the MoU expires on 30 September? No way. Especially when Ambassador Gross reportedly said at a Washington meeting last week: “It won’t happen on my watch.”

I strongly suspect that was for a rabid local audience. I emailed Ambassador Gross, who I interviewed numerous times in Geneva and Tunis and have a great deal of respect for, asking for an interview and promising an entirely objective and fair report. I haven’t received a reply.

From the Reuters report of the meeting, I think Gross may have tred a very careful line, especially considering one of the speakers, Harold Feld, appears convinced that the IGF is a UN-inspired plot to seize control of the Internet – a mad paranoia demonstrating almost total ignorance of all the meetings that have been held over the IGF’s formation.

[NOTE: I was wrong about this – Mr Feld in fact just posted the announcement notice and in fact is very knowledgeable about ICANN and has been pushing for the US to listen to the world’s complaints about US control.]

Usual VeriSign shenanigans

As if it couldn’t get any better, Mr Feld is a senior vice president of the Media Access Project, and the sponsors for the meeting were Americans for a Secure Internet – another front for VeriSign money. Rather reassuringly, the organisation sponsoring a high-level discussion over Internet governance admits that it has only ever attended one ICANN Board public meeting, and is very selective (read: biased and inaccurate) in its review of what happened during WSIS.

So, in summary, the whole issue of Internet governance still stinks to high heaven as powerful and rich Americans do all they can to protect their position (read: money and power) and retain their practices, making the likelihood of a split root ever more likely with each day. God helps us.