According to Phil Corwin of the Internet Commerce Association who attended the Global Internet Governance workshop held at American University in Washington today, the Assistant Secretary for the United States Department of Commerce, Larry Strickling in his keynote luncheon speech said:
“I don’t see how new gTLDs can be approved in Singapore if the GAC isn’t satisfied that its concerns have been fully addressed”.
According to Mr. Corwin account of the speech:
“That statement, echoing to some extent a call issued yesterday by members of the House IP Subcommittee that ICANN should delay new gTLD program approval until after its June meeting in Singapore, certainly raises the stakes in the escalating game of policy “chicken” that seems to be developing between ICANN and the U.S.”
“In another portion of his prepared remarks, Secretary Strickling indicated that the Department of Commerce (DOC) was still looking at the concept of “unbundling’ the separate functions now performed by ICANN under the present IANA root server contract, due to expire in September; stated that the DOC lacked the statutory authority to transition the arrangement from a supply contract to a cooperative agreement as requested by ICANN .”
“On the subject of using contract renewal as leverage to get ICANN to commit to specific steps for accountability and transparency, stated “we are seriously considering that and will invite further comment”.
“So, while the US terminated direct oversight of ICANN in 2009, it is certainly not hesitant to use its residual influence over the organization.”
“The DOC sees the two biggest challenges for the upcoming Singapore meeting as improving accountability and transparency, to be measured by whether the Board will “embrace” key recommendations, and in addressing the collective concerns of governments”.
“The immediate governmental concern is new gTLDs and what the Guidebook development process means for the proper role of governments in ICANN. While commending ICANN for its recent responses to GAC concerns on new gTLDs, the Secretary said it’s unclear whether ICANN can complete the task in time for a scheduled June 20th vote on launching the program. One key remaining issue is closing the gap between the Board and GAC on the standard for a GAC consensus that a proposed new gTLD string should be rejected. As to how GAC satisfaction with the proposed Applicant Guidebook should be measured, he said the benchmark was resolving remaining differences in a manner that ensured collective governmental commitment to the ICANN model into the future.”
“Following his remarks, during a question-and-answer session, ICA asked the Secretary whether the Administration would take a firm position on whether the new gTLD vote should be delayed beyond Singapore.”
“While sidestepping a direct response, the Secretary reiterated that “premature approval” could negatively impact governmental buy-in to the ICANN model and bolster those who seek to transfer ICANN functions to the ITU or another UN-affiliated entity.”
“Responding to another question on whether the U.S. position would in effect provide the GAC with a veto over ICANN policy, the Secretary clearly stated that the U.S. did not favor explicit veto authority – but added that, until recent months, many GAC members had the impression that “we’re not wanted here”.
“Finally, when again questioned on a gTLD vote in Singapore, the Secretary noted that discussions between the Board and GAC were continuing and that the U.S. didn’t want that dialogue terminated “prematurely” by a predetermined voting date. He noted that there were still almost two months left to bridge their differences and that he hoped both parties would make that happen, and seemed to indicate that the GAC need not be satisfied on every last issue for a vote to be taken.”
“Coming one day after a contentious House hearing in which IP sector witnesses and Subcommittee members called on ICANN to delay a new gTLD vote past June, Secretary Stickling’s speech certainly raises the pressure on ICANN’s Board to accommodate the GAC on remaining issues in contention – especially when linked to renewal of the IANA contract (although, we must note, non-renewal would so cripple ICANN as to be a gift to those nations who want net governance shifted to the UN).”
Its invaluable for domainers that Mr. Corwin covers these type of events for the ICA and I again urge all domainers to support the ICA.
Back to Mr. Corwin’s recap of the speech, it sounds a lot like the speech Larry Strickling gave at ICANN’s own meeting in San Fransisco in March, where he ripped ICANN for what he called its lack of transparency and ignoring the advice of the GAC.