The meeting earlier this week between the ICANN Board and the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) started out fairly promising. The two groups exchanged questions in a cooperative manner, and the GAC representatives had a chance to press the Board on some outstanding issues with the new gTLD program that have been raised by their constituents.
Unfortunately, on the second day of the meeting, that progress seemed to stall when the two groups hit a standstill in their discussion about trademark issues after only ten minutes. Ultimately, the Board was able to agree to certain requests made by the GAC, but the myriad trademark issues that remain unresolved were not addressed.
By day three, it became clear that there was much work left to be done. Many representatives expressed their need to return to their home countries for consultations, and suggested that these discussions with the Board continue during the upcoming ICANN meeting in San Francisco, CA, which will take place March 12 through 18. The Board reacted very negatively to this suggestion, as it would require altering the pre-determined schedule for the meeting.
In particular, ICANN Chair Peter Dengate Thrush seemed especially displeased. In a flustered statement, he protested the GAC’s suggestion, iterating that carrying the discussion over would require additional meetings. He argued that “this appears to be starting a whole new process” and “the community is going to take this very badly.” Continuing on, he challenged the GAC, stating that “what we [the ICANN board] don’t understand is, having scheduled a bylaws conference, why would we now change the designation of the conference, which inevitably is just going to lead to the requirement to have yet another — you seem to be adding a step.”
The GAC held its ground, emphasizing the need to follow due process and remain accountable to the governments and citizens they represent. William Dee, the representative of the European Commission stated, “I think most of you are probably taxpayers in this room. I think you would be pretty annoyed actually if you thought you had paid for your public servants to travel around the world for several years and at the last minute rush through the process for convenience. We are bureaucrats. We are accountable. We have to actually follow due process back home. This is an extremely important point.”
Hopefully the ICANN Board and the GAC will reach an accord as to how to proceed with their discussions, as many issues are still outstanding and still need to be resolved before the new gTLD program can launch in a manner that is beneficial and not detrimental to the Internet community as a whole.
This meeting has highlighted some of ICANN’s core problems with effective governance. The proceedings clearly demonstrate a need for increased external oversight over the organization, and point out that it is time for a full-scale review of ICANN, its policy making processes and the controversial gTLD program.
For the full transcript of the meeting, click here.