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Ralph Nader Takes ICANN To Task

Ralph Nader raises some very relevant and legtimate questions so far as
scope/checks and balances associated with ICANN.  Let's hope Mr. Nader's
concerns are adequately addressed by ICANN.

Jim Rapp

James B. Rapp
InfoCker@nospam.worldnet.att.net(remove nospam.)
Alexandria, Virginia USA   (703) 836-1501
Austin, Texas USA          (512) 339-9135
Author of "Electronic Commerce: A Washington Perspective,"
"Governance and The Proliferation of International Electronic Markets."
Also see on CMPnet, "Last Mile Shootout,"
"The Austin Miracle,"
"A High Tech Career Of Her own."

Ralph Nader Takes ICANN To Task
By Beth Lipton
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
June 11, 1999, 4:55 p.m. PT

Consumer rights advocate Ralph Nader has joined the contentious fight over
the policies and practices of the nonprofit corporation charged with
managing the Internet's addressing system.

Nader, along with James Love, director of the Consumer Project on
Technology, today sent a letter to Esther Dyson, interim chair of the
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), asking a number
of questions about the group's authority and methods.

"Could you tell us  the scope of Internet governance issues that the
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers aspires to address?"
Nader and Love ask in the letter. "And will ICANN use its control over root
name servers to block access to any IP address or domain name for any

"If so, could you give us an idea of what those reasons might be, and how
those decisions will be made, and what legal recourse persons would have
regarding ICANN decisions?"

Dyson and ICANN representatives could not immediately be reached for

ICANN was established last year in an effort to phase out the United States'
governance of the domain name system and has been charged with ending
Network Solutions' monopoly over registration of Internet names ending in
".com," ".org," and ".net."

But from the beginning, many in the domain name space have leveled criticism
at the organization, for everything from how its board members were chosen
to how it will answer the public's concerns about its policies.

For Nader's part, he is largely concerned about what he sees as ICANN's lack
of checks and balances.

"Nobody's paying attention to this emerging private governance," he told
CNET News.com today. "Those questions [in the letter to Dyson] need to be

He also pointed out that ICANN is "not accountable to the government," a
point that has been raised by many in the domain space.

"Is ICANN's interim board making substantive policy decisions, before a
membership is in place? If so, can you explain how this start-up procedure
is justified given the terms of your agreement with the United States
government?" the letter asks.

In addition, the letter raises questions about ICANN's plans for what to do
if a trademark dispute arises among seekers of a given domain.

"Also, does ICANN seek the authority to levy fees on the use of domain
names?" the letter says. "If so, what are the legally binding limits on the
use of funds from those fees by ICANN? Under any circumstances will the
ICANN be permitted to use these funds to promote public policy objectives on
broader Internet governance issues?"

Nader said he had not yet heard back from Dyson but noted he had only sent
the letter a few hours ago. Nader and Love ask for "specific replies" to the
questions raised in the letter.