At-Large Study Committee
Final Report

(5 November 2001)

Final Report on ICANN At-Large Membership

November 5, 2001

Letter to the ICANN Board
Executive Summary
Defining the Electorate
How Many At-Large Directors
Balanced, Reasonable Approach
ALSC Outreach
At-Large Participation and Representation
Value of User Involvement
E-mail-based Membership Lacks Support
Recommended Membership Approach
Individual Domain Name Holders
"Individual Domain Name Holder" Defined
Creating an At-Large Membership
ALSO Framework
At-Large Membership Representation
Membership Registration/Election Processes
Potential Process Elements
Conclusion/Next Steps

Letter to the ICANN Board,

In August, the At Large Study Committee presented for discussion its draft final report on the question of including an At-Large Membership in ICANN's governance structure. Now, in accordance with the schedule established early this year, and after further discussions and comments on our draft report, we submit our final report.

Established only three years ago, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has been entrusted with the important tasks of promoting the Internet's stability and dynamism as it rapidly evolves as the world's most important infrastructure.

Its governance structure, however, has remained uncertain in important aspects. There has been constant controversy surrounding the question of the composition of the ICANN Board, and primarily the question of whether there should be representatives of the Internet At-Large community. This controversy has the potential of impairing ICANN's ability to concentrate on the critical tasks it has been entrusted with.

We remain firmly convinced that the basic concept behind ICANN is a good one, and we conclude that it has become firmly rooted in the wider community of the Internet's stakeholders. We are, however, of the opinion that it is an urgent task for the stability of the organisation to ensure that a mechanism for the At-Large community to express its views be agreed to and implemented.

The ALSC has spent the past eight months exploring numerous alternatives, listening to different opinions and trying to stimulate a debate on these important issues within the wider Internet community. We have sought to facilitate different independent studies, and posted discussion papers and options in order to encourage dialogue. Following the publication of the draft report, the ALSC, collectively and as individual members, has engaged in wide-ranging debates on these issues, and has benefited from the comments received.

Despite extensive efforts, however, the ALSC has found it difficult to generate a very high degree of interest in these issues. We have concluded that the main interest of the wider Internet community is in the stability and reliability of the Internet itself, and that a structure for At-Large participation and representation that is seen as creating the best possibilities for this would meet with the community's tacit approval.

Although outside our mandate, the ALSC has discussed whether the tasks now assigned to ICANN could be handled better or equally well by an intergovernmental organization, thus potentially securing the legitimacy of the process, ensuring a degree of public participation through regular governmental mechanisms, as well as assuring the stability of the policy and decision-making system.

We have found, however, that such an approach has several serious drawbacks. ICANN represents an effort at global self-regulation that, if successful, has great merit in a number of different ways. Engaging developers of Internet standards and providers of the domain name and address system, as well as seeking to create a voice for Internet users, results in a system that contributes both to the stability of the Internet and to its constant evolution. We do not believe that an intergovernmental system would be able to do this in the same way.

The developers and providers, now grouped in three Supporting Organizations, have a critical role in the overall system. We have discussed whether ICANN could be entrusted solely to them, thus eliminating the very profound challenges associated with an At-Large membership. However, the concerns of users are equally important to the success of ICANN's mission, thus requiring that an effective mechanism for their participation and representation in ICANN processes be found.

Based on our view of ICANN as a balance among developers, providers and users, we recommend that the At-Large membership select a third of ICANN's Board. In the dialogue over the months since the publication of our draft report, we have found that this proposal has wide, although not unanimous, support. There are voices calling for, at the least, half of the members of the ICANN Board being elected by an At-Large membership. We do see distinct drawbacks with this, and we must also note that this proposal is very unlikely to get sufficient support within the wider ICANN community.

We have noted the concerns expressed that a system whereby a third of the seats on the ICANN Board is selected by an At-Large membership would open up the possibility for the remaining two thirds of the ICANN Board to change the bylaws regarding At-Large representation, including, as an extreme case, the abolition of At Large membership. Although the likelihood of sharp divisions of this sort is unprecedented, we do believe it is important to ensure that changes in the governance structure of ICANN, after an At-Large structure is established, would require a supermajority of the Board's members.

We have spent a considerable amount of time looking at different alternatives for selecting the proposed At-Large members of the ICANN Board. We are dealing with a unique organization, with unique functions and a truly unique structure. There are no models to follow.

In spite of our efforts, we have failed to find any system for the selection of At-Large Directors that is completely failsafe from every possible point of view. Using e-mail addresses as the basis for voting rights, as tested last year, has significant drawbacks, and is obviously open to national capture. More importantly, we have not found any way of conducting a pure online election involving e-mail address holders with even moderate confidence that capture or fraud has been prevented, thus creating the need for a combination of online and mail processes which not only is complicated, but which also risks totally undermining the finances of ICANN. In spite of being superficially attractive, closer scrutiny makes clear that this is not a viable option.

We have thus decided to recommend a system with voting rights based on domain names, and we have proposed the creation of a system in which those domain name holders wishing to be part of the process also become part of the process of setting up an At-Large Supporting Organization (ALSO).

In the discussions of the past few months, we have found wide support for the proposal to set up an ALSO. It is widely felt that an ALSO would greatly facilitate the articulation of wider issues in the ICANN process and promote sustained involvement, thus also strengthening the role of the At-Large members between the elections.

There have been concerns expressed that an election system based on individual domain name holders will use too narrow of an electorate. Although we are talking about a possible electorate numbering tens of million of persons around the world, we do feel that one should continue to seek ways in which the possibility of becoming part of the ALSO and the elections are widened. Our committee has discussed several such options, and we hope more will emerge.

As we present our recommendations, the attention has shifted to all the issues connected with the stability and security of the Internet in the wake of the Sept 11 attacks, and the global need to confront the evil of international terrorism. We do believe, however, that this very clearly reinforces the case for a speedy resolution of the issues surrounding the governance of ICANN, and specifically the hitherto controversial issues we have been asked to study.

No one wants an ICANN in continuous turmoil, thrown between one uncertain experiment after the other. Now is the time for stability and coherence, allowing ICANN to address the vital technical and related issues, often of profound public importance, that it has been entrusted with.

Therefore, we urge that several significant steps be taken by the Board at its annual meeting in Marina del Rey that will enable timely progress on initial steps to implement our At-Large recommendations, while providing time for additional Board and public consideration of the report. Specifically, the ALSC recommends that on November 15, 2001, the ICANN Board adopt the following recommendations concerning At-Large participation and representation:

(1) The Board affirms that individual Internet users have a significant stake in ICANN's activities and should have the opportunity of fully participating in ICANN.

(2) While the ALSC's final report remains open for comment and consideration, the Board acknowledges that the following basic principles should guide expedited action on At-Large:

(a) Create an At-Large Supporting Organization (ALSO) as a regionally-based framework for informed participation of any interested individual and for At-Large involvement in ICANN policy and decision-making (including mechanisms to foster discussion among individuals and with ICANN's decision-making bodies);

(b) Focus At-Large membership on an identifiable and vested community (an ALSO electorate) to provide a practical mechanism for voter registration and self-funding (e.g. The ALSC recommends that membership be based on individual domain name holders and efforts continue to be made to identify an additional membership option with a reasonable level of verification. This recommendation is under consideration by the Board, but need not delay initial At-Large organizing efforts.);

(c) Provide a proportionate role for At-Large members in selecting ICANN's Board (along with other ICANN constituencies) (e.g. The ALSC recommends 6 At-Large Directors in a 19 member Board. This recommendation is under consideration by the Board, but need not delay initial At-Large organizing efforts.);

(3) The Board requests that the ICANN CEO solicit expressions of interest to determine the degree of interest in creating local and regional ALSO entities that would support informed participation of interested individuals and At-Large involvement in ICANN, and report the results to the Board at the March 2002 ICANN meeting.

(4) The Board authorizes the extension of the ALSC until March 31, 2002 to work with the Supporting Organizations, other interested parties, and ICANN staff on proposing detailed plans for an At-Large membership, voter registration, and a regionally based, self-supporting ALSO.

We believe that this is necessary in order to meet the objective of having a complete ICANN Board in place towards the end of the next year. We do understand that there will be further issues that must be discussed, and the ALSC has offered to remain operative until final decisions are taken at the ICANN Board meeting planned for March of next year. We look forward to assisting you.

The At-Large Membership Study Committee: Carl Bildt (Chair), Chuck Costello (Vice Chair), Pierre Dandjinou, Esther Dyson, Olivier Iteanu, Ching-Yi Liu, Thomas Niles, Oscar Robles, and Pindar Wong (Vice Chair).

Executive Summary

The At-Large Membership Study Committee (ALSC) is pleased to present this report and accompanying recommendations to the ICANN Board in fulfillment of the provisions of its charter. We are unanimous in our belief that the report meets the request of the Board that the Committee find "an effective means by which the diverse global Internet communities and stakeholders may participate in ICANN's policy development, deliberations, and actions."

As a result of the Committee's extensive outreach to the community over the past eight months, in meetings and online, and the consideration of over 1163 forum comments, input from 16 outreach events worldwide, and a substantial number of studies and research papers, we have identified five basic principles which we believe have broad support:

  • Individual Internet users have a significant stake in ICANN's activities and should have the opportunity to fully participate in ICANN;
  • Representation should accompany participation for informed, sustained involvement of interested individuals, and for At-Large involvement in ICANN policy and decision-making;
  • The At-Large electorate should comprise an identifiable and vested community of individual Internet users;
  • At-Large members should have a role in selecting members of ICANN's Board (along with other ICANN constituencies);
  • It is time to move At-Large participation beyond the discussion phase and determine the degree of real interest among individual Internet users and relevant groups in creating an organization for their sustained involvement in ICANN.
  • Building on these principles, the ALSC offers ICANN's Board the following recommendations that we believe are practical, executable, effective, and most likely to gain consensus support:
  • Create an "ALSO Organizing Committee" to work with ICANN and others to help establish a new, (financially) self-supporting At-Large Supporting Organization (ALSO), and help carry out the recommendations contained in this report, with priority attention focused on an At-Large election.
  • Create an ALSO to foster At-Large participation and representation. An ALSO will have "participants" comprised of anyone interested in participating in open discussion forums, and "members" comprised of a verifiable, vested community of users to elect ALSO leadership and At-Large Directors every three years. An ALSO will promote informed participation of any interested individual in ICANN (including mechanisms to foster discussion among individuals and with ICANN's decision-making bodies), and foster At-Large involvement in ICANN policy and decision-making with specific responsibility for providing an "individual user" perspective on relevant issues within ICANN's mission.
  • Initially define "At-Large members"(which will comprise the ALSO electorate) as an "individual domain name holders."
  • Direct the ALSO Organizing Committee to solicit input on, and report to the Board about, any additional mechanisms that would enable individual Internet users with an interest in ICANN's mission to opt-in to At-Large membership with a reasonable level of verification (without the requirement to hold a domain name).
  • Conduct a geographically-based ALSO member election, initially guided by the ALSO Organizing Committee, to simultaneously provide members for six directly-elected Regional At-Large Councils and one (international) At-Large Council, and six directly-elected At-Large Directors to serve on ICANN's Board, to be seated, if possible, by year-end 2002. The ALSC views its suggested division of the existing Asia-Pacific region as straightforward, but if there are contrary expectations and the creation of a new region threatens to significantly delay At-Large implementation, the ALSC recommends the election of two At-Large Directors from two different countries in the existing Asia/Pacific region.
  • Build a self-sustaining, transparent ALSO that would serve as a local and regional-based framework for collecting and defining views, engaging members, enabling consensus decision-making, and working closely with other Supporting Organizations on policy development. Ultimately the ALSO will be managed by the At-Large Councils.
  • After adopting plans for At-Large representation and participation, modify ICANN' bylaws to require a supermajority to make future substantive changes in ICANN's governance structure.

In our judgment, these recommendations, discussed in detail in this report, are a reasonable compromise between those who support retaining nine At-Large Board seats and e-mail-based, ICANN-funded global direct elections, and those who advocate no direct global elections and fewer, if any, At-Large Board seats. Rather, we have presented an approach that we believe has the potential for a consensus. We would urge those who are interested in the fate of At-Large and in actually establishing an engaged, sustainable At-Large membership to move beyond re-stating their positions and work with all interested parties to find a reasonable, workable compromise based on this approach. We are eager to work with all parties over the next few months to refine implementation details and garner practical support in carrying out these recommendations.


The ALSC has spent the last eight months studying At-Large issues and seeking input from all interested parties, and is committed to helping the Board achieve a broad consensus on effective means by which individual Internet users may participate in ICANN's policy formulation and decision-making. We have worked without preconceptions about the outcome and have carefully considered the full spectrum of potential At-Large participatory and representational mechanisms - from zero to 100 percent of the Board seats selected by an At-Large membership - and from an inter-governmental model representing individuals to directly involving all of the world's e-mail-address holders.

We found there to be great value in ICANN's existing bottom-up approach and in the involvement of At-Large members to strengthen the focus on Internet users' interests. However, we do not accept the notion that interests of the public, or individual users are somehow exclusively or even best protected by selecting half of the Board's Directors. The "White Paper," issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce authorizing creation of ICANN, set forth general principles for representation of all stakeholders and recognized that ICANN's evolution would require change (as did follow-on documents).ii We believe actions of the three existing Supporting Organizations and the Directors they selected have demonstrated that they also serve the public (or user) interest by contributing to the stable operation of the Internet. However, recognizing that the perspectives of At-Large Directors are important to the governance of ICANN, we also believe that their support should be required to make future substantive changes in ICANN's At-Large governance structure after plans for At-Large representation and participation are enacted.

Defining the Electorate

We also do not believe that the public (or user) interest can be reliably represented through a system based on e-mail addresses to identify individuals; such an approach is administratively and financially unworkable on a global scale for a sizeable electorate, and fraught with potential dangers ranging from capture to outright fraud. Furthermore, experience has already shown that it is costly and difficult to manage and does not effectively handle many people in regions that use non-Latin script or have inefficient postal systems. This is a real-world reality that the current ICANN must deal with.

Instead, to create an ALSO electorate, we found the requirement that members hold or acquire a domain name and pay a fee to be a useful way of initially identifying individuals, reaching them in a decentralized way through registrars (further tying the ICANN community together), and ensuring their direct interest in the Internet infrastructure that is ICANN's central concern. To be sure, this requirement and the accompanying registration process are not a foolproof mechanism for verifying identity and preventing fraud. However, we believe that domain name holders' tangible vested interest in the domain name system, their completion of financial transactions with registrars for domain names (in most cases), verification of their domain name registration, and payment for At-Large membership, provide a higher (and reasonable) threshold of verification than that afforded by unrestricted e-mail voting.

How Many At-Large Directors

Rather than dividing the Board between Directors who "serve the public interest" versus "functional" Directors, we believe the approach with the best chance for broad support is addressing Internet users' interests by:

  • Organizing ICANN's Board along stakeholder interest or functional lines, such as developers, providers and users; (We do not expect that Directors will always align in these blocs. On occasion, regional differences may matter; on other occasions, technical versus economic considerations may matter, etc.);
  • Providing all interested individuals with the opportunity to participate in ICANN and for At-Large members to select one-third of the Board; and
  • Initially defining At-Large members -- the ALSO electorate -- as "individual domain name holders" -- since they have a strong and tangible vested interest in ICANN activities, not just the Internet in general, and an overwhelming majority of domain name holders are individuals or enterprises with less than ten employees).iii (We propose the At-Large user "community" include institutions, but only individuals may vote. Institutions already play a greater role in the existing Supporting Organizations, so this seems an appropriate balance.)

Obviously, this is only one of many possible approaches; we endeavored to find one that could win broad support.

We recommend that the ALSO framework and elections be based on six geographic regions -- Africa, Asia/Pacific, Europe, Latin America/Caribbean, North America and Central/West/South Asia (CWSA). Dividing ICANN's existing Asia/Pacific region in two reflects the distribution of population and Internet usage for the world's fastest growing region, and we view this as a practical, clear-cut action. We recognize, however, that the creation of ICANN's existing five regions involved lengthy consideration and inter-governmental discussions and that there may be issues involved in having SOs with different geographic regions. Therefore, if creation of a new region threatens to significantly delay At-Large implementation, the ALSC recommends the ALSO and its election processes initially be based on ICANN's existing five regions, and that two At-Large Directors be selected from two different countries in the existing Asia/Pacific region.

We recommend that Directors be elected for three-year terms and that the At-Large be re-evaluated after two election cycles. This would provide At-Large with time to develop and give ICANN more stability and an opportunity to implement any necessary changes to At-Large participation and representation mechanisms based on six years of experience. Clearly, timely outreach, development and management efforts will be necessary to implement our recommendations.


To assist with the At-Large elections (as a top priority), and to work on the implementation details and help launch the ALSO and its membership base, we recommend that ICANN create an ALSO Organizing Committee with an Elections Subcommittee. They would develop proposed guidelines, procedures and a budget for the At-Large election, building on the ALSC's detailed suggestions, and help guide the At-Large elections. As noted above, the Committee also would look for other mechanisms to register and authenticate voters. The Committee would propose (and assist with implementation of) bylaws, a charter, and organizational and outreach plans and budgets, and would develop guidelines to foster an ALSO that can develop and present policy advice to the Board (in close consultation with other Supporting Organizations) on issues that affect Internet users' interests and that are within ICANN's specific technical and administrative mission.

It is important to note that careful attention to ICANN's constrained mission should render it less attractive as a vehicle to "capture" and make sure that the public does not expect ICANN to remedy problems or solve disputes not within its narrow competence.

The Committee also would develop guidelines for the creation of a local, regional and national ALSO framework, including making recommendations on the use of existing organizations to help create the ALSO.

We think a consensus can form that an ALSO's organized participation mechanisms and election processes will fulfill the mission of involving individuals and representing their interests in ICANN's policy development and decision-making structure and processes. Individual domain name holders, as users, have a significant stake in ICANN's activities and should have the opportunity of fully participating in ICANN and helping to select its Board. The creation of elected, geographically diverse At-Large Councils with the responsibility to help build a framework for At-Large participation and attention to users' voices is essential. The ALSO also should strengthen the link to people who have demonstrated a commitment to ICANN's mission and support informed participation in ICANN's technical coordination of the Internet's domain name and address system.

In proposing these recommendations on the role of an At-Large community, our intention is to help create a policy and decision-making structure and process within ICANN that fosters understanding and accommodation among various interests, including individual Internet users. We believe we are recommending such a structure, one that has potential for consensus support and will help ensure that ICANN's policies truly reflect the needs, interests and rights of all its stakeholders - including those who may not agree with some resulting policies but who will ideally feel that at least their positions were understood and fairly considered. Finally, we do believe that attention to the interests of all stakeholders is likely to produce transparent policies that will indeed sustain the stability of the domain name system and attract broader public support over time.

Balanced, Reasonable Approach

We have concluded that no system exists for incorporating an "At-Large" membership that would fully satisfy all interests, because this is a world of limited resources in which compromises must be made and priorities set in all spheres of activity. We also recognize that our recommended approach is not foolproof (e.g. vulnerability to capture of a geographic region would still exist.) We recommend that ICANN remain open to new ideas from those interested in creating a self-supporting At-Large electorate base that would enable the inclusion of individuals who do not own domain names yet are actively interested in ICANN's mission.

We believe that this is the most balanced, reasonable approach currently available, and that we are outlining a system that is generally fair and that involves those individuals who have an active interest in ICANN's activities, or allows them easily to join by registering a domain name and paying the membership fee. It offers a framework for all interested individuals' structured participation, focuses At-Large membership (electorate) on an identifiable and vested community, provides a reasonable mechanism for registration and self-funding, and grants At-Large members a proportionate responsibility for selecting ICANN's Board (along with the DNSO, ASO, and PSO).

Our recommendations are submitted to the Board for ICANN's consideration. We look forward to working with the Board, Supporting Organizations, other interested parties, and ICANN staff to answer questions and propose detailed suggestions for an At-Large membership, voter registration, and a regionally based, self-supporting ALSO. Although events may have delayed progress, we remain committed to helping ICANN reach final resolution and implementation on At-Large membership.

ALSC Final Report on ICANN At-Large Membership available at www.atlargestudy.org


ICANN's Board of Directors created the independent At-Large Membership Study Committee (ALSC) to forge a consensus on "effective means by which the diverse global Internet communities and stakeholders may participate in ICANN's policy development, deliberations, and actions." The issue of how to involve Internet users in a non-profit corporation with technical management responsibilities for the Internet's domain name and address system has gone unresolved despite more than three years of debate (started before ICANN itself began), several studies and one global, direct election of five At-Large Directors to ICANN's Board. Since ICANN's success depends on the voluntary cooperation of root server operators, Internet service providers, name and address registry operators, and registrars around the world, as well as support from those who might otherwise undermine the Internet's global reach and accessibility, ICANN's ability to fulfill its mission requires global consensus and support, as well as the acquiescence of the world's governments. Continued controversy over the proper role and function of the individual Internet community in ICANN's decision-making processes is harmful to these objectives.

This final report, which follows the ALSC's "Draft Final Report" released on August 27, recommends an approach to Internet user participation and representation in ICANN that the ALSC believes is defensible, executable, effective, and most likely to gain consensus. Our recommendations are submitted to ICANN's Board and are widely available on the Internet as of November 5. Beginning November 11, ALSC members will be available at ICANN's annual meeting in Marina del Rey to discuss the report and answer questions. We also will continue to be available on-line, through e-mail, and via our website at www.atlargestudy.org.


ICANN has a narrow technical and administrative mission, but even within those boundaries its actions can affect the global community of Internet users in various ways. This is reflected in the "White Paper" issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce in June 1998 as the statement of policy guiding ICANN's creation: "The new corporation should operate as a private entity for the benefit of the Internet community as a whole. The development of sound, fair, and widely accepted policies for the management of DNS will depend on input from the broad and growing community of Internet users. Management structures should reflect the functional and geographic diversity of the Internet and its users. Mechanisms should be established to ensure international participation in decision making."

The method by which the global Internet community should participate has been the subject of contentious debate since before ICANN was created. Last year, after considerable public discussion and no apparent consensus, ICANN's Board adopted what is described as "a compromise interim solution: the direct selection of five ICANN directors by a self-selected At-Large constituency, combined with the continued service of four of the original ICANN directors (for a period not to exceed two years) to ensure that there would remain nine At-Large 'slots' on the ICANN Board until (at a minimum) the results of the At Large study were implemented."

The ALSC's comprehensive study of how to provide appropriately for input and influence into ICANN policy deliberations and decisions by the general Internet community was part of this compromise. The five At Large Directors were selected in a global, direct election by 34,035 e-mail address holders and seated in November 2000.

The ALSC has spent the last eight months searching for the fairest and most practical compromise between those who seek broad global democratic procedures to assert At-Large control and those who want ICANN to be governed by experts in the technical and administrative tasks for which ICANN is responsible. In addition to the fundamental participation and representation issues, we have given due consideration to the serious mechanical, practical, and financial issues raised by last year's At-Large election, and have sought ways to avoid fraud, abuse or capture by determined minorities.

Generating a consensus on At-Large involvement from the entire Internet community is a challenge, particularly when most of them have not interacted with the ALSC. Indeed, despite extensive outreach efforts and notices to the ICANN's 143,789 registrants for the At-Large election, the 5000 member ICANN announce list, and regular notices to the ALSC's announce list (which included 5985 subscribers as of October 31), participation and input was low. The average attendance at the ALSC's outreach meetings was approximately 45 people and our on-line forum received posts from 100 people as of October 27 (and over half of the 1163 posts were from 6 people). We did receive verbal (and some written) feedback from members of ICANN constituencies and other interested parties, but we were unable to substantively engage what we felt to be enough interested parties to reasonably claim to have "forged a consensus" for anything beyond broad principles.

Understandably, this has left us questioning the level of real interest in creating an At-Large membership. Assuming it lies somewhere between the 100 people who posted on our forum and the 143,806 people who had valid registrations in the 2000 At-Large elections, we suggest ICANN issue a call for "expressions of interest" to document, in advance of ICANN's March 2001 meeting, the number of entities (individuals and groups) willing to help create an organization for sustained involvement of individual Internet users in ICANN.

Regardless of the level of interaction with the ALSC, all segments of the Internet community have a stake in the solution to this problem, and especially in a solution that does not threaten the stability of the various aspects of the Internet for which ICANN has some responsibility. Thus, in our deliberations, we looked for consensus not only from those who might help form the At-Large, but also from ICANN's existing community - whose continuing support and involvement is also key to ICANN's sustainability - and from governments and other interested parties who also have a stake in, and real-world influence on, ICANN's success. So the ALSC carefully listened to the input, attempting to play a brokering role between some divergent opinions, and considered all the arguments and evidence. We now offer these recommendations as having the greatest potential for consensus among all interested parties.


The ALSC is an independent committee formed by ICANN's Board in February 2001 to undertake a comprehensive study of the concept, structure and processes relating to an ICANN At-Large membership. The ALSC is charged with forging a consensus and offering recommendations to the ICANN Board on how Internet users can effectively participate in ICANN's policy development, deliberations and actions for technical coordination of the Internet. According to our charter, recommendations offered by the ALSC that require the selection of any At-Large Directors should be implemented on a schedule that allows them to be seated at the Board's annual meeting in November 2002.

On January 26, 2001, the Board approved Carl Bildt as ALSC Chair, Chuck Costello and Pindar Wong as Vice Chairs, and the appointment of Denise Michel as the ALSC's Executive Director. The Board approved funding and ratified the ALSC's membership at the quarterly board meeting in Melbourne on March 13, 2001. The Board unanimously approved the six individuals proposed by Carl Bildt: Pierre Dandjinou, Esther Dyson, Olivier Iteanu, Ching-Yi Liu, Thomas Niles, and Oscar Robles. (See Appendix for URL for biographies). As instructed by the Board, ALSC members' were chosen, in part, to reflect the breadth of relevant interests in the Internet community, and to achieve geographic and personal diversity suitable for the study, while at the same time permitting the Committee to work efficiently and within the time constraints imposed by the Board.

As chartered, the ALSC began with no preconceptions as to the outcome and a determination to re-examine all past decisions and actions. Our goal was a consensus recommendation that provides an appropriate mechanism for input by the general Internet community, while also permitting effective and efficient management of ICANN and the achievement of its specific technical and administrative mission. Whether or not "consensus" has been reached is ultimately up to ICANN's Board to decide. We do, however, offer the potential for consensus, having crafted what we view as a reasonable, workable compromise. We have sought input from all interested parties and have encouraged the participation of individuals and organizations worldwide in our effort to work towards a broad consensus on At-Large membership and, specifically, to address the following issues:

  • Whether the ICANN Board should include "At-Large" Directors;
  • If so, how many such Directors there should be;
  • How any such "At-Large" Directors should be selected, including consideration of at least the following options: selection by an "At-Large" membership; appointment by the existing Board; selection or appointment by some other entity or entities; and any combination of those options;
  • If selection by an At-Large membership is recommended, what processes and procedures should be used to create that At-Large membership; what minimum criteria, if any, should be required for membership; precisely how should an At-Large membership select At-Large Directors;
  • If an At-Large membership is to exist, what should its structure, role and functions be; how should it be funded; and
  • What is the proper relationship between an At-Large membership and ICANN's three Supporting Organizations?

ALSC Outreach

The ALSC has conducted a worldwide outreach, discussion, research, and consensus-building campaign that informed our recommendations. This final report is a reflection of our activities to date, which include:

  • Regular e-mail notices and solicitations to a self-selected "ALSC announce list, " which included 5985 subscribers as of October 31 (an e-mail to ICANN's 143,789 member At-Large mailing list invited people to "opt-in" by registering for this list). Additional e-mails were sent to potentially interested organizations and individuals, including previous members of the Membership Advisory Committee and the Membership Implementation Task Force, At-Large candidates, leaders of ICANN's Supporting Organizations and constituencies, and managers of relevant research efforts and websites. (Note: e-mail was the ALSC's primary channel for outreach and input to increase global accessibility; in addition to English, the ALSC invited correspondence in African Languages, Chinese, Danish, French, Mandarin, Norwegian, Russian, Spanish, and Swedish.)
  • A low bandwidth-compatible ALSC website (www.atlargestudy.org) to distribute information and facilitate involvement. It contains background information, ALSC documents (ALSC draft report and discussion paper, ALSC foundation documents, presentations, correspondence, announcements, press releases, articles, etc.), summaries and notices of ALSC meetings, 2000 At-Large election statistics, studies and papers from a variety of sources, an on-line forum, and links to other relevant websites.
  • A "Call for Studies" that yielded research and papers that examined roles, requirements, processes, and structures relating to individuals' involvement in international organizations, from researchers and interested individuals in numerous countries. * An on-line forum in which 100 people shared their views and engaged in a dialogue with the ALSC and other Internet users (1163 posts as of October 27, over half of which were from 6 people) (the forum had an additional 60 subscribers as of October 27 who did not post).
  • Meetings with existing ICANN constituencies and Supporting Organizations.
  • Media outreach to raise awareness of the ALSC's activities and solicit input.
  • Four ALSC outreach meetings held in Melbourne, Stockholm, Silicon Valley (USA), and Montevideo focusing on various aspects of the ALSC's charter.
  • Twelve outreach events in eleven countries to raise awareness about the ALSC activities and solicit input, as well as numerous informal meetings conducted by ALSC members.
  • Three ALSC working meetings and regular ALSC conference calls.
  • Distribution for comments of a "Discussion Paper" on July 12 describing the ALSC's initial conclusions and calling for focused input on At-Large membership mechanisms.
  • Distribution for comments of an options template on July 30 providing hypothetical examples of At-Large participation and representation mechanisms to stimulate debate and elicit input.
  • Distribution for comments of a "Draft Final Report" on August 27.

In the last eight months, members of the ALSC have had in-depth discussions on a wide range of At-Large issues. A gamut of options have been examined for involving individual users in ICANN -- from providing input through the existing ICANN advisory structure, to creating a new At-Large organization -- from electing all Directors through an At-Large membership election, to electing none. As directed, we conducted a "clean sheet" study, examining all of the issues, decisions and activities related to At-Large, and attempting to leave no question un-asked. We believe this has helped make our final recommendations more practical, executable, and effective.

At-Large Participation and Representation

The ALSC has given serious consideration to all the input it received, the realities of ICANN's evolution and last year's At-Large election, the need for transparency and accountability in functional terms, the cost and resource constraints ICANN faces, and the need to fulfill ICANN's mission. This has yielded an ALSC conclusion that structured involvement of individual Internet users (At-Large participants) in ICANN' policy formulation and decision-making is needed, along with representation of individual Internet users on ICANN's Board, and that, for the purposes of electing Directors and ALSO leadership, an At-Large membership is appropriately comprised of self-selecting individual domain name holders (At-Large members).

Value of User Involvement

We found there to be great value in ICANN's existing bottom-up approach and in the involvement of individual Internet users to strengthen the focus on the benefit of the Internet community as a whole. Because there is a "public interest" responsibility vested in ICANN (which operates for the benefit of the Internet community as a whole), a role for individuals (as well as non-commercial, public interest organizations, etc.) is appropriate. As stated in the "White Paper," issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce authorizing creation of ICANN, "The new corporation should operate as a private entity for the benefit of the Internet community as a whole. The development of sound, fair, and widely accepted policies for the management of the DNS will depend on input from the broad and growing community of Internet users."

ICANN needs to be accountable not just to governments and members of its existing Supporting Organizations, but also to those who are affected by its actions but whose daily focus is elsewhere. Actions ICANN takes within its seemingly narrow technical and administrative mission can affect (and generate interest among) the world's individual Internet users in a myriad of ways. These users hold a variety of values and represent interests that may be personal, political or economic. They care about issues such as access to domain names in non-Latin characters, the potential use of IP addresses and domain names for identification or location of individuals and groups, competition and choice (or not) in the provision of various services provided by independent parties under contract to ICANN, domain-name intellectual property issues, introduction of new gTLDs, practices of gTLDs and ccTLDs, etc.

Illustrative of this view are the comments of Greg Block, with Telnic, who stated at the ALSC's outreach meeting in Stockholm, "With the rise of the new gTLDs, we're seeing a new kind of domain, one centered around marketing and the creation of strong branding, the metaphysical equivalent of putting a Nike swoosh at the end of every domain name. Some of these new gTLDs go so far as to become the digital equivalent of Nike Town, where the use of the gTLD, its associated directory/portal, and the myriad of associated services represent a carefully packaged and controlled experience; and while the dangers to the privacy and individual rights may or may not be clear, the importance of electing individuals to the Board capable of clearly elucidating those issues is obvious.

This view, however, was not unanimous, as demonstrated by Hans Petter Holen, Chair of the Address Supporting Organization's Address Council, who stated at that same meeting, "Looking at ICANN - we have an organization handling the three main areas [Internet protocols, addresses, and domains], so I question the need/place for an At-Large membership."

E-mail-based Membership Lacks Support

While the we found that a role for individual Internet users in ICANN is appropriate, we did not find compelling evidence or arguments for the notion that users' interests are somehow exclusively or even best protected by the direct election by e-mail address holders of half of ICANN's Board. There appeared to be only limited support for the position that every individual in the world 16 years of age or older who uses the Internet has an automatic right to determine ICANN's leadership. Of particular note was the NAIS reportix, which supported this recommendation, as did a majority of the ALSC's 100 forum participants. These views certainly are to be taken into account. However, when viewed against the apparent lack of endorsement by ICANN's constituencies and other stakeholders, clearly this approach does not have the necessary support.

We concluded that the main interest of the wider Internet community is in the stability and reliability of the Internet itself, and that a structure for participation and representation that is seen as creating the best possibilities for this would meet with its tacit approval. There remains significant, widespread concern in the ICANN community about the potential destabilizing effects of e-mail-based direct elections of half of ICANN's Board by a global electorate with questionable understanding of ICANN's mission.

We found that e-mail address holders are too difficult to identify, authenticate, and organize, and their addresses themselves are often transient. It would be impractical to use 400 million people (expected to be about 673 million Internet users at year-end 2002 and over 1 billion users by year-end 2005)xi as the basis for user representation in ICANN. Indeed, it is reported that the number of e-mail mailboxes in use around the world is expected to grow from 505 million last year to a total of 1.2 billion by 2005. It is predicted that up to half of all e-mail mailboxes will be accessed through Web browsers rather than e-mail programs by 2003. This is not to suggest, of course, that they all would be interested in becoming At-Large members, but it is important to acknowledge the scope of the Internet's e-mail community and the reality of registering, verifying and servicing even a small percentage of this group.

Last year's At-Large election raised what the ALSC has found to be currently insurmountable mechanical problems and unreasonable financial burdens in attempting to involve the world's e-mail address holders. With an electorate comprised of e-mail address holders, we found no reasonable methods by which ICANN could create a well-informed electorate, and avoid fraud, abuse or capture by determined minorities. The burden would be even greater (and the requisite effort even more impractical) to attempt to achieve informed participation of the world's e-mail address holders in a policy development and decision-making structure. In the ALSC's view, there is an emerging consensus that At-Large representation needs to be accompanied by a mechanism for structured participation.

Whatever its theoretical merits, we found any attempt to reach individuals on the basis of e-mail addresses to be administratively and financially unworkable on a global scale and fraught with potential dangers ranging from capture to outright fraud. We also do not accept the notion that the world's governments should represent the interests of individual users on ICANN's Board. Clearly this approach also has no consensus support. As explained by Marilyn Cade, with AT&T, at the ALSC's Stockholm meeting, "Government doesn't necessarily move more quickly or in a manner users or even agencies within the government like. Don't confuse the need to improve ICANN's processes and how and who participates with the rest of the question on whether government should be in charge ... Consider development of the Hague Convention on Jurisdiction [related to e-commerce] which has been under draft for seven years... [or] the Council of Europe's Cyber Crime Treaty - secretly in draft by law enforcement with no involvement of the private sector, or NGOs..."

Recommended Membership Approach

We believe the best foundation for consensus, and the best way to serve the public interest, is by organizing ICANN along functional lines of developers, providers and users, by defining individual users (At-Large members) as "individual domain name holders" (for purposes of an ALSO electorate, since they have a strong tangible vested interest in ICANN activities), by providing any individual Internet user (At-Large participant) with an opportunity to participate in the ALSO, and by providing At-Large members with the opportunity to select one-third of its Board. (In suggesting ICANN be organized along functional lines as "developers, providers and users" the ALSC was seeking to broadly describe ICANN's existing constituencies and was not making specific recommendations regarding ICANN's existing constituency structure, nor was the Committee recommending a specific allocation of Board seats beyond those proposed for At-Large. The ALSC recognizes that several constituencies could be considered to fulfill more than one function and intended the terms to be interpreted broadly to, in some fashion, encompass all of the Internet's stakeholders.)

The ALSC believes that a viable compromise - the requirement that At-Large members hold a domain name to elect ALSO leadership and Directors - is a useful way of identifying individuals, reaching them in a decentralized way through registrars and ensuring a minimum level of knowledge of, and interest, in the Internet infrastructure that is ICANN's central concern.

Any e-mail address holders could still participate in the ALSO, and could acquire a domain name at minimal cost, but with some effort. To help ensure that this is not an impediment to those who want to be part of the ALSO electorate, the ALSC suggests that the ALSO Organizing Committee identify and encourage organizations that could provide appropriate assistance. We also recommend that the ALSO Organizing Committee solicit ideas and report to the Board on any additional mechanisms with a reasonable degree of verification that allow individual Internet users with an interest in ICANN's mission to opt-in to At-Large membership.

Individual Domain Name Holders

Individual domain name holders have a greater vested interest in ICANN activities and can form an effective initial base for organized user participation and representation in ICANN. Equally important, basing At-large membership on individual domain name holders, we believe, is the approach most likely to generate consensus support. The holding of a domain name is a reasonable threshold for joining the At-Large electorate and building informed participation of this constituency can help ICANN fulfill its public interest responsibility. Although the numbers are still significant - approximately 30 million second-level domain name holders in the .com, .net and .org registries, and approximately 11 million equivalent domain name holders in the ccTLDs and .edu registries -- and soon more in the new gTLD registries -- this is a reasonable basis for creating an At-Large membership. The appropriateness of basing an ALSO electorate on domain name holders is further reinforced by the composition of this community. For example, the VeriSign Registrar estimates that over 75% of its customers are individuals or small or medium enterprises with less than ten employees.

While e-mail address holders were difficult to verify, this approach focuses At-Large membership on an identifiable and vested community, can provide a reasonable mechanism for registration and self-funding, and will help build a framework for all individual Internet users' structured participation and communication. In addition, working with registrars for initial outreach and to refer individual domain name holders to the registration website, and working with registries to verify domain names, decentralizes a process that ICANN found difficult to accomplish centrally. At-Large membership will be strengthened by linking it to people who have a commitment to ICANN's mission or some knowledge of the DNS, demonstrated by registering for and maintaining a domain name, providing funding for At-Large activities, and participating in the ALSO.

Structured At-Large participation will be an important means of ensuring balance and accommodation among user, provider and developer interests, and will be a source of input concerning global user interests. ICANN was created in order to provide a way for the global Internet community to provide input and develop consensus policies for the technical management of the Internet's domain name and address system in a transparent manner. ICANN's current structure, however, does not provide adequate direct participation by individuals or direct representation of their interests. The existing Supporting Organizations were organized to provide expert advice to the Board, and they afford only limited opportunity for At-Large participation. Governments (and ICANN's Government Advisory Committee), though useful, are not the appropriate mechanisms for individuals' participation.

An At-Large membership, comprised of individual domain name holders, is needed to represent individual users' interests, to encourage global communication and participation by all interested Internet users, and ensure a meaningful proportion of ICANN's Board is selected based on a global At-Large membership's priorities.

"Individual Domain Name Holder" Defined

To create an ALSO electorate, the ALSC recommends an "individual domain name holder" be defined as the "administrative contact" for a "registered domain name." We recommend that "registered domain name" be defined as: "A registered name within the domain of the Registry TLD, whether consisting of two or more (e.g., john.smith.name) levels, about which Registry Operator (or an affiliate engaged in providing Registry Services) maintains data in a Registry Database, arranges for such maintenance, or derives revenue from such maintenance."

To further define At-Large membership, the ALSC recommends the following:

  • Each individual administrative contact for a domain name be given the option of becoming an At-Large member and paying a membership fee;
  • Individuals who are administrative contacts for multiple domain names are eligible for one At-Large membership (and one vote in an At-Large election);
  • Entities, such as ISPs, that may conduct batch registrations should be asked to alert the domain name holder (administrative contact) of the opportunity to become an At-Large member; and
  • To further focus At-Large membership on individual domain name holders, registrations of sub-delegated domain names within registered domain names (as defined above) should be ineligible.

We recognize that using "individual domain name holders" for At-Large membership could include a named person behind large and small institutions' domain name registration. Only the individual administrative contact, however, is eligible for At-Large voting privileges, and although the ALSO would be a place for individual users, we recognize that individuals may "wear several hats" within ICANN. The ALSC also is aware that potential would exist for holding domain names to influence the At-Large membership and representation. We believe, however, that factors such as the At-Large membership fee and regionally based elections with geographic diversity requirements will help address this issue.

Although clearly not a perfect mechanism for At-Large, we believe this to be the best mechanism to achieve consensus support. We are working on the assumption that organizations will not attempt to create or influence large numbers of individual domain name holders voting on their behalf, and we are looking for input on ways to detect and avoid such behavior. We note that individuals' votes will be private, and we note that sudden large numbers of individual holders representing the domain names of a single entity will most likely be visible, depending on the final decision about privacy protections for At-Large members. Finally, any attempt by organizations to influence votes on a broad scale is likely to backfire, as at least some of the subjects of such attempts will publicize them and complain. We encourage input on what specific rules or procedures may be appropriate globally, while recognizing institutions rights to free speech.

Creating an At-Large Membership

To create an At-Large membership, the ALSC recommends that ICANN, guided by the ALSO Organizing Committee, undertake an outreach effort. In addition to general outreach efforts, we suggest that the Committee work with the registrars to use the domain name registration infrastructure to notify current and future individual domain name holders' administrative contacts of the opportunity to join and financially support an At-Large membership. The ALSC also sees great benefit in immediately "jumpstarting" the ALSO with voluntary, financial donations and grassroots efforts, and encourages the Committee to determine how this could be accomplished.

The ALSC recommends that the At-Large membership, and its participatory and representational activities, be self-funded through membership dues. ICANN is a non-profit organization with limited resources and it is appropriate for At-Large members to pay an annual, recurring fee. We recognize that fees may discourage some individuals from becoming members, but believe this is balanced by the need for a self-funded ALSO independent of outside funding sources (including ICANN) and a resulting membership that has demonstrated a commitment to supporting At-Large activities - and the higher level of public services and effectiveness that will result. The ALSC is concerned by some evidence that the very low entrance barrier in last year's At-Large election may have resulted in a large enrollment of people who were not actively interested in ICANN, but who enrolled only because it was easy, or who were "encouraged" to do so simply because of nationalistic competition.

For example, Toshimaru Ogura, author of "Japanese Experience about ICANN Election Campaign," states, "It was clear they disregarded the intent of ICANN's election, and that JIF [Japan Internet Forum] was set-up at the direction of MPT [Ministry of Postal and Telecommunications] to get a Japan (not Asia) Board Member. Private sector was involved in the JIF at the direction of the MPT. The private sector and the government are not separate in Japan; only excluding government is not enough. Several ISP's in Japan developed a campaign for ICANN elections. A special web page was created to promote Japanese votes. Several companies directed their employees to register. For example, according to an internal document from Hitachi Corp., it was assigned to produce 1500 registrations, and management assigned three registrations for each office and section, and required a registration report to meet quota."

Domain name ownership, cost and verification, and membership fees may help deter problems such as nationalistic competition and involvement of disinterested individuals, as well as the establishment of election rules and consequences for breaking the rules.

The individual domain name holder criterion is the best option we identified. We recognize, however, that there are likely to be individuals who cannot afford (or do not want) a domain name, but who want to be part of the At-Large electorate. To address concerns of disenfranchisement, the ALSC recommends that the ALSO Organizing Committee identify and encourage organizations that could provide appropriate assistance to ensure that domain name ownership is not an impediment to those who want to be part of the ALSO electorate. For example, the United Nations Development Program has discussed with the ALSC ways in which their activities may also contribute towards At-Large membership, and this, as well as other global and regional organizations, is worth exploring. Although the ALSC has not been able to identify other acceptable options, we suggest the Committee continue to consider this issue and be responsible for reporting to the Board on whether any additional mechanisms with a reasonable degree of verification exists to allow individual Internet users with an interest in ICANN's mission to opt-in to At-Large membership. With additional time and resources, the Committee, with the help of other interested groups, may discover a new option, or ways to make options such as a special domain for At-Large members, or in-person registration viable.


The ALSC has concluded that the most likely consensus approach to fulfilling expectations for ICANN involving individuals and accommodating their interests in its policy development and decision-making structures and processes, is the organized participation of interested individual Internet users and the representation of individual domain name holders.

The ALSC recommends the creation of an At-Large Supporting Organization (ALSO) as vital to At-Large participation in ICANN. The existing ICANN structure has not fulfilled expectations of directly involving and representing individual Internet users and their interests. The ALSC agrees with the DNSO that restructuring of that organization is required, while the ASO and PSO, in general, seem to be functioning. All three existing Supporting Organizations, however, in the ALSC's view, should take steps to be more open and inclusive. Specifically, in reviewing numerous ICANN discussions and resulting decisions, we found it difficult to follow the documented "consensus" decision-making process. In many instances, it is unclear how the input into a particular "open process" decision was duly considered, documented and assimilated.

The ALSC recommends that the Board consider dedicating staff to supporting the internal activities of the Supporting Organizations. Significant problems with information sharing, public access and education, the aggregation and presentation of views, the maintenance of mailing lists and websites, coordination among the various constituencies and Supporting Organizations and the Board, and the documentation of consensus decision-making could be, in part, addressed with additional, dedicated staff resources and a review of Supporting Organization processes. In addition, we recommend that the ALSO Organizing Committee solicit input on specific mechanisms - including user choice - to protect the privacy of At-Large members while simultaneously encouraging open, transparent communication among them and with the various organizations and interest groups that wish to educate them and solicit support for their policies.

We recommend steps be taken to ensure that all interested individuals have an opportunity to participate in "bottom-up ICANN consensus development," and to ensure that there is a mechanism that will make this possible. An ALSO gives ICANN the opportunity to organize individuals' energy and experience in a more productive manner - making the issues intelligible to a broader community and giving individuals a way to turn their feedback into tangible influence in an accountable, transparent and predictable manner.

In recommending the creation of an ALSO, we envision an At-Large structure and process that would contribute to the following goals:

  • Fulfill ICANN's mission of operating for the benefit of the Internet community as a whole in its administration of the Internet's technical name and numbering infrastructure, and balance the commercial and institutional interests that are already well represented within the organization.
  • Ensure that ICANN operates in a manner that is stable, accountable, transparent, and predictable.
  • Increase the likelihood of voluntary compliance by fulfilling ICANN's goal of having its decisions supported by a broad and documented consensus among affected parties.
  • Engender knowledge within, and support from, interested communities by giving them a demonstrable way of participating and affecting policy.
  • Inject the necessary individual user interest perspectives into coordination of relevant ICANN issues. This includes bringing non-technical considerations to bear on technical decisions, as well as providing ICANN with advance warning of issues that have the potential of being critical or controversial in the "non-technical" world.
  • Encourage both the "non-technical" and "technical" communities to explain their concerns and the impact of their work more effectively to the broader public.

Directly representing and/or involving individual Internet users in some structured way unquestionably contributes to fulfilling the mandate that ICANN's Board of Directors be accountable to the whole Internet community and that ICANN "operate in a bottom-up and representative manner, open to input from the broad community of Internet users."xvii Indeed, the most critical recommendation in this report is the creation of a framework for structured At-Large participation - an ALSO to foster local and regionally based (and perhaps eventually issue based), informed participation by individuals in ICANN.

ALSO Framework

The ALSC recommends that an ALSO framework and At-Large membership elections in 2002 be based on six geographic regions to simultaneously provide geographically diverse ALSO At-Large Council members, and six geographically diverse At-Large Directors (the winners of each election) to serve on ICANN's Board. We propose that the five regions used in last year's At-Large election be amended by creating a sixth region with the following name and composition: Central/West/South Asia (CWSA), comprising India (.in), Pakistan (.pk), Afghanistan (.af), Kazakhstan (.kz), Uzbekistan (.uz), Kyrgyzstan (.kg), Turkmenistan (.tm), Tajikistan (.tj), Sri Lanka (.lk), Maldives (.mv), Iraq (.iq), Iran (.ir), Israel (.il), Syria (.sy), Jordan (.jo), Lebanon (.lb), Palestine Territories (.ps), Kuwait (.kw), UAE (.ae), Yemen (.ye), Oman (.om), Bahrain (.bh), Qatar (.qa), Saudi Arabia (.sa) (see Appendix for ISO 3166-1 list). This will ensure that the six At-Large Directors and the At-Large Council members meet ICANN's geographic diversity requirements, and having six separate electoral regions will help prevent capture and contribute to global representation and inclusiveness.

Our recommendations build on ICANN Bylaws, which define five regions (Africa, Asia/Pacific, Europe, Latin America/Caribbean, and North America), and mandate that At-Large Directors must include at least one citizen of each geographic region. Regional elections prevent populated countries and those with high Internet penetration rates from choosing all of the winners, and also make overall capture less likely, because any entity would have to organize large numbers of At-Large memberships in each region. In addition, our recommendation for this sixth region also reflects the distribution of population and Internet usage for the fastest growing region, Asia/Pacific. It is estimated that there will be more Internet users in the Asia-Pacific region, excluding Japan, than in the United States, by 2005. The number of Internet users in the region is expected to increase from 64 million last year to over 240 million by 2005.

The ALSC recognizes that the existing five regions are embedded in many other elements of ICANN, and changing the number of regions may require a broader re-evaluation of geographic diversity. We also recognize that the assignment of countries to regions may be controversial and time consuming. Although we view this as straightforward, if creation of a new region threatens to significantly delay At-Large implementation, the ALSC recommends that the development of the ALSO proceed on the basis of five regions and that two At-Large Directors from two different countries be elected in the existing Asia/Pacific region.

The ALSO's elected, Regional At-Large Councils, each comprised of five geographically diverse members plus the Director, and the geographically diverse global At-Large Council, with two members from each region, would be responsible for helping to build an ALSO structure that would serve as a local and regional-based framework for ALSO outreach and education, engaging members, aggregating views, enabling consensus decision-making, and working closely with other Supporting Organizations to address issues and develop policy on Internet user/consumer issues that fall within ICANN's specific technical and administrative mission. By giving the At-Large Council the responsibility to help organize local and regional organizational structures, the ALSO will have a critical framework that enables At-Large members to learn about and discuss At-Large issues in their own language, find common ground with users in other localities and regions and ultimately provide meaningful user advice to the Board.

To ensure that the grassroots At-Large community has an opportunity to participate in, and influence the shape of, the ALSO, it is recommended that ICANN's initial outreach and organizing efforts be undertaken with the guidance of the ALSO Organizing Committee. We suggest that the Committee also be tasked with creating a proposed charter and bylaws, an outreach plan, election procedures and other activities necessary for ALSO implementation. Members of the Organizing Committee should include one or more At-Large Directors and should represent geographic and professional diversity.

At-Large Membership Representation

Our recommendations on reconfiguring Board membership are also driven by the goals noted above. Ensuring "users' voices" and diverse interests are represented on the Board by high-quality Directors is paramount.

As noted, rather than dividing the Board between At-Large and all other interests, the ALSC believes that the approach most likely to gain consensus is that of organizing ICANN along functional lines of developers, providers and users, by defining users as "individual domain name holders" (to launch an ALSO and form its electorate), and by providing users with the opportunity to fully participate in ICANN and select one-third of its Board, providing geographically diverse Directors. This would result in a Board comprised of six At-Large Directors, 12 Directors selected by other constituencies (which are currently represented in the DNSO, ASO, and PSO), and ICANN's President and CEO. We assumed that the DNSO will reorganize to achieve a more effective structure and decision-making process, and we did not refer to a specific assignment of the 12 non-At-Large seats.

The ALSC carefully considered, but ultimately rejected as having an unsound logical basis, the notion that users' interests are best served by giving At-Large half of the Board seats. A functional approach makes more sense considering ICANN's evolution and responsibilities, and it has the greatest likelihood of achieving a consensus. Reserving six seats for At-Large Directors enables users to have a proportional role but also prevents any one of the constituency groups from exercising undue influence within ICANN. It has been suggested that a supermajority be required for changes to ICANN's bylaws affecting the At-Large structure once it is established. The ALSC believes this idea should be implemented.

We believe this Board structure will provide broader, more effective representation of ICANN's constituencies. In contrast to the current arrangement where the At-Large Directors have no identifiable constituency and no efficient mechanism for interaction with At-Large membership, our recommendation is centered on a self-funded, staffed, local and regionally based At-Large Supporting Organization. With its broad-based structure for user involvement and a geographically diverse managing Council, the ALSO should be able to engage its significant user membership in developing and aggregating At-Large views, participating in consensus decision-making, and presenting agreed upon At-Large views and working closely with other Supporting Organizations on policy development.

Membership Registration/Election Processes

The ALSC commends ICANN for running a global on-line At-Large election last year that resulted in five At-Large Directors who are contributing members of ICANN's Board. It is particularly noteworthy that ICANN accomplished this despite changing the election system 15 months into development to handle a direct (rather than an indirect) election, building a system expected to process 5,000 registrations and ultimately logging 176,849 registrations (of which 143,806 were valid registrations), and doing so with a severely limited budget (initially $200,000), limited staffing, and few if any guidelines.

Despite the un-contested seating of qualified At-Large Directors, the election revealed numerous systemic problems in the process, and raised serious questions about future elections with e-mail address holders. These include:

  • 143,806 valid registrations were received, of which 76,183 were validated, and 34,035 voted in this election; the cause of the 50% to 45% declines is unclear, but certainly raises questions about the process.
  • 34,035 people voted, which is approximately 1/100ths of a percent of a projected potential electorate, raising questions of whether the election met the popular democratic standards upon which it was based.
  • The cost of the election is projected to be anywhere from $10.28 to $15.43 per vote; 43% of the costs were variable in the form of printing, mailing, postage and handling costs of the pin letters sent to registrants; these are "budget-breaking" figures for ICANN when the potential electorate of e-mail address holders is considered.
  • 9,721 pin letters were returned (as of August 19, 2001), 92.2% of which had been sent to countries in the Asia region, meaning that 6.8% of all individuals with valid registrations were unable to vote; this raises questions about the efficacy of postal mail.
  • 33,670 registration applications came from China, 21.2% of all applications received, and yet Mao Wei, Director of China NIC, stated that "..our study we found that many Chinese users suffered from language and process problems. In our estimation, no more than 10% of Chinese users who attempted to register and vote were able to participate in the At Large election;"xix technology, authentication processes, and language all seem to have been serious barriers to participation.
  • Evidence suggests that elements engaged in aggressive, nationalistic registration campaigns, which raises questions about an informed, committed (to ICANN) At-Large membership.
  • Numerous cases of multiple registrations from the same IP host address, and numerous registrations from the same postal address were received, which could, or could not, have been fraudulent; verification was very difficult and at the conclusion of registration 33,043 registrations, or 18.7%, were removed from the valid records database because of real or suspected fraud.
  • Systems were under-designed and vulnerable, with several occurrences of denial of service, including 2,800 At-Large members who received an error message when attempting to submit their votes, and unsecured interface to the registration screens which potentially comprised the registration information.

As noted by Chuck Costello, in his capacity as Director of the Carter Center's Democracy Program and monitor of ICANN's At-Large elections: "The integrity of the voters list is open to question and that list obviously determines the pool of eligible voters who can vote. The system of mailings to physical addresses as a means to verify the bona fides of membership applicants as individuals and to prevent multiple registration is vulnerable to abuse. Computer security programs can identify patterns of use of the same address, but the system legitimately does allow multiple members at the same physical address, e.g. family members with separate e-mail addresses in the same house. Individuals intent on registering more than once using more than one e-mail address would not find it too difficult to defeat the controls and beat the system. The possibility of doing the same on a large-scale organized basis, therefore, also exists, introducing the risk of fraud capable of changing electoral outcomes. Batch registration in the Asia region apparently occurred and raises questions about people registering for other people and voting on their behalf as well if the individual secrecy of PINs is compromised."

This was underscored by Kent Crispin, who provided technical support to ICANN during the election, in a post on the ALSC's forum: "In late June, by chance, it was noticed that 1500 registrations came from a single IP address, apparently located in Japan. This raised a red flag ...Ultimately it was decided that there really wasn't anything that could be done -- while the situation was decidedly suspicious, there were possible legitimate scenarios that could explain the behavior, and there was no way of checking. That is, ICANN decided to accept 1500 possibly fraudulent registrations, because there was no way to check. The 1500 registrations from a single address was one of several odd behaviors that ICANN observed. In the logs there were also odd entries from computers that, on inspection, were using e-mail-to-web gateways to register people. How these sites were managed, how they publicized their interface, and why they were set up isn't known. Also, some organizations set up their own "ICANN" sites and acted as proxies for ICANN. In some cases appeared to be simply translations of the ICANN, but they were in languages nobody on the ICANN staff could read, so there was no easy way to know. These sites were for the most part only discovered by accident, because someone happened to notice something in the logs they thought was odd... A web page that implemented some kind of election fraud would likely disappear immediately after the election -- there is no way to be sure that what you see now is what the potential voter saw. We have no guarantee that the potential voter even knew that they were registering to vote."

The cost of such an election also was of concern to the ALSC. As explained by Mike Roberts in his paper, "Towards Improved Representation in ICANN," the cost was estimated to be over $350,000, "...about $2.40 per member record, $4.60 per registered voter, and $10.28 per vote. Of the total costs incurred, approximately $150,000 or 43% were variable in the form of the printing, mailing, postage and handling costs of the letters sent to registrants, which contained their pin numbers. The remaining $200,000 were largely fixed project costs including hardware and software purchases; contracted systems design, programming, testing, installation and optimization; voting system vendor contract; translation and other forms of member and public outreach, member and voter information and communications costs; temporary clerical help and project management and administration. No ICANN indirect costs, office support, general computer facilities, management or administration were charged to the At Large project. In addition, several hundred hours of skilled professional time were contributed pro bono over the course of the project. Thus, the total recorded cost of $350,000 is 25% to 50% lower than it would be if fully costed on ICANN's books or had been completely contracted out. However, some of the costs incurred were due to the project's first time nature and some of them are subject to economies of scale depending on the nature of the Board's decisions about any future At Large Director selection process."

The ALSC determined that building an effective At-Large electorate and conducting a global election on the basis of individual e-mail address holders to be unworkable and likely to engender fraud or capture. Instead, we found that the requirement that members hold a domain name to be a useful way of identifying individuals and also a way of ensuring their direct interest in the Internet infrastructure. We believe that an up-front election of ALSO leadership will help jump-start the self-organization of the ALSO, and conducting a completely online election saves both money and time. Defining the membership as registered domain name holders affords a higher (but not complete) confidence in verifiable voters and removes the need for costly, un-reliable pin letters (although work will still be needed to reduce fraud). Although this obviously has not been done on a global scale, countrywide online elections with domain name holders, such as the Canadian Internet Registration Authority's (CIRA) Board election, has shown promising results. We are optimistic that an At-Large membership registration and election process can be developed that meets standards of integrity, fairness and affordability.

To create an ALSO leadership, the ALSC recommends that global elections be held based on six geographic regions in which the ALSO membership elects one Director to serve on ICANN's Board for a three-year term. In addition to the "winner" in each region serving as a Director, the five geographically diverse candidates who received the next highest number of votes in each region would form the Regional At-Large Council. Each region's Director also would serve as an ex-officio member of the Regional At-Large Council. Each Regional At-Large Council would select two of its members from different countries to serve on the global ALSO At-Large Council and manage the ALSO.

Potential Process Elements

Elements of a potential process that could be used to create an initial At-Large membership and that merit further attention by ICANN and the ALSO Organizing include:

  • Outreach - Conduct a general outreach effort to inform domain name holders of their opportunity to become At-Large members.
  • Agreements - Enter into agreements with the TLD registrars and registries to use the domain name registration infrastructure for notification and verification of individual domain holders. It is expected that both gTLD and ccTLD registrars and registries will cooperate with efforts to create an At-Large membership. It is suggested that agreements with accredited registrars be augmented with a voluntary program enabling ccTLD's domain name holders to apply for membership if the ccTLD registry agrees to comply with the ALSO verification and marketing procedures.
  • Notification, Current Individual Domain Name Holders (IDNH) - ICANN should work with registrars to notify all domain name administrative contacts; these contacts would be presented with information and the opportunity to "opt-in" to At-Large membership by supplying a registration website with information (including name, domain name, e-mail address, postal address and phone number, and privacy/contact preferences), agreeing to join an initial At-Large alias mailing list used for At-Large representation and participation activities, and paying an annual membership fee. No person may register as a Member more than once. (Proper procedures need to be developed for record keeping when an IDNH changes registrars.)
  • Notification, Future IDNH - ICANN should work with registrars to incorporate in their registration process a hotlink to direct domain name administrative contacts to the registration website to opt-in to At-Large membership by authorizing the above noted activities. It is expected that registrars will work with ICANN to eventually fully incorporate At-Large membership in the domain name registration and renewal process.
  • ALSO Membership database - To complete the registration process, the ALSO registration website would query the appropriate registry to validate the IDNH information. Conventional data analysis would be used to prevent duplicates (potentially automatically, using the Extensible Provisioning Protocol).
  • Ultimately, the ALSO would be responsible for management of a voting registry and database/processing system to receive dues payments and membership information from registrants, verify domain name holdings, remove duplicates, and supply the voting contractor with the electorate database from the voting registry.
  • Elections - It is recommended that management of all phases of the election be contracted out, including determination of the ballot, some voter education and dialogue, and the voting phase. (Much voter education and dialogue would occur completely independently of ICANN.)
  • Review - Conduct a complete review of At-Large membership registration and elections after two election cycles.

The ALSC recommends that the Election Subcommittee build upon the following structure and processes to develop recommendations on an At-Large membership election:

  • Ballot - Similar to last year's At-Large election, a slate of nominees for each region would be created through a process involving both an ICANN nominating committee and open-nominations to help ensure ballots will contain candidates who are knowledgeable and qualified and to provide free choice and access; it is suggested that three candidates be selected by the nominating committee, and the top six open-nomination candidates in terms of endorsements, would be placed on each region's ballot.
  • Voter Education and Dialogue - Similar to last year's At-Large election, candidate web pages and question and answer forums would be used, and this would be augmented by use of an At-Large alias mailing list to foster open dialogue. Members would also be invited - through the initial mailing list - to join other lists set up by independent third parties.
  • Voting - As in last year's election, use a preferential voting system to determine for each of the six regions the Director (highest votes, with at least 50% +1 of the votes cast) and five geographically diverse Regional Council members (five candidates from different countries with the next highest votes).
  • Terms - All Directors would serve three-year terms; a Director from one country could not succeed a Director from the same country.

Conclusion/Next Steps

The ALSC intends to continue to contribute to ICANN's consideration of key elements of this report until its final consideration. We suggest the Board appoint the ALSO Organizing Committee and Election Subcommittee to work with the ALSC and ICANN staff on exploring implementation of these recommendations, including:

  • At the March 2002 ICANN meeting, report on the level of interest in the global community in creating local and regional ALSO entities that would support informed participation of interested individuals and At-Large involvement in ICANN.
  • Developing a detailed budget estimate for seed funding to support initial ALSO activities, which will give the ALSO sufficient time to create an independent, stable source of funding; identifying financial contributions from outside sources to help offset this cost.
  • Guidelines for the creation of an ALSO with the mission of At-Large outreach and education, engaging members, aggregating views, enabling consensus decision-making, and working closely with other Supporting Organizations to address issues and develop policy on Internet user issues that fall within ICANN's specific technical and administrative mission. (Policy developed by the ALSO will be referred to other relevant SOs as is the ICANN practice).
  • Guidelines for establishment of local and regional-based ALSO entities to build a global ALSO framework.
  • Global outreach and organizing campaign focused on engaging Internet users at the local and regional level.
  • Methods for ensuring At-Large member privacy while maximizing the opportunities for open, transparent education and discussion among members about ICANN issues.
  • Investigation of using the Extensible Provisioning Protocol for automatic updating and gathering of registrant data for those that opt-in to At-Large membership.
  • Membership registration processes and issuance of a request for proposals for management of a database/processing system to receive payments and membership information from registrars.
  • Agreements with TLD registrars for implementation of At-Large membership registration.

These are our recommendations, which we are now submitting for Board consideration. As indicated, the ALSO plans to work with the Board and ICANN's constituencies and stakeholders to answer questions that may arise and address implementation issues on which further discussions and elaboration are needed. We are committed to assisting ICANN in reaching final, successful resolution on At-Large membership.


Background on ICANN


ALSC Charter

ALSC Members

ALSC Forum Comments

ALSC list of outreach events and meetings

Summary of ALSC outreach events, working meetings

ALSC "Call for Studies" and list of submissions

ALSC Discussion Paper #1

ALSC Option template

Election Data

Extensible Provisioning Protocol

ISO 3166-1 list

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