Background: Now that ICANN
has completed the At Large membership and election process
in the year 2000, it is time to launch a comprehensive study of the At
Large concept, structure, and mechanisms. After discussions with many
individuals who have been involved in the At Large effort, the ICANN staff
made a set of recommendations about how the study might be organized,
emphasizing the need for an effort that is effective, credible, and open
to broad participation. At its recent meeting in Los Angeles, the ICANN
for public comments on the staff recommendations -- key issues include
the study's structure, composition, timetable, and funding.
Call for comments: The staff's recommendations are reproduced
below, along with a link to the Public
Comment Forum. ICANN actively invites input from any interested individual
or organization. The deadline for public comments is 27 December 2000,
Staff Recommendation on
Implementation of Article II, Section 5 of ICANN Bylaws,
calling for an At Large Study
[15 November 2000]
In Yokohama, the Board adopted changes to its bylaws (Article II) dealing
with At Large membership issues. The new bylaw provisions include Section
5, which reads as follows:
"Section 5. Study of "At Large" Membership
Beginning immediately following the conclusion of the Annual Meeting
of the Corporation in 2000, the Corporation shall initiate a comprehensive
study of the concept, structure and processes relating to an "At
Large" membership for the Corporation. The study shall be structured
so as to allow and encourage the participation of organizations worldwide,
and shall be a "clean sheet" study -- meaning that previous
decisions and conclusions regarding an "At Large" membership
will be informative but not determinative, and that the study will start
with no preconceptions as to a preferred outcome. The study shall include,
but not necessarily be limited to, the following issues, taking into
account the limited technical and administrative responsibilities of
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 to be used,
the processes and procedures by which that selection will take place;
What the appropriate structure, role and functions of an "At
Large" membership should be.
The Board shall establish, by the Annual Meeting in 2000, a process
and structure for the study that will enable it to meet the following
a. The results of the study should be presented to the Board no later
than the second quarterly meeting of the Corporation in 2001;
b. The Board shall review the study, and propose for public comment
whatever actions it deems appropriate as a result of the study, on
a schedule that would permit the Board to take final action on the
study no later than the Annual Meeting of the Corporation in 2001;
c. Any actions taken by the Board as a result of the study that require
the selection of any "At Large" Directors should be implemented
on a schedule that will allow any new "At Large" Directors
to be seated no later than the conclusion of the Annual Meeting of
the Corporation in 2002."
Because of the volume of work required by the TLD application process,
the staff has not until now been able to produce a suggested template
for the At Large study called for by Section 5. What follows is a suggested
approach based on the staff's best judgment of the kind of study that
has the potential to produce the desired result: a solution to this problem
that will enjoy broad consensus support throughout the Internet community.
For the benefit of those who have not followed this issue closely, it
may be useful to set forth the following explanation, so as to place the
staff recommendation in proper context.
ICANN is a consensus development body. Its Supporting
Organizations are charged with the development of policy recommendations
in their respective areas of expertise. ICANN's mission is narrowly (and
properly) circumscribed, but even within those boundaries its actions
can affect in various ways the whole community of Internet users. Thus,
it has been assumed from the time of ICANN's creation that there must
be some mechanism for the Internet community as a whole to provide input
and accountability to ICANN -- and to help to more broadly legitimize
the decisions and actions of what is a unique non-governmental organization.
The method by which this participation should take place has been the
subject of quite contentious debate since even before the creation of
ICANN. Notwithstanding very considerable discussion and analysis inside
and outside ICANN over the two years since ICANN was created, it is apparent
that there is still today no general consensus on this issue among the
broad Internet community.
II. The Problem is Complex, but its Solution is Essential to Continued
Progress by ICANN.
Within the Internet community, there are a range of very diverse views
on how ICANN should be structured and operated, ranging from an emphasis
by some on broad global democratic procedures to other views that favor
leaving ICANN to be governed by those with the requisite expertise over
what are described as the narrow technical and administrative tasks of
ICANN. In addition, there are serious mechanical issues; no matter where
on the policy spectrum one falls, all participants in the debate are interested
in avoiding fraud, abuse or capture by determined minorities. Even this
brief and very general statement of the issues illustrates how complex
this problem is, and explains why arriving at a consensus solution has
proven to be extremely difficult.
Still, no matter how difficult the problem, it must be solved. ICANN depends
for its success and ultimately its existence on the voluntary cooperation
of independent actors (including root server operators, ISPs, name and
address registry operators, and registrars) in the Internet community
around the world. ICANN has no weapons; it has no coercive power. Its
ability to carry out its mission over the long term requires broad global
consensus and broad global support. It also depends on the continued acquiescence
of the world's governments in the notion that an private sector entity
like ICANN can best manage this critical resource. Continued controversy
over the proper role and function of the general Internet community in
ICANN's decision-making processes is not helpful to these objectives.
Finally, it seems logically inescapable that the general Internet community
should have some appropriate input into ICANN policy decisions, since
those decisions surely can affect their ability to use the Internet in
many different ways. There may be a very legitimate debate on the form
that community input should take, but there should be no debate that some
appropriate form of general Internet community input must be found.
ICANN is engaged in an organizational and development process that has
produced significant progress since its creation two years ago. Assuming
decisions on TLD issues at this meeting, it will have taken some action
on each of the specific objectives set forth for it in the White Paper.
Not all of ICANN's structural and organizational issues have been completely
solved, but on all of them, with the obvious exception of the At Large
problem, great progress has been or is being made.
Unfortunately, it is hard to see that any real progress has been made
on this problem since ICANN's creation. To some extent, this issue seems
to provide the ultimate challenge in generating consensus from the entire
Internet community -- which includes not only individual users, but governments,
technical managers, businesses and non-commercial organizations, among
others. All of these segments of the Internet community have a legitimate
interest 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, it is axiomatic that any
effective solution must attract the support of the entire Internet community;
without that consensus, as we have seen over the last several years, the
problem will remain unresolved.
III. The Current State of Affairs.
In Cairo and Yokohama,
after considerable public discussion and faced with an apparent lack of
consensus support for any particular method of populating an At Large
component of the ICANN Board, the Board adopted 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.
As part of this compromise, it was agreed that, during the next two years,
there would be a "clean-sheet" study of how to appropriately
provide for input and influence into ICANN policy deliberations and actions
by the general Internet community, including whether and how At Large
directors should be selected in the future, and any other issues necessary
to solve this problem. The five At Large directors have now been chosen,
in a process that was certainly not free of problems, but which will provide
very useful factual data for this study. The four continuing original
directors have also now been identified. The next step is to create a
structure for a study that has the potential to be (1) effective in trying
to solve the problem, and (2) credible in its conclusions.
IV. Proposed Conceptual Basis for the Study.
This problem must be solved in some way that actually works mechanically,
but it must also be solved in a way that generates broad consensus support
for the solution as a workable and appropriate mechanism for broad Internet
community input into the ICANN consensus development process. This means
that the study must be (and be perceived to be) open and inclusive; it
must be managed in a way that promotes the development of consensus, not
a battle of competing designs; and the result must satisfy the legitimate
desire of the broad Internet community to have meaningful input into ICANN
processes and decisions. This is obviously easier said than done, but
we believe it can be done.
The ICANN staff suggests that the following general principles should
guide this study:
1. The study should be undertaken by a group separate from the ICANN
Board. The Study Committee, as we will refer to it in these comments,
should be a relatively small group (perhaps 5-9 people) that is to the
extent possible representative of the Internet community as a whole.
We suggest that one member of the Study Committee should be a sitting
ICANN Board member, bringing to the Study Committee the history and
experience of ICANN's efforts to deal with this issue. The remaining
members of the Study Committee should, to the extent practical, reflect
the breadth of relevant interests in the Internet community, including
non-commercial interests, commercial interests, public bodies (governments,
treaty organizations or other multi-national organizations), the technical
community, and the general user community. We believe it would be desirable
to include on the Committee one member who is expert in election issues
generally. Finally, the Study Committee should, again to the extent
practical, also be geographically representative. We suggest that the
Board solicit recommendations from the community, as described below,
for appropriate members of this Study Committee, and in particular for
a Chair (or co-Chairs) whose reputation(s) will help to generate confidence
in the objectivity of the effort.
2. An Executive Director should be selected who would undertake the
day-to-day staff work, under the direction of the Study Committee, of
the consensus development effort itself. For purposes of funding and
administration, the Executive Director should report to the ICANN CEO;
in all other respects, the Executive Director should report to the Study
3. The Study Committee should be specifically charged with finding a
consensus solution to this problem that will provide a mechanism for
appropriate 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. The Study Committee in
its final report should specifically answer the following questions
(along with such other specific inquiries as it deems appropriate):
a. Should the ICANN Board include At Large Directors?
b. If so, how many such At Large Directors should there be?
c. How should any such At Large Directors be selected?
d. 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?
e. If an At Large membership is to exist, what should its structure,
role and functions be?
Any report and recommendations by the Study Committee should, at a
minimum, provide a report on the consensus position in the community,
if one has been generated, on each of these questions, along with a
clear explanation of the rationale underlying that consensus.
4. As implied immediately above, the Study Committee should function
as a true consensus development body, seeking input from all and attempting
to facilitate the creation, from all of those participating, of a true
consensus solution to this problem. This probably means that the Study
Committee, in addition to commissioning or undertaking any studies or
analyses it thinks appropriate or necessary, should also facilitate
and encourage broad participation by multiple other groups, either by
encouraging them to undertake (at their own cost) their own analyses
or studies and submitting those to the Study Committee for its use in
the consensus development process, or by encouraging their participation
in any public forums or other meetings that the Study Committee might
sponsor. Any independent studies that are undertaken should, to be most
useful, document the process, input and nature and extent of support
for any particular proposal. The Study Committee should also provide
multiple mechanisms for input from the community, including bulletin
boards, mailing lists, and perhaps (in its discretion) one or more public
meetings. The Study Committee should seek to facilitate the transformation
of the various inputs that it receives toward a recommendation that
could receive broad support throughout the community In addition, the
Study Committee should seek to facilitate consensus in any other appropriate
way, including the preparation and distribution of concept papers and
the promulgation of specific questions and other inquiries to those
participating in this effort.
5. Assuming it is able to identify a consensus, the Study Committee
should report and document that consensus, and accept and evaluate any
public comment on that preliminary report. Following that public comment
and any further efforts it feels are necessary and appropriate in light
of those comments, the Study Committee should report its findings to
the ICANN Board, and simultaneously post that final report for public
comment. Following receipt of the Study Committee's report, the ICANN
Board should receive and evaluate any public comments on that report,
and devote a minimum of one full day at one or more quarterly Board
meetings to public discussion and debate on the report and its suggestions.
6. Following the conclusion of the process outlined above, the ICANN
Board should take such actions as it deems appropriate to recognize
any community consensus that exists on this subject, and in particular
to amend its bylaws and/or take any other steps necessary to provide
an appropriate mechanism for input and involvement by the general Internet
community in the ICANN consensus development process.
In addition to the schedule, another critical issue relating to the
study is the budget necessary to accomplish its purpose - both the amount
and the source of the funds. One advantage of the Study Committee acting
principally as a consensus development body, and encouraging multiple
independent studies as part of that process, is the fact that funding
requirements will be dispersed to some extent, but the Study Committee
itself will still require significant resources. There are no funds
in the current ICANN budget for this purpose. The staff recommends that
the community be asked to make suggestions for how the Study Committee's
work be funded in the comment period recommended below. In addition,
we suggest that the Study Committee be required to include in its Melbourne
report a recommended budget (and suggestions for the source of any funds
not at that time already committed) for the completion of its work from
The process adopted by the ICANN Board in Yokohama contemplated that
the study required by the bylaws would be completed by the time of the
second ICANN meeting in 2001, and that the ICANN Board would adopt whatever
bylaws or other changes were necessary to implement the recommendations
it chose to adopt by its annual meeting in 2001. The notion was that this
would leave sufficient time to take whatever actions were required so
that the selection of any new At Large directors, assuming that was the
result of the Board's action, could be done so that they could take their
seats on the Board no later than at the conclusion of the Annual Meeting
in 2002. On reflection, it may be that this is too aggressive a schedule
at the beginning and too generous at the end, but the staff is reluctant
to suggest specific changes. Therefore, we suggest that the Study Committee
itself be required to report at the first ICANN meeting in 2001, to be
held in Melbourne, Australia on March 10-13, 2001, on the schedule and
process it thinks is necessary to accomplish its mission, with the caveat
that any such schedule must conclude with an ICANN Board decision that
can be fully implemented, as required by the current bylaws, no later
than the ICANN Annual Meeting in 2002.
The staff recommends that the Board publish these staff recommendations
during the Annual Meeting in 2000, and solicit comments on them over the
30 days following the conclusion of that meeting. During that time, the
Board should also solicit recommendations from the community for membership
on the Study Committee, and for potential sources of funding for the study.
As soon as possible following the public comment period, but no later
than January 15, 2001, the Board should either establish the Study Committee
or, if persuaded by the public comments to adopt some different approach,
take such other action as is appropriate to initiate the At Large study
process required by Article II, Section 5 of the Bylaws.
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