2015-03-24

ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade's View of the IANA Transition is Shortsighted and Naive

"I think if we get rid of that contract [IANA contract] we will be free of the pressures"
                    -- ICANN President and CEO Fadi Chehade, February 10, 2015 (infra)
I’m Just Now Realizing How Stupid We Are: "I've learned that short-term thinking is at the root of most of our problems, whether it's in business, politics, investing, or work" - Morgan Housel

The first quote above, in sum, is the narrative that ICANN's Fadi Chehade is selling, and apparently, naively believes. Domain Mondo has a few words of advice for Fadi Chehade and ICANN--be careful what you ask for--you apparently have no idea of the pressures you may be under once the IANA contract with the US government is gone. Domain Mondo predicts that within a few years after the transition is complete, ICANN and Fadi ChehadĂ© (if he's still around) will look back fondly at the time when ICANN was under the immunity and protection of the US government, as a relatively stress-free time. Governments (totalitarian and otherwise), as well as well-resourced vested interests who are already powerful stakeholders within ICANN (and to whom Fadi, even now, readily panders) and other special interests, will then begin to really pressure ICANN in ways that apparently neither ICANN, Fadi Chehade (nor NTIA's Larry Strickling), have even begun to imagine nor contemplate. That is the principal reason this transition is a perilous time for the future of the Internet and the global Internet community, and also why CCWG-Accountability and CWG-Stewardship should not "hurry up and just hand everything over to ICANN." No, they should take as much time as they really need. They may have only this one chance "to get it right."

So, not only did NTIA and ICANN bungle the IANA transition process at the beginning (and afterwards), but they, apparently, are operating under naive assumptions of "what it will be like" once the IANA functions contract between ICANN and the US Department of Commerce is gone. Read the full portion of that part of the transcript for yourself--

ICANN President and CEO Fadi Chehade (February 10, 2015):

“…. we made a very, very careful analysis that if we do not finish the work Ira [Magaziner] started that we're giving those governments who would like to come and put far more pressure on us, we're giving them farther to do that. They're very, very, including the Germans, including the French, including governments ... I am not speaking about China, Russia, and the countries that everybody lists. I am speaking about friends who are saying this regime has to go because if it doesn't, it's harder for us to stand up for the system. We wanted this [NTIA/US government IANA contract with ICANN] to go so people have less pressure on ICANN. Right now the political pressure comes from the fact, "You are a US agency." [foreign language] which is France's top newspaper, this is there Wall Street Journal, New York Times, whatever you call it, had a front page article linking ICANN to the NSA. Front page article, full analysis including [inaudible], one of ours who comes to our meetings write an article linking us directly to the NSA. It's crazy. It's just nuts. The environment is nuts. This is all because every time I go meet them they say, "You are under contract from the US government, you are a US agency. Let's end this line and let's take control as a community. Let's make sure the board stays under the control of the community through better accountability measures. This will put us in a better environment. Today we are politically charged because of this contract. I hope, frankly, I flip this, Jeff. I think if we get rid of that contract we will be free of the pressures I'm feeling now all of the time. "You're an American agent,"I was told walking into a European office of minister. "You guys are American agents." We're not American agents, we are a community of people, this is how we make decisions. You go through all of that and it comes back down to the silly contract with Vernita Harris. It's nothing. You and I know that contract is nothing. That's not how the American government works with us. It's simply a button that Vernita pushes, but it's causing us a lot of the pressure we're feeling now. Let's get rid of it. Let's get rid of these pressures and let's look these people in the eye, frankly as we did with the Chinese. The Chinese, we got them down to the point where we said, "This is all it is and you can scream all you want or you can work with us on the single [Internet] root." They did come to London and you know the rest of this. Finally the Chinese are not saying, "Who is ICANN?" At every international meeting. Every international meeting that's happening now, China is supporting the ICANN model of a single [Internet] root. That's a big advance. Why did they do it? Because the transition is coming. If the transition doesn't happen, a lot of these games we make to get people to keep the internet united. I went with Jack Ma to see the premier of China. Jack told the premier, he said, "I did a promotion on the internet on November 11th, it was. $9 billion of sales Mr. Premier, because the internet has a single root and I was able to reach customers in over 100 countries on the same day. Keep it open." I think we need to keep these governments tied to our model. The best way to do that is to remove this card they keep playing on us that we are an American agent...." (emphasis added)

Domain Mondo agrees that, yes, "the transition is coming"--but what is coming afterwards may be very different than what ICANN and Fadi Chehade naively believe today.

UPDATE: Internet governance: What if the sky really is falling? - The Washington Post: "Whoever controls the DNS – whether it’s the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) or anyone else – will, as we put it in the paper, “inevitably be subject to intense pressure, from many directions, public and private,” to leverage its control over Internet technical infrastructure at one level of the protocol stack – the DNS – to enforce rules about message content at a higher level of the stack."--David Post, May 4, 2015

Caveat Emptor!


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