2016-04-18

ICANN, Esther Dyson, Becky Burr: The Historical Perspective

The previous post on Domain Mondo contained this short notice about Becky Burr's election to the ICANN Board of Directors, replacing Bruce Tonkin whose term expires in November, 2016:
Source: News Review [April 17]: dotAFRICA, Public Interest, Judge Holds ICANN Accountable | DomainMondo.com
For those familiar with the history of ICANN, J. Beckwith ("Becky") Burr plays an important role. Her bio on the ccNSO webpage includes this (links and emphasis added):

J. Beckwith ("Becky") Burr is a [former] partner in the law firm of Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP. Becky, who is a veteran of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA), has broad experience in e-commerce, information technology, intellectual property licensing, and international regulation of communications and information technology. As Attorney-Advisor at the Federal Trade Commission (January 1995 - June 1997), Becky was responsible for competition and consumer protection policy in connection with information industry/electronic information infrastructure. At the Commission, she participated in developing the FTC's approach to competition and consumer protection in the digital marketplaceAt the National Telecommunications and Information Administration ("NTIA"), first as Senior Internet Policy Advisor (June 1997 - December 1997) and subsequently as Associate Administrator and Director of International Affairs (December 1997 -October 2000), Becky was responsible for domestic and international policy related to Internet and information technology. As the chief NTIA official in the Clinton Administration's inter-agency task force on e-commerce, she was responsible for development and implementation of Administration policy on privacy, as well as Internet governance and privatization of the Internet domain name system.

Burr was at the NTIA when Jon Postel sent his email to 8 (of then 12) global DNS root zone server operators, asking them to change the authoritative Internet root zone server from NSI's A.ROOT-SERVERS.NET (198.41.0.4) to DNSROOT.IANA.ORG (198.32.1.98), a request with which the 8 operators complied, thereby running the global Internet in parallel on 2 separate, but identical root zones, for a short time:
"... One of the reconfigured servers is located at the University of Maryland at College Park ... Gerry Sneeringer, the assistant director for networking for the university's Academic Information Technologies Service, said he received an e-mail message last week from Postel asking that the change be made. "If Jon asks us to point somewhere else, we'll do it," Sneeringer said. "He is the authority here." Akira Kato, a researcher at the University of Tokyo who runs another root server, said in a telephone interview that he, too, reconfigured his server after getting an e-mail from Postel. J. Beckwith Burr, a [U.S. government] Commerce Department official who co-authored the administration's report, said the incident "caused a lot of concern ... We have asked that the system be returned to the situation it was in before and that no such tests are to be undertaken without consultation again."..." --The Day Jon Postel Freed The Internet Root From US Government Control | DomainMondo.com
Burr, now Deputy General Counsel and Chief Privacy Officer at Neustar, is a Registry Stakeholder Group member of the CCWG-Accountability, and has been an active contributor to Work Stream 1 (WS1), including even addressing the murky history of the United States government's involvement with the Internet Root Zone: see What Is The US Government's Claim to the Internet Root? | DomainMondo.com.

Below is the correspondence from Burr, and Esther Dyson, ICANN Board of Directors founding Chair, in 1998. At that time, it appeared the IANA stewardship transition from the U.S. government to ICANN would be accomplished in a short period of time. What happened? The same issues that were raised by NTIA's Becky Burr in 1998, still plague a dysfunctional ICANN in 2016: transparency, accountability, conflicts of interest, true representation of, and participation by, the global internet community, etc., even jurisdiction! It is truly amazing how little progress ICANN has made, and even regressed in some aspects, since 1998. Esther Dyson, like many others, gave up on ICANN ever achieving Jon Postel's (and others') original vision for the organization, due to the conflicts of interest and domain name industry capture of ICANN structures and processes, the new gTLDs program being the final straw:
".... a financial conflict of interest that continues to this day: ICANN subsists on the very industry it purports to govern. [Esther] Dyson says she “lost any faith, over time,” in ICANN’s ability to regulate the domain-name business." source: ICANN's Boondoggle | MIT Technology Review, August 21, 2012
Embedded below is the letter from Burr, and the response from Dyson, in 1998:

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