Mar 17 Feb 2009 10:27:38 CET
coordination have included a mass membership component. The early model
for this was the Internet Society (ISOC).
ISOC was created in 1992 to serve as the institutional home for
standards-related bodies like the IETF and, later, for the IANA function of
technical coordination. ISOC is a membership organization, with both
organizational and individual members (who today number around 6,000.)
ISOC's founders include many individuals who were active in the creation of
ICANN, most notably Vint Cerf, Jon Postel, and Mike Roberts.
In a 1996 document known as "draft-Postel," a proposal was made that ISOC
assume responsibility for technical coordination. Had this proposal
succeeded, then ISOC would have assumed the role of today's ICANN -- and
ISOC's members might have had a status similar to today's At Large
Membership. Technical coordination would have been performed by a mass
membership organization with an elected Board of Trustees.
That proposal was rejected, however, and its place there came the IAHC plan
in 1997 (URLs of web sites with more information are below). In the IAHC
plan ISOC shared top authority with WIPO, ITU, and other groups. ISOC, a
mass membership organization, controlled two board seats.
Right from the beginning, then, attempts to institutionalize the technical
coordination functions included a mass membership component. Furthermore,
that membership-based approach was pioneered by people like Vint Cerf, Jon
Postel, and Mike Roberts.
The Green and White Papers
Following the US government veto of the IAHC plan in 1997, new policy
parameters form membership were defined. These were set out in 1998, first
in the Green Paper and then in the White Paper.
While both documents pointedly ignored any special role to ISOC, they
defined a role for Internet users in technical coordination. The language
for this was somewhat vague, however.
Relevant portions of the GREEN PAPER read as follows:
"Principles For A New System. [...] 4. Representation. Technical
management of the Internet should reflect the diversity of its users and
their needs. Mechanisms should be established to ensure international
input in decision making."
"... the organization and its board must derive legitimacy from the
participation of key stakeholders. Since the organization will be
concerned mainly with numbers, names, and protocols, its board should
represent membership organizations in each of these area, as well as the
direct interests of Internet users."
"... membership associations representing 1) registries and registars, and
2) Internet users, must be formed."
The WHITE PAPER came a few months later and contained official US policy.
The White Paper stated:
Technical coordination "... should be vested in a single organization that
is representative of Internet users around the globe."
"Principle for a New System. [...] 4. Representation. The new corporation
should operate as a private entity for the benefit of the Internet
community as a whole. The development of ... policies ... will depend on
input from the broad and growing community of Internet users."
These policy guidelines do not provide a definitive answer to the role of
members in technical coordination. They do, however, provide some
indications of what the role would be. First, the focus is now on *users*,
rather than on Internet professionals. ISOC is a professional association
not a user organization, so this change in definition is significant.
Second, there is specific reference to the creation of a membership
association for users. User participation would be in the form of members
joined in association. Third, there is mention that the Board should
represent users' "direct interests." Mention of direct representation
suggests that there should be little intermediation between users and their
board representatives, while the reference to interests recognizes that
user participation goes beyond issues of technical expertise. In summary,
the White and Green Papers emphasized a role for Internet users, they
conceived of users as members joined in association, and they foresaw
direct board representation of users.
The ICANN By-Laws
Following the release of the White Paper, in the summer of 1998 there took
place the International Forum for the White Paper (IFWP) to design the
bylaws of what would be ICANN. The bylaws would translate the White
Paper's broad principles into operational rules.
In the IFWP process one of the most hotly contested issues was whether
ICANN would be a membership organization. Jon Postel at IANA now opposed
membership, and one may surmise that this position was shared by others
with close ties to ISOC. Despite their earlier attempts to give a major
role to ISOC, they now opposed linking users and technical coordination.
Working in a independently of the public forum, they produced a set of
bylaws with no provisions for membership.
A second bylaws proposal was produced by some of the participants in the
IFWP who called themselves the Boston Working Group (BWG). They proposed
bylaws that included membership. They also put the membership provisions
in the articles of incorporation rather than the bylaws, to protect them
against later attempts at elimination. (It is more difficult to amend the
articles than the bylaws.)
In a September 1998 article in _The_Standard_ Larry Lessig summarized the
differences between the two approaches:
"These two processes produced two very different results. IANA proposed a
powerful but closed corporation. Principles of separation, or checks on its
powers, don't sing in its draft. The board need not answer to the demands
of "members"; there are no "members." The only check on its powers will be
the California Attorney General, who might have other things to do than
monitor this board. It is an engineer's corporation, but with none of the
virtues of openness and vulnerability that mark organizations such as the
Internet Engineering Task Force." (Lessig, 1998)
In the fall of 1998 the US Department of Commerce reconciled the two
versions of the bylaws by requiring that provisions for membership be
included in the bylaws. Membership was included in ICANN, but it was
codified only in the bylaws, leaving membership vulnerable to later
attempts at expurgation.
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