Mar 17 Feb 2009 10:27:38 CET
ICANN's membership was intended to represent Internet users from around the
globe. Members were conceived as joining in association and having direct
representation of their interests on the board. Their role was seen as
balancing the influence of the ICANN board, serving as a check on its power
and ensuring accountability.
ICANN's membership provisions were actively opposed by groups working
closely with IANA. This opposition represented a shift from their earlier
proposals to locate technical coordination authority in ISOC, itself a
membership organization. However, ISOC and ICANN embody different
conceptions of members: ISOC's members are conceived of as Internet
experts, whereas ICANN's members are intended to be Internet users. ICANN's
At Large Membership is intended to be open, independent, and consisting of
users rather than experts.
Perhaps the greatest historical irony is that today's on-going process to
revisit and possibly eliminate the At Large Membership was anticipated from
the start. The bylaws have shown themselves to be a weak mechanism for
protection of membership provisions. Shortly after its creation, ICANN
began modifying its bylaw provisions about membership. These amendments
weakened the membership provisions -- and may yet lead to the termination
of user involvement in technical coordination.
Today's "clean sheet" study of the ALM re-opens a question that was settled
in 1998. Should Internet users have a role in technical coordination? The
answer in 1998 was a definite "yes": the US Department of Commerce's
recognition of ICANN was conditioned on its membership provisions, and
membership was broadly supported in the IFWP process and even in the
earlier draft-Postel and IAHC plans.
Despite this, at its 2000 Yokohama meeting the ICANN board modified the
bylaws to state: "previous decisions and conclusions regarding an "At
Large" membership will be informative but not determinative." This was a
striking turn-around from a commitment made just two years earlier. The
amendment holds the prospect of eliminating the main mechanism for
achieving a balance of influence in ICANN.
History helps us understand the functions of the At Large Membership as
well as to identify the supporters and opponents of the membership. Today's
review of membership must be seen in historical perspective in order to be
Also described in Milton Mueller (1999), "ICANN and Internet Governance:
Sorting through the debris of 'self-regulation'" (published in INFO).
Internet Society. http://www.isoc.org/isoc/related/ietf/
Green Paper. http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/domainname/dnsdrft.htm
White Paper. http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/domainname/6_5_98dns.htmBWG,
Boston Working Group. http://www.cavebear.com/bwg/
Lessig, Lawrence, "A Bad Turn for Net Governance." The Standard. September
18, 1998. http://www.thestandard.com/article/display/0,1151,1718,00.html
ICANN Yokohama Bylaw Amendments.
At Large Membership Study Committee. http://www.atlargestudy.org/
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