3 September 2009
The organization that represents Non-Commercial Internet Users in the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) issued an open letter to the Board this week, expressing concern about the possible failure of ICANN’s attempt to balance the representation of commercial and noncommercial interests.
California (United States) – ICANN’s Non-Commercial Users Constituency (NCUC), a group of 152 non-commercial organizations and individuals from 52 countries who represent the noncommercial interests of Internet users in ICANN policy development, recently appealed to ICANN’s Board of Directors and CEO to meet with them in Seoul to resolve serious problems with its current plans to alter the representation of noncommercial interests in its policy making process.
Specifically, NCUC’s letter expressed concern over ICANN’s adoption of a flawed charter for noncommercial users that disregarded the vast majority of public comments and concerns expressed by noncommercial Internet users. In late July 2009 ICANN’s Board decided to approve the NCSG charter drafted by ICANN staff, rather than the charter drafted by civil society in a 7-month long consensus process that included a wide variety of noncommercial interests and was submitted to ICANN’s Board by the NCUC.
ICANN’s staff did not provide its board with the competing charter submitted by NCUC in order to properly inform the board’s decision. The difference between staff’s charter and civil society’s charter is stark. Staff’s charter ties council representation and resources to arbitrary and more easily manipulated constituencies, while the NCUC charter calls for stakeholder group wide elections of its noncommercial representatives and other leaders. NCUC’s charter model encourages consensus building among constituencies, while staff’s charter model encourages divisiveness and favoritism among noncommercial interests.
“ICANN’s decision has resulted in significant damage to ICANN’s credibility within global civil society and has fueled further distrust towards ICANN’s decision making process,” said NCUC Chair Robin Gross. “Its treatment of noncommercial users in this instance has significantly called into question ICANN’s legitimacy to govern and its ability to protect the global public interest,” said Gross, Executive Director of digital rights group IP Justice, a NCUC member since 2004.
The board’s adoption of the stakeholder group charter is part of ICANN’s ongoing effort to re-organize its Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO), which currently consists of 5 commercial constituencies and 1 non-commercial constituency, the NCUC. ICANN’s GNSO is responsible for developing policy recommendations that relate to Generic Top-Level Domains (GTLDs) or those domain names that end in .com, .net, .edu, and .org. The GNSO plays an important role on Internet-related policy issues since its recommendations affect all who own or use GTLDs, including the way domain names can be registered, used, transferred, and any applicable fees and associated policies regarding the domain names. The process of changing the GNSO’s structure from 6 constituencies to 4 stakeholder groups is expected to be complete by the end of October 2009.
In its letter the NCUC states that “there is a misunderstanding over non-commercial representation and participation in ICANN” and NCUC calls on ICANN to acknowledge that there has been significant growth among noncommercial participants at ICANN recently. NCUC’s membership has grown by 240% since 2008 and now includes 75 noncommercial organizations and 77 individuals. An independent study by the London School of Economics verified that NCUC has the highest number of different people on the GNSO Council of any ICANN constituency and that NCUC has the most geographical diversity among its membership with members now from 52 different countries.
“NCUC represents an extremely broad range of noncommercial Internet users, including educational and academic institutions, human rights organizations, libraries, consumer groups, religious organizations, bloggers, open source software developers, development-oriented groups, arts organizations, and other noncommercial interests,” explained Dr. Milton Mueller, an Internet governance expert. Dr. Mueller, now a professor at Syracuse University School of Information Studies and Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, co-founded the constituency in 2002.
“Nonprofits and public interest advocacy groups have an irreplaceable role to play in a self-regulatory scheme dominated by business interests. Someone has to look out for the public interest. If we handicap noncommercial voices and divide them into competing silos they simply won’t be able to participate effectively. ICANN’s legitimacy and the quality of its decisions will suffer,” explained Dr. Mueller.
In order to dispel pervasive myths about civil society’s role in ICANN, the NCUC published a “Top 10 Myths about Civil Society Participation in ICANN,” a document that explains why much of what ICANN staff and other constituencies have claimed about noncommercial participation is untrue.
For additional information on NCUC and noncommercial participation in ICANN, please contact NCUC’s Chair Robin Gross or visit NCUC’s website at http://ncdnhc.org.
Robin Gross, NCUC Chair Milton Mueller, NCUC Co-Founder
Tel.: +1-415-553-6261 Tel: +1-315-443-5616
Email: robin – at – ipjustice.org Email: Mueller – at – syr.edu
Non-Commercial Users Constituency (NCUC):
NCUC’s Letter to ICANN Board of Directors and CEO:
NCUC’s “Top 10 Myths About Civil Society Participation in ICANN”:
About the Noncommercial Users Constituency:
The NCUC is the home for civil society organizations and individuals in the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO). With real voting power in ICANN policy-making and Board selection, it develops and supports positions that favor non-commercial communication and activity on the Internet. The NCUC is open to non-commercial organizations and individuals involved in education, community networking, public policy advocacy, development, promotion of the arts, children’s welfare, religion, consumer protection, scientific research, human rights and many other areas. NCUC maintains a public website at http://ncdnhc.org.