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At-Large Summit Briefing Material

The Improving Institutional Confidence Process

19 February 2009

Introductory Text

By the Staff of ICANN

This document was produced by the Staff of ICANN for information of At-Large Summit participants to provide basic information on some of the main subjects being considered during the Summit meetiings.

[End of Introduction]

At-Large Summit Briefing Note

Improving Institutional Confidence in ICANN

T he future structure and governance of ICANN has important implications for Internet policy development and continues to be addressed by the ICANN Board and community. ICANN’s Chairman announced the launch of ICANN's “Improving Institutional Confidence” consultation in February 2008. This consultation is actually a series of broad public consultations over possible changes to ICANN’s organization. Information on consultations to date is posted at and

What Developments Produced the IIC Initiative?

Beginning in November 1998, ICANN and the U.S. Department of Commerce have signed a series of Memoranda of Understanding intended to transition management of the Domain Name System to the private sector. That process continued with the signing of the Joint Program Agreement (JPA) in September 2006. The JPA specifies ten areas of responsibility for ICANN with the goal of making the organization’s operations and decision-making more open and accountable.

Since its inception, ICANN has embraced a community-driven process of continuous improvement and evolution to better meet its four strategic principles:

• Ensuring the stability and security of the Domain Name System
• Promoting competition and choice for users and registrants
• Facilitating the bottom-up, transparent policy development process, and
• Engaging the participation of the global stakeholder community in the ICANN process

Now the question is whether ICANN is ready to stand on its own, without continued U.S. Government oversight. The JPA provides the framework for final transition of the DNS from public to private sector management.

ICANN claims multiple accomplishments since signing its first MOU with the U.S. Government, including those which enhance multi-stakeholder representation and structures, improve competition for registry and registrar services, protect consumers and resolve disputes, foster bottom-up policy formulation and improve transparency and accountability. Thus ICANN believes that when the JPA expires in September 2009, the transition should be complete.

Although the U.S. Government built the earliest versions of the Internet, many feel that the U.S. Government—including policymakers in the U.S. Government—should not be operating or maintaining the Internet. Critics of a final transition charge that ICANN’s deliberative processes can unwisely intrude on the competitive market and as a result stall innovation; that its decision-making can be difficult to understand and too staff dependent; that left to its own devices the organization might even come under the control of other governments or intergovernmental agencies.

In March 2008 ICANN and the U.S. Government conducted a Midterm Review of the JPA. ICANN collected public comments and, building on previous work of the President’s Strategy Committee (PSC), published three documents: a Transition Action Plan, Improving Institutional Confidence in ICANN, and an FAQ. Beginning in June, 2008, the ICANN PSC and staff conducted a series of regional consultative meetings to explain the Improving Institutional Confidence initiative and its aims, and to encourage discussion and debate with the global Internet community. ICANN published a revised version of its transition plan and Institutional Confidence initiative documents in September 2008.

What Issues Does the PSC Paper Cover?

The Improving Institutional Confidence in ICANN paper (see covers five areas for structural improvement:

  • ICANN will be sufficiently safeguarded against capture.

The IIC Paper says that the organization must take steps to avoid capture by any one entity or narrow interest group. Steps to assure that such capture is avoided include consensus and the development of supermajorities as well as the development of large and diverse interest groups within the supporting organizations and advisory committee structures. The PSC suggests that ICANN establish locations in jurisdictions with strong anti-trust laws and maintain transparency in representational participation. The Committee asks whether the ICANN bylaws could be changed to prohibit the individual or organization from voting on more than one advisory committee or supporting organization. To protect against conflicts of interest and to enhance transparency, the Committee suggests that participants in policy discussions provide public statements of their business, economic and other interest in the topic.

  • ICANN will be sufficiently accountable to its multi-stakeholder community.

Notwithstanding other protections already in place, the PSC suggests accountability measures whereby the community could require the ICANN Board to re-examine (though not reverse) a decision. If the Board does not reverse its decision after re-examining an issue, a process would be put in place to conduct a “no confidence” vote and reconstitute the Board.

  • ICANN will meet the needs of the global Internet community of the future.

The PSC suggests that ICANN will remain a California-based not-for-profit organization, but that it must reinforce that it is a global organization with global interests. ICANN is expanding its global diversity and is moving to introduce internationalized domain names. The PSC says that ICANN’s international standing would be enhanced by expanding representation in other countries. The PSC cautions that an expanded international presence must be pursued in a manner that maintains the organization’s multi-stakeholder, private sector-led model.

4. ICANN will be financially and operationally secure.

The PSC notes the importance of ICANN remaining financially and operationally secure, that its strategic, operational and budget planning processes contribute to a stable and well-run organization, and that new sources of revenue (separate and apart from registry and registrar fees) must be identified to reduce dependence on those entities.

5. ICANN will maintain its focus on organizational and operational excellence in

performing its technical mission of ensuring safe and stable operations relating to the

unique identifiers of the Internet, and of the IANA functions.

The PSC acknowledges that ICANN must retain its critical technical mission, focused on the safety and stability of the Internet. It also allows that the organization has a responsibility to act as a thought leader on issues that impact Internet safety and security. The Committee cites community comments expressing concerns about ICANN’s operation of IANA and the need to improve IANA’s functions – particularly regarding the processing of ccTLD requests.

Want to Learn More?

Visit the Improving Institutional Confidence Consultation web page at for more information, to learn about this important process, and to get involved. The paper itself can be found at

We also invite you to receive regular updates on ICANN policy development activities via e-mail by subscribing to the monthly ICANN Policy Update. To subscribe, simply visit the ICANN subscriptions page at, enter your

e-mail address, and click on the ICANN Policy Update. International participation and collaboration are essential to the success and effectiveness of ICANN’s policy development activities today, but success in the future will not be possible without

the commitment of volunteers like you from around the world.

Whether you represent the Internet interests of a nation, a group of individual Internet users, a company, or an organization that would like to become more involved in the issues, there is a place for you at ICANN where you can help shape the future of the Internet.

Thank you for your interest and participation.