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Friday, 15 March, 2002, 08:58 GMT
Net shake-up plan prompts protests
Heated debate over how the internet is run
Icann is looking at ways of changing how it works
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By Mark Ward
BBC News Online technology correspondent
A plan to change who is responsible for running the internet has been roundly criticised by net veterans.

Last month the head of Icann, the body which oversees the net, proposed radically changing the organisation to make it more effective.

But others say the plan will not achieve its aim and does nothing to give the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, (Icann), the power it needs to make changes to the way the net is run.

One member of Icann's board has called the plan "corporate suicide".

Big budget

Icann was created in November 1998 and took over from the US-based Network Solutions in co-ordinating the work of the many organisations that keep the net running.

But the organisation has never fully resolved questions about how it should function and who should participate in its decision-making.

At a meeting in Accra, Ghana, Icann said that the 500 million people who used the internet should have a voice in overseeing the system that guided e-mail and web browsers around the net.

But it stopped short of opening itself up to global elections.

Instead, the board set up a committee to come up with a specific plan by the time Icann next meets in Romania in June.

I don't think there's a need for a revolution here

Willie Black, Nominet

Icann President Stuart Lynn has proposed co-opting a small number of government representatives on to the organisation's management board to give the net body more influence and resources.

At the same time, Icann would do away with directors directly elected by net users worldwide.

Mr Lynn predicted that such an organisation would have an annual budget of up to $43m.

Some of this money would be gathered from the organisations who run the generic domains (such as .com and .info) and from those who oversee country code domains (such as .uk and .fr).

Protest note

However, Icann has had a long running dispute with many of the organisations that run country code domains.

Many of these registries want Icann to formalise its handling of the root servers that hold copies of the master address book for the net.

Willie Black, managing director of .uk overseer Nominet, said Mr Lynn's plan was a step in the wrong direction.

"I don't think there's a need for a revolution here," he said.

Many country code registries would prefer a smaller Icann that exercised trusteeship over the net's root servers.

They did not like the idea of a larger organisation that got involved in weighty questions of net security and other global policy issues, said Mr Black.

Karl Auerbach
Auerbach: Icann plan is "suicide"
He said that parallels could be drawn between Icann and organisations such as the UK's Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency which keeps records of drivers and vehicles but does not try to catch speeding drivers.

He said many of the country code registries were now more likely to concentrate efforts and resources on the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (Iana) - which is more closely involved with the maintenance of the database listing who runs which domain.

Mr Lynn's plan provoked a statement from the Reseaux IP Europeens NCC which said it was now re-assessing its relationship with Icann.

Ripe ensures that net addresses are handed out fairly in Europe, the Middle East and Northern Africa. It also services Russia.

'Little chance of success'

Andy Duff, spokesman for which runs domains outside Icann's orbit, said it too would welcome a smaller organisation that co-ordinated, rather than mandated, the running of the net.

My Lynn's plan has also provoked protests from Greenpeace and Japanese civil liberty groups.

But, some of the strongest criticism has come from Icann board member Karl Auerbach who was elected last year by net users worldwide. He branded the plan "suicide".

Mr Auerbach said Mr Lynn's plan had little chance of success because governments would be unwilling to pay to join an organisation they set up to avoid the onerous task of overseeing the net.

Instead of trying to grow larger Icann should content itself with looking after the net's root database, said Mr Auerbach.

"That isn't an expensive job nor even a controversial one," he said.

See also:

26 Feb 02 | Sci/Tech
Net body plans shake-up
15 Jan 02 | Sci/Tech
Net's servers under scrutiny
07 Sep 01 | Sci/Tech
Net body grapples with people power
25 Jan 01 | Sci/Tech
Brit to head net body
19 Jun 01 | Sci/Tech
Novel net domains court controversy
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