Despite flak, ICANN attends to ‘business as usual’

Apparently unfazed by being hit with two fresh lawsuits calling the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ (ICANN) authority into question, the group’s head characterized its meeting in Rome this week as “business as usual.”

“What ties (all the Internet players) together are contracts, therefore having disputes over those agreements is not at all unusual,” ICANN President Paul Twomey said during a conference call Thursday. Twomey’s remarks come one week after the organization was slapped with a lawsuit from VeriSign Inc. over a delay of one of its services, and then hit one day later with a suit lodged by a group of domain name registrars trying to block the service’s implementation.

At stake is not only the future of a VeriSign service allowing customers to back-order Internet domain names, called Wait List Service, but also ICANN’s role as an Internet regulatory authority.

With Internet governance matters still to be hammered out by the medium’s various stakeholders, the nonprofit body charged with overseeing technical matters related to the Internet has been placed between a rock and a hard spot.

While VeriSign, among others, contend that ICANN is overstepping its charter by taking actions such as delaying a domain name service, ICANN leaders acknowledge that there is no clear authority charged with dealing with such issues.

That doesn’t mean that ICANN doesn’t wish to offload some of the issues it has been facing. Speaking during the conference call, ICANN Chairman Vint Cerf pointed out that there are other established international organizations that already have business rules in place, such as the World Trade Organization, for example.

“Even when we are talking about e-business, there are a number of other bodies that have policies on international business,” he said.

Still, ICANN leaders see heightened policy concerns are a natural by-product of the Internet’s growth. “The Internet is a collaboration between many parties … and these disputes are an example of how the Internet works,” Cerf said.

Twomey added that despite the recent legal wranglings the meetings in Rome this week have proceeded as “business as usual.”

While the lawsuits last week reflected the business sector’s concerns, the meetings this week concerned more global, and technical issues related to the Internet, Twomey said.

On Monday the group formed the Country-Code Names Supporting Organization and working groups have been focusing on how to improve the Whois database that contains information on domain name owners, Twomey said.

However, governance issues were also being considered during a workshop on the World Summit on the Information Society, and ICANN’s board was due to consider the WLS.

“ICANN is a community — more than an institution or an organization — and we have people participating in discussions on a variety of issues,” Twomey said.

The Rome meeting runs through Saturday.

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