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Lenard Testifies on ICANN Reform

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Contact: Ashley Creel
(202) 828-4405

June 4, 2009 – ICANN should be reformed “in a way that makes it truly accountable and clearly defines its scope of operations,” according to testimony delivered by TPI president and senior fellow Thomas Lenard at a hearing of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet. Lenard said, “The expiration of the Joint Project Agreement (JPA) with the Department of Commerce this September provides a much-needed opportunity for a thorough evaluation of the structure, governance, and mission of ICANN.”

Lenard noted that ICANN’s institutional design-its non-profit corporation status, combined with the way it is funded and governed-make accountability a serious problem. He recommended that ICANN should be governed by its direct users-the registries and registrars-as a way of building external accountability into its structure.

Lenard’s testimony included the following additional recommendations:

· ICANN should hew closely to the technical functions involved in administering the Domain Name System.

· ICANN should have a clear mission of encouraging competition, which means allowing relatively free entry into the market for generic top-level domains and a minimal role as a regulator.

· Protections for incumbent domain name holders must be strengthened, so they are not subject to “nuisance” or “ransom” demands from new registries.

Lenard said, “Issues as important and complicated as these merit a thorough evaluation, which cannot be completed by September.” He therefore recommended that the agreement with the Department of Commerce be extended in some form while reforms are being considered and, hopefully, established.

Lenard’s testimony draws on a recent TPI study he coauthored with Professor Lawrence J. White of the NYU Stern School of Business. The Lenard-White study can be found here. Lenard’s House testimony can be found here.

The Technology Policy Institute

The Technology Policy Institute is a research and educational organization that focuses on the economics of innovation, technological change, and related regulation in the United States and around the world. More information is available at http://www.techpolicyinstitute.org/