Lenard-White Study Proposes New Governance Structure
Contact: Ashley Creel
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) controls extremely important aspects of the Internet, but is largely accountable to no one, according to a new study coauthored by Thomas M. Lenard and Lawrence J. White. ICANN’s governance structure should be dramatically reformed to make it more accountable before the current tie with the U.S. Department of Commerce is allowed to expire. Lenard is President and Senior Fellow at TPI; White is Professor of Economics at the NYU Stern School of Business.
The new study reviews the structure and function of ICANN and also a number of other organizations that perform a roughly comparable range of private-sector and quasi-governmental coordination and standard-setting functions. The authors find that no organization with ICANN’s level of responsibility operates with the independence that ICANN enjoys, even under the current arrangement of only nominal oversight by the Department of Commerce. ICANN’s proposal for complete privatization and termination of the Department’s oversight would make the accountability problem worse.
Virtually all the organizations reviewed in the study are governed by their direct users; Lenard and White argue that direct users should similarly govern ICANN. This model would not only increase accountability, but would also be consistent with the reduced regulatory role that the authors recommend for ICANN. Governance by its direct users-the registries and the registrars-would provide the external accountability that could allow for eventually ending ICANN’s tie with the U.S. Government.
The study also addresses the issue of ICANN’s status as a de facto regulator. Lenard and White believe that ICANN should have a clear mission of encouraging competition and a minimal role as a regulator with respect to the creation of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs). For this “open entry” policy to be workable and beneficial, ICANN needs a less costly mechanism for protecting the intellectual property associated with domain names in order to address the problems of defensive registrations and cybersquatting.
The Lenard-White study, “ICANN at a Crossroads: A Proposal for Better Governance and Performance“, is available on the TPI website.
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 https://techpolicyinstitute.org/