ICANN Should Move Toward Greater Private Sector Accountability

ICANN Should Move Toward Greater Private Sector Accountability

Lenard, White Cite Evidence from Comparable Organizations

Contact: Amy Smorodin
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May 19, 2011 – The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers should be more accountable to its private sector users, state Thomas Lenard and Lawrence White in “Improving ICANN’s Governance and Accountability: A Policy Proposal,” published in the latest issue of Information Economics and Policy. Instead of increased government involvement, as some have been advocating, Lenard and White recommend ICANN be governed by its direct users, the registries and registrars, as a way of improving accountability, a longstanding issue with ICANN.

In the paper, Lenard, TPI President and Senior Fellow, and White, Professor of Economics at NYU’s Stern School of Business, show that ICANN has little accountability outside of the organization itself. “Though it is a non-profit organization,” they explain, “it has no members or shareholders or donors. With its control of the Internet, it is effectively a monopolist, with an assured revenue stream from the fees that it can levy on registries and registrars.” The authors state that ICANN does have extensive notice and comment processes, but the board is under no obligation to base decisions on the outside input because members are not elected by the constituencies, and hence are not required to represent them.

Lenard and White base their recommendations on the governance structures of similar standard-setting and coordination organizations, virtually all of which are governed by their users, thereby building accountability into their structures. The authors conclude that, under a similar governance structure, ICANN “would be less likely (than under its current near-complete absence of accountability) to stray from the goal of maintaining the Internet as an efficient and dynamic network for communication and commerce.”

Improving ICANN’s Governance and Accountability: A Policy Proposal,” is available on the TPI website.

The Technology Policy Institute

The Technology Policy Institute is a non-profit 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/.

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