June 5, 2009 – Thomas Lenard and Lawrence J. White submitted their recent study, “ICANN at a Crossroads: A Proposal for Better Governance and Performance,” to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The submission was in response to NTIA’s Notice of Inquiry on the upcoming expiration of the Joint Project Agreement (JPA) with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ICANN). Lenard is President and Senior Fellow at TPI; White is Arthur E. Imperatore Professor of Economics at NYU’s Stern School of Business.
The Lenard-White study reviews the structure and governance of ICANN, as well as a number of other organizations that perform similar coordination and standard-setting functions. They find that no organization with ICANN’s level of responsibility operates with the independence that ICANN enjoys, even under the current nominal oversight of the Department of Commerce. Virtually all of the other organizations reviewed are governed by their direct users. Lenard and White propose that ICANN be governed by its direct users-the registries and registrars-in order to build accountability into its structure.
Lenard and White also recommend that ICANN’s mission be clearly delineated:
- 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.
- For freer entry to work well, protections for incumbent domain name holders must be strengthened, so they are not subject to “nuisance” or “ransom” demands from new registries.
Lenard and White recommend that the JPA be extended beyond its current expiration date, writing: “In the absence of changes in governance along the lines that we recommend, the JPA is particularly important. If our recommended changes are adopted, they should be permitted to become established before allowing the JPA to expire.”
The Lenard-White submission to NTIA can be found here.
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