Today's ICANN Senate Hearing: an open letter from Sally Richards

Down at the epicenter
Things started heatin' up
Rockin' on the richter scale [Rockin' up the richter scale]
Swinging in the chariot
Around and around we go
The senators rehearse the tale
Starring in the coliseum
Tied upon the rack
Up comes the thumb of Caesar
To stab you in the back

AC/DC, Hail Ceasar

Good Afternoon!

I just finished participating in ICANN's tele press conference regarding Stuart Lynn's testimony to the Senate today. I've enclosed his testimony. I am worried and have become increasingly so over the last year of tracking ICANN's meetings, contracts and decisions. It seems as though (from Stuart's testimony) that in his ICANN story he negated Jon Postel's place in the history of what would become ICANN (after all, Internet protocols did not spring forth in 1998 without great wisdom and guidance). Although when I questioned him today about whether he thought Jon Postel would have approved of bringing the government into matters of technology, he did pay homage to the work Jon had done and said that he thought Jon was moving in that direction.... When I asked whether government should be trusted in the matters of voting (considering its own recent SNAFUs), or matters of doing what was right (using the examples of the commercial interests that played a part in the heinous DMCA coming about and even Dave Farber's own frustration in trying to shed light on technology for the people in power) he evaded the question. So I restated it as just a personal observation. Stuart has worked hard during his presidency and as he steps down for a new president to take over he has moved things along as much as he could have with all of the issues involved. I wish him well.

I can't help but look back in wonder at the way Jon handled things with such finesse and what a cesspool of politics the ICANN org has become. What the hell happened? I think bringing in an anthropologist to map out what has occurred might be a good idea; different tribes have come together to make one tribal law that governs all - I think some data mapping may be in order. Bringing in the government and partnering with commercial entities that can't figure out ways to do things with reasonable protocol or in a timely manner for the most part are only a few things I see going very bad. Since when has more government intervention been a good thing when technology was involved? The days of Vannevar Bush are over. Let's remember that it wasn't long after that time of the blossoming of technology being supported by the gov that we had the McCarthy hearings come down on creative types and technologists (much like we're seeing now after 9/11). The government has single-handedly been responsible for destroying the lives of people they thought were crossing them, and for creativity being killed. For a look at that whole mess and what more government intervention has done for us recently, take a look at I'm interested to see how ICANN handles itself in the future, and looking forward to seeing who steps up to the plate as the new president and other ICANN positions that I hope are freed up. I can only hope that the replacements are more in tune with what is good for technology, not purely for commercial interests or linking with the government in something the government should steer clear of.

I'll draw your attention back to the 1800s when Leland Stanford helped build the Transcontinental Railroad...when Stanford died the US gov called in loans early and the only way Stanford University stayed open was due to many things Jane Stanford did including selling her jewelry (back then it was a free university and Stanford's assets were frozen except for a very small allowance). Years later it was proven that the gov was wrong, the hold on Stanford's estate was lifted and it was just the beginning of how the gov would take over that first US infrastructure. It nearly destroyed the university that brought forth HP, Cisco, Varian (and the development of the Klystron that played a huge part in winning WWII), and scores of people who would lead technology. Now, all these years later the gov is again reaching for its guns to take over this infrastructure we've tried so hard to build and keep free - our Internet. What will it destroy this time? Larry Roberts has always thought the Internet was a great way to take down communism - he was correct. What is now occurring is now that the Internet has proved itself viable, the gov has its controlling eye on it. As ICANN figures out how it will put protocols and policies into place; I don't think they wholly understand what has come before and how exactly they are inviting the vampire across the threshold. I am currently writing a book on government intervention in the creation and use of technology, feel free to call me to talk more on the subject. For more links and info, go to , ,

History is known to repeat itself and as Jerry Glenn, a UN futurist says, "Historians tell us when two tribes fight they usually fight again." We've already fought for Fair Use, we're fighting again...the gov has already proved its penchant for infrastructure and control - what more do we need to know? We all have a responsibility in how this plays out. And if we do nothing? Well...we'll be trying to explain to our grandchildren how we let the power slip through our hands and why they have to fight to get it back.

Keep fighting the good fight, Dave - I'm behind you 100 percent!

Thank you,
sally richards
Author of
FutureNet: The Past, Present & Future as Told by its Creators and Visionaries (Wiley, 2002)
Inside Business Incubators†& Corporate Ventures (Wiley, 2001)
Dot-com Success! Surviving the Fallout & Consolidation (Sybex, 2001)
Sand Dreams & Silicon Orchards: 1,000 years of Silicon Valley's history (coffee table book, Heritage, 2000)
Cofounder WiWoWo (Wild Women of Wonder):
Founder of LiLoTe (LIfe, LOve, TEchnology) & DuraLiNi
Recent BBC interview at:
Here is Stuart's oral testimony and a link to the prepared written

President and CEO, ICANNSenate Commerce Committee,
Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space 12 June, 2002

Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, I appreciate the opportunity to appear here today to discuss the ongoing process of reform and restructuring of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which I have served as President and Chief Executive Officer since March of last year. ICANN was launched in 1998. It was a new venture that had not been tried before: global coordination of a significant Internet resource, namely the Internetís naming and address allocation systems. What was new was that ICANN was and is a private, not-for-profit corporation, private but acting in the global public interest. When you think about where it started, ICANN has made remarkable progress. At its birth, ICANN had no funding, no agreements, no staff, no organization. What it had was broad support from the United States and other governments around the world and from significant sectors of the global Internet community. Along with that support, it has enjoyed the dedication of countless volunteers and the tireless efforts of a small staff that now numbers 17.

Following its mandate from the Department of Commerce and the community ICANN has: (1) established a functioning organization that is open, transparent, and participatory; (2) introduced competition in the market for .com and other domain name services, where before there was none; (3) initiated competition at the registry level with the launch of several new global top level domains; (4) successfully introduced a global domain name dispute resolution policy; (5) reshaped our approach to security; and, above all of which we are most proud (6) have maintained the stability of thecritical Internet functions that ICANN coordinates. †And it has done so without one dollar of governmental funding. Is everything perfect? Of course not. There is much left to be done. That is why I strongly advocated a fundamental reform effort in my report to the ICANN Board of Directors this past February. ICANNís achievements have been significant, but I pointed out that ICANN must change if it is to accomplish its mission and to become the fully effective and accountable organization that ICANN needs to be.

I am pleased to tell you that ICANNís reform effort is well on track. The Board will consider a blueprint for reform at its meeting in two weeks. The basic form of this blueprint has already been placed before the community for comment. I have been pleased to see so much engagement by so many stakeholders in this effort.
ICANNís mission is narrow and well-defined. ICANN ensures that certain essential technical tasks are effectively performed. But ICANNís charge from the United States Government requires it to undertake those policy tasks - and only those policy tasks - that are necessary to the execution of its technical responsibilities. One cannot, for example, add a new top level domain without asking what name, who operates it, for how long, under what conditions and so forth. Someone has to address those policy questions. And if not ICANN, then who?
One can take a view of ICANN that is half-full or half-empty. One can choose to emphasize ICANNís many accomplishments or emphasize what has not been done. I am an unabashed half-full optimist. But I recognize it is easier to focus on the half-empty: no organization can lay claim to perfection, and there is no doubt that ICANN has serious problems to address. It would be truly amazing had the founders of ICANN gotten everything right in 1998. As ICANN reforms, we welcome your advice and your suggestions. And we welcome the continued oversight of the Department of Commerce which throughout ICANNís history has been a constructive and understanding - yet demanding and forthright - partner.

I was not there at the beginning of ICANN and I will retire next March. But before I move on, I am committed to leaving behind a restructured and reformed ICANN - an ICANN that is well-poised to take on the challenges and opportunities of the future; an ICANN that preserves our core values of transparency, openness and accountability; yet an ICANN that is effective and efficient in fulfilling the mission that has been placed before it.
Thank you very much for allowing me to tell ICANN's story today.