Why ICANN('t) pay the bill

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a group that has had its fair share of problems, has yet another: The Net coordination body wants more money -- and more power -- but one of its largest partners, the Council of European National Top Level Domain Registries (CENTR), isn't willing to play ball.

"The proposed budget is a big concern," CENTR Chairman Paul Kane said in a telephone interview last week.

In May, ICANN proposed a budget of US$15.8 million for next year -- nearly double its current annual expenditure. The request irked Kane so much that he responded on May 26 with a dismissive three-page letter to ICANN head Paul Twomey. His message was unmistakably clear: CENTR members refuse to pay a cent more.

CENTR -- representing the interests of Internet registries in nearly 40 countries -- is a powerful voice in the Net community, and one that ICANN can't ignore.

In his letter, the CENTR chairman referred to ICANN's contribution request as "unrealistic and inappropriate." While CENTR members, he wrote, are prepared to pay "their fair share" of the technical support that ICANN provides through its contract relationship with the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), they see no need for additional funding.

Twomey could not be reached for comment. A representative from his office said Wednesday that Twomey has yet to respond to Kane's letter.

CENTR, based in Oxford, England, has already raised money through its Internet Infrastructure Fund to provide ICANN and IANA with computer equipment, registry management software and, if necessary, staff training, according to Kane. "Unfortunately, (ICANN and its technical contract partner IANA) have not responded to our offer of support," he wrote.

IANA is contracted to provide ICANN with several services, including Internet Protocol (IP) address allocation, protocol identifier assignment, the domain name system and root server management, according to Kane.

CENTR members, whose primary task is managing country code top level domains (ccTLDs), are particularly peeved with the proposed 20-fold increase in IANA funding, or with ICANN's growing control of the unit, he said.

In 1996, the annual cost of the IANA infrastructure service, which was provided by two part-time staff, was US$250,000, according to Kane. Now ICANN, is seeking nearly US$5 million to fund the unit, with the equivalent of 2.5 full-time members of staff.

"We encourage ICANN to remove the unrealistic targets from (its) budget and ensure equitable funding for ... IANA ... remembering the workload placed on IANA staff is not proportional to the size of the registry," Kane wrote in his letter to Twomey.

In addition to ICANN's funding, CENTR members are concerned over its tightening grip on its contract partner. ICANN, according to Kane, is trying to merge IANA's functions with its own to gain more influence in the Internet community.

Kane likened IANA to a spreadsheet, which provides an authoritative list of where things are on the Internet. This Net management function, he said, is a huge responsibility and one that ICANN won't relinquish without a fight.

Equally disturbing to CENTR is ICANN's attempt to establish itself as the governing body of the Internet, according to Kane. The organization should focus instead on its core mission, he said, serving as a forum for technical coordination and information exchange for the global Internet community, as well as ensuring that IANA's administrative tasks are done well.

Decisions over technical issues should be made by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), and those over operational issues by the impacted communities, Kane said.

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John Blau

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