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Changes in the ICANN Board’s Operational Activities

One of the more interesting developments in this new year is the proposed changes in how, or perhaps more accurately, when the ICANN Board will undertake its activities. Historically, the ICANN Board has held monthly teleconferences (Special Board Meetings), with the exception of those months when the ICANN Board meet in person as part of a regional meeting (Regular Board Meeting). Approximately five years ago, the ICANN Board also began holding bi-annual retreats as part of their regular business activities. Interestingly, the proposed 2010 agenda for the ICANN Board has only four proposed Special Meetings, as opposed to the eight Special Meetings held in 2009 and 2008. While the ICANN Board has proposed a 50% reduction in Special Meetings it has not changed the number of Regular Meetings (3) or retreats (2).

While some may wish to opine on the positive and/or negative impacts of this change, I would respectfully submit that time will only tell whether this was a good or a bad change. I do believe that reducing the number of Board meetings is a prudent move as the demands of monthly meetings takes its toll on the Board, all of which aside from the President/CEO are mere volunteers. I know this first hand after three years of service (2003-2006) on the ICANN Board. Another positive aspect of this proposed rearranged work schedule is that it allows the Board to sync ICANN’s public sector led policy development processes with the timely input and advice from ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC). Under ICANN’s bylaws and the recently executed Affirmation of Commitments, it is critical that ICANN act in the public interest and not just the needs of a particular set of stakeholders. Because governments tend to require a longer consultative process, the reduced number of meetings during the calendar year makes a lot of sense.

The key to this rearranged work schedule for the Board is largely dependent upon ICANN staff properly executing their respective roles. As Rod Beckstrom now enters his seventh month on the job, he has the ability to hire senior staff dedicated to fulfilling ICANN’s responsibilities set forth in the Affirmation of Commitments to act in the public interest.

By Michael D. Palage, Intellectual Property Attorney and IT Consultant

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