Taipei Times (TT): What is ICANN’s position on the US Department of Commerce’s March 14 statement?
Fadi Chehade: First thing is that it is important to know the US government fulfilled their promise, and the promise was that at some point, when the ICANN community is ready, they would step back and be equal to everybody at the table. They just announced they intended to do it 15 years ago. And, on Friday, they did not stop their job. They continued their job, but they said that they planned to basically stop what they do on some conditions. Their condition is that the community come back to them with a proposal. They will review the proposal. If the proposal meets their principles, then they will sit aside and be equal to everybody.
What ICANN does to the registry of the Internet does not change. What changed is who ensures we are doing our job, but not the job. It’s very important to have that distinction. Our roles are not changed. It’s that who checks if ICANN is really doing its job changed. We don’t need a new institution. We simply need a new mechanism that is transparent, that is open, that keeps ICANN’s implementation accountable to everybody. Our job continues. It’s just a question of who watches over our work.
TT: Has the Edward Snowden issue pressured the US government to make the announcement? Does ICANN play a role in the US National Security Agency’s surveillance program that was exposed by Snowden last year?
Chehade: The US government’s announcement said ICANN “has never been readier.” We started discussing how that day would happen a year-and-a-half ago, even before the event of Snowden.
When people said Snowden caused all of this, [I would say] the fact is that we have been working very hard on this, and that is why we are here today. The timing is completely natural to me. Of course, people want to attach it with something political because most people frankly don’t know what we have been doing over the past 15 years.
Anyway, our work has nothing to do with what Snowden does. But, there’s a bigger discussion that has been going on, and that is separate from ICANN. Of course, ICANN is part of the Internet governance, but only one part. Internet governance is a much broader subject. It has to do with not only how the Internet works, but also how we use the Internet, privacy, security, tax ... a million things.
My hope is that we enable institutions from all over the world to get involved in Internet governance and to address the issue rapidly.
TT: Since 2012, ICANN has received up to 1,900 applications for generic top-level domain (gTLD) names, among which 290 cases have resulted in contracts being signed, including those filed by Taiwan’s Acer Inc (宏碁) and HTC Corp (宏達電). How can we expect ICANN’s new gTLD program to impact the Internet industry?
Chehade: At the beginning, we expected to receive about 300 to 400 applications, and the fee is as high as about US$200,000 for each application. So, we were surprised by the outcome, which showed that there’s a great appetite for Web addresses.
Some people said this is like “real estate” of the Internet. For me, people are using these names such as “.paris” to make innovation, to express themselves, to come up with a new marketing idea. By opening up the market, we didn’t think it would go this big, but it happened.