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About the FY18 Board Activities & Priorities

20 October 2017
By Cherine Chalaby

As we head to attend ICANN60 in Abu Dhabi, I would like, on behalf of my colleagues, to share with you the ICANN Board's activities and priorities for FY18.

Our current Chairman, Steve Crocker, has written a blog about recent changes to the Board's operations and structure, in which he made a reference to this blog as the Board's outlook for the coming year.

Last year, when the Board answered questions about its priorities, people were surprised that the Board was focusing on so many areas. The fact is that the Board has five main areas of responsibilities, which we call "blocks," each of which come with separate demands and priorities.

Within these areas of responsibilities, the Board's substantive activities are most often community-driven. The Board has also identified operational priorities for itself, with associated deliverables, timelines, and measurements within each.

For ease of reading, I have structured this blog into the five blocks that the Board uses to organize and think about its work. Within each block, I describe (a) the main duties of the Board, (b) the FY18 Board activities, and (c) the FY18 Board priorities.

Block 1 - Oversight over Policy Development and Cross Community Initiatives

The duties of the Board under this responsibility include:

  • Being well informed of the content, priority, and timing of all policies being developed by the community and being ready to approve these policies when submitted to the Board.
  • Providing timely Board comments to cross-community initiatives.
  • Responding to Supporting Organization/Advisory Committee (SO/AC) advice on a timely basis.

FY18 Activities

With respect to community-driven activities, in FY18 the Board is focusing on:

European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – The Board is being kept apprised of the discussions relating to the GDPR and the work the ICANN org is undertaking with the community and respective parties to get clarity on the implementation of the GDPR by May 2018. The Board understands the significant challenges the GDPR is presenting to registries, registrars, other ICANN stakeholder groups and ICANN org, and the need to balance the interests of those who use WHOIS (a range of stakeholders, including those from law enforcement, business and intellectual property) and those with privacy concerns. The Board recognizes the impact that the GDPR regulation is likely to have on ICANN's longstanding policies related to WHOIS and is very supportive of the efforts made by ICANN org to engage with Data Protection Authorities (DPAs) and to obtain legal analysis, as part of the effort to ensure clarity on the impact of the GDPR. The Board wishes that all possible efforts to be made to avoid unintended inconsistencies or consequences to our existing framework.

Registration Data Services (RDS) Policy Development Process (PDP) – The Board recognizes the importance of this work and the impact of the ongoing review from the ICANN org and community on the GDPR. The Board is keeping itself well informed of progress and awaits concrete results. The Board is ready to help, provide guidance, and work to resolve impasses as appropriate.

New gTLD Subsequent Procedures PDP – The Board continues to follow the work being done in this PDP in preparation for reviewing the recommendations that are due in 2018. The Board notes with interest the work being undertaken to arrive at consensus on the use of geographic names as top-level domains.

Curative Rights PDP – The Board awaits with interest the forthcoming final recommendations from the GNSO Curative Rights PDP and the outcome of investigations into the feasibility of providing an ongoing watch service for international governmental organizations concerning registered domains that match their acronyms. The Board stands ready to work with the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) and the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) to conclude the community's work relating to the curative rights.

Cross-Community Working Group (CCWG) on Accountability, Workstream 2 (WS2) – The Board is well informed of the progress of the nine WS2 subgroups. As many of you know, the Board has appointed two Board members as liaisons to each subgroup. The role of each liaison is to inform the Board of key issues and to provide the subgroups with timely comments regarding the Board's position on the issues presented to it.

CCWG on Auction Proceeds (AP) – Similar to WS2, the Board has appointed two Board members as liaisons to this working group. The Board is following this work closely to see what objectives the CCWG recommends for the use of the auction proceeds and what structure or mechanism the CCWG recommends to use in the disbursement and oversight of the funds.

FY18 Priorities

With respect to operational priorities, in FY18 the Board is focusing on continuous alignment with and furthering ICANN's mission, in particular:

1.1 – Analysis of Board Actions – The Board wants to ensure that its resolutions are aligned with ICANN's mission. To that end, the Board has recently taken a decision that all future Board resolutions will not only be supported by a clear rationale, but will also contain an analysis of how each resolution aligns with ICANN's Mission.

1.2 – Consultation Paper – The Board is also planning on recommending, as a "best practice," that the SOs, ACs, and CCWGs include a similar analysis in recommendations, policies, and advice submitted to the Board for consideration. The Board intends on issuing a consultation paper on this topic.

Block 2 - ICANN Org Oversight

The duties of the Board under this responsibility include:

  • Ensuring that community approved policies are implemented in a manner consistent with the adopted policies.
  • Overseeing the implementation of significant engineering projects undertaken by the ICANN org.
  • Overseeing that the ICANN org is delivering operational services to the community effectively and efficiently.

FY18 Activities

With respect to community-driven activities, in FY18 the Board is focusing on:

Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) – In Abu Dhabi, the Board will consider a resolution to approve an amendment to the Final Implementation Plan for IDN country code top-level domain (ccTLD) Fast Track Process, as proposed in the joint response by the country code Names Supporting Organization (ccNSO) and the Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC) on string similarity review. The Board appreciates the cooperative effort between the ccNSO and the SSAC in progressing this issue.

Thick WHOIS Consensus Policy – The Board recognizes the impact GDPR could have on the Thick WHOIS implementation and as such, the Board will consider a resolution in Abu Dhabi to defer compliance enforcement of the Thick WHOIS Consensus Policy to allow additional time for the registrars and VeriSign to reach an agreement on the amendments needed to the Registry-Registrar Agreements (RAAs) to implement the Policy.

FY19 ICANN (including PTI) budget – The Board has the responsibility of overseeing the budgeting process and approving the FY19 annual budget of ICANN (including PTI). It is our fiduciary duty to safeguard the financial stability of ICANN, to ensure that the budget is balanced, and that available funding is used both efficiently and effectively to meet the objectives of the entire ICANN community.

Information Transparency Initiative (ITI) – The Board recently approved a critical project to launch the Information Transparency Initiative. The purpose of this initiative, which will take three years to complete, is to develop a centralised governance system for about 104,000 pieces of ICANN documentation (growing at 25-35% per year) in order to make this information transparent, searchable and easily available for both internal and public use.

Key Signing Key (KSK) Roll Over – The Board is working with ICANN org to determine a suitable date when resolvers will be ready for the rollover of the new KSK.

FY18 Priorities

With respect to operational priorities, in FY18 the Board is focusing on improving cost awareness and financial stability, in particular:

2.1 – Budget Ownership – Last year, the leaders of the SOs and ACs approved the introduction of a new cost control mechanism, known as Project Cost Support Team (PCST), to support cross community working groups. The Accountability WS2 co-leaders are a very good example of adopting and successfully using the PCST to help them manage cost. The Board wishes that ICANN (Board, org and community) becomes more financially disciplined, and that decisions to start projects, reviews, and community initiatives must be based on clear needs, priorities, and affordability. The Board will consult with the SOs and ACs on deploying PCST beyond WS2.

2.2 – ICANN Reserve Fund – The Board is concerned about the depletion in the ICANN Reserve Fund as a result of funding the IANA stewardship transition over the past few years, and is encouraging the community to engage on this issue. A consultation paper on the rationale and target level for the ICANN Reserve Fund has been posted for public comments.

Block 3 - Strategic & Forward Thinking

The duties of the Board under this responsibility include:

  • Monitoring the implementation of the Five Year Strategic Plan.
  • Being aware of external forces and trends at work and anticipating how they might affect ICANN and the community.
  • Thinking ahead about any structural or organizational issues and assessing their impact on ICANN.
  • Ensuring that ICANN org globalization strategy evolves in furtherance to ICANN's mission.

FY18 Activities

With respect to strategic and forward thinking activities, in FY18 the Board is focusing on:

Long Term Financial Planning – The Board recognizes that ICANN's resources are expected to stabilize at their current level over the next five years. The Board is therefore working with the ICANN org in defining a new way of long term financial planning in order to ensure: (a) the financial stability of ICANN, and (b) that ICANN's future activities support the strategic priorities defined by the community, the Board and ICANN org within available resources.

The Next Five Year Strategic Plan – The current strategic plan covers fiscal years 2016 to 2020. We are therefore in the third year of this plan. The Board and the community must soon begin planning for the development of the next strategic plan for fiscal years 2021 to 2025.

Long Term Security and Stability of the Internet's Unique Identifier Systems – The Board is working with the ICANN org in assessing the robustness and vulnerabilities in the DNS software, in assessing the impact of new technologies, in assessing the pressure on the root server system, and in considering ways for tamperproof zone management.

L-Root Strategy – The Board is currently considering various strategies for strengthening the resilience and stability of the L-Root that is operated by ICANN. The Board will seek input from the Root Server System Advisory Committee (RSSAC) before deciding on the best strategy.

FY18 Priorities

With respect to operational priorities, in FY18 the Board is focusing on:

3.1 - Board Skills Adequacy – The Board is focused on ensuring that it has all of the skillsets needed to serve ICANN. To this end, we are undertaking a "gap analysis" (existing skillset, needed skillset, missing skillset) and, based on the results, we will develop a three-year rolling plan to guide Board member training and inform Board nominating bodies.

Block 4 - Governance, Accountability & Fiduciary duties

The duties of the Board under this responsibility include:

  • Handling proficiently ICANN's governance and accountability issues.
  • Discharging its fiduciary (legal and financial) responsibilities.
  • Monitoring organizational risks and mitigation actions.
  • Progressing the implementation (and understanding) of the Bylaws.
  • Improving Board transparency.

FY18 Activities

In FY18, the Board is focusing on progressing many new gTLD applications that are on hold either as a result of gTLD-related issues or due to pending accountability mechanisms, some of which are mentioned below.

.CORP/.HOME/.MAIL – Since this has remained unresolved for some time, the Board will be reviewing this issue closely. In Abu Dhabi, the Board therefore will consider a resolution that requests the ICANN Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC) to conduct a thorough and open study, in a timely and organized fashion, that provides adequate opportunity for all parties, including applicants, members of IETF working groups, the GNSO, and other experts, to present data, analysis and points of view, of the risks posed to users and end systems if .CORP, .HOME, .MAIL and other Name Collision Strings were to be delegated in the root.

.WEB – The ICANN org is awaiting additional information from the US Department of Justice's investigation of the .WEB matter before the Board will be asked to proceed.

Pending Accountability Mechanisms
The Board understands that there are new gTLD applications that remain on hold due to pending accountability mechanisms that are in various stages of completion. We have followed progress closely, and will make all efforts to promptly address each issue. Our keen interest in properly addressing all of the accountability mechanism matters was a key factor in our creating the new Board Accountability Mechanism Committee, which will allow for specified Board members to delve deep into the issues and make recommendations to the Board for action. In particular:

Community Priority Evaluation – The Board anticipates that the Community Priority Evaluation process review will be completed in the coming days. Once completed, the Board will be in a position to evaluate and then address the pending reconsideration requests and move forward in evaluating any pending issues that are on hold, pending completion of the review.

Independent Review Processes– We have received the final declarations resulting from Independent Review Process proceedings, which we are in various stages of considering. Below are two that we are currently working on:

.AMAZON – The Board is considering IRP Panel findings. Before making a final decision, the Board will consider a resolution in Abu Dhabi to ask the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) if it has any new or additional information to provide to the Board with respect to the GAC's previous advice regarding .AMAZON, in order to assist the Board in conducting a re-evaluation of the Amazon applications in accordance with the IRP Panel's recommendation.

.PERSIANGULF – The Board is considering the IRP Panel findings on this issue in order to make a final decision in FY18.

FY18 Priorities

With respect to operational priorities, in FY18 the Board is focusing on:

4.1 – Effectiveness of Reviews – The Board is committed to ensuring ICANN's continuous improvement through both organizational and specific reviews. We have identified three areas of challenge with respect to these reviews: timing, scope, and effectiveness. We intend to initiate a community discussion on these topics.

4.2 – Openness and Accountability – The Board is focused on improving openness and accountability. To that end, the Board:

  • Has approved a new communications plan that aims at keeping the community better informed of Board activities and decisions;
  • Intends on providing clarity and developing a shared understanding of ICANN's mission; and
  • Will undertake a 360 review in order for Board members to be able to continue to improve their contributions, and for the Board as a whole to better understand its areas for improvement.

Block 5 – Community Engagement & External Relationships

The duties of the Board under this responsibility include:

  • Reaching out and being present in the community during the ICANN Public meetings, as well as in between ICANN Public meetings.
  • Supporting ICANN org in meeting four strategic objectives of:
    1. Serving ICANN's stakeholders effectively so that they participate more actively and meaningfully at ICANN.
    2. Attracting new stakeholders globally to meet the needs of a globalized ICANN
    3. Developing effective relationships with key actors in the global Internet ecosystem, based on an insightful mapping of the roles they play, the dynamic between them, and the type of rapport ICANN wishes to have with each one of them.
    4. Advocating ICANN's mission and its multistakeholder model of governance within the Internet Governance ecosystem.

FY18 Activities

With respect to community-driven activities, in FY18 the Board is focusing on:

Engaging with ICANN's Global Community – Historically, the Board engaged reasonably well with the names community and we will continue to do so, but has not engaged enough with the numbers and protocol communities. In the past year, the Board, individually and collectively, has stepped up its engagement efforts with these communities and the response from them has been positive. The Board will continue on that path. The Board must also ensure that the newly formed Board Technical Committee executes on its charter in such a way as to send the right signals to these communities.

FY18 Priorities

With respect to operational priorities, in FY18 the Board is focusing on improving its interaction with the community and playing an effective role in the Internet Governance ecosystem. In particular:

5.1 – Community Requests – The Board is committed to serving the community as a reliable partner by responding, professionally and systematically, to community requests, using a public response system. The Board plans on introducing an "Action Request Response" (ARR) public system that registers community requests and the Board's responses.

5.2 – Service Satisfaction – The Board will review the findings of community surveys conducted over the past three years to understand whether ICANN (Board and ICANN org) activities actually lead to an overall improvement of service satisfaction within the community.

5.3 – Internet Governance (IG) Ecosystem – The Board recently approved a plan for its participation in the IG ecosystem. The Board wants to ensure that ICANN's participation in the IG ecosystem serves our mission and reflects the commitments and core values specified in the ICANN Bylaws. For ICANN to play an effective part in the IG ecosystem, we must understand the mandates and activities of the many other players in that space, and we must engage in active cooperation with them to the extent it enables us to meet our global public interest commitments. The Board's Working Group on IG, in close coordination with the community, will work to find ways of enhancing community interaction and involvement in IG issues related to ICANNs remit and mission.

Let me close by saying that the Board sincerely hopes that this blog will enable you to get a better understanding of the Board's responsibilities and its FY18 activities and priorities.

The Board looks forward to engaging with you in Abu Dhabi and to answering any questions you may have on this blog.


Cherine Chalaby

Former ICANN Board Chair