The Canadian Internet Registration Authority, which manages the dot-ca domain, opens its board of directors election at noon ET today. CIRA members are eligible to vote from September 19th until September 26th, with five seats at stake – two member-nominated seats and three nominating-committee seats. I am on the ballot for a member-nominated seat and would appreciate your support. While there are many worthy candidates, those that I will be voting for include: Kevin McArthur, a strong advocate for consumer and technology issues, for the other member-nominated position as well as Hank Intven (an exceptional telecom lawyer) and Bill Sandiford (the chair of CNOC, the independent ISP association) in the nominating committee board member category.
I explained why I am running for the CIRA board in this post during the nomination process, but wanted to expand my comments as the voting begins. I believe that the current election represents a critical moment in CIRA’s evolution. The organization spent much of its first five years setting the ground rules for operating a country-code top-level domain. It fostered a competitive registrar market that resulted in sharply lower prices for dot-ca domains, established governance policies on issues such as domain name dispute resolution, drafted extensive legal documentation, and grappled with a governance model that raised conflict concerns.
The past five years were marked by a growing bank account – as domain name registrations grew the organization became increasingly flush with cash – and extensive (and expensive) investments in marketing. Yet efforts to meet its public interest mandate were more modest. The Canadian Internet Forum is an interesting and worthwhile endeavour, but policy reforms such as WHOIS reform struggled with external pressures. Moreover, the organization remained silent on many key Internet policy developments, including net neutrality (a policy submission on the issue was killed by the board at the last minute), lawful access, and Internet access.
This year marked the start of the third phase of CIRA’s evolution with proposed governance reforms that would have eliminated member-nominated board candidates (with respect, it is stunning that board members that supported eliminating member-nominated candidates are now using that process to run for election). I spoke out against the reforms, which threatened to decrease public participation and accountability. With four positions on the board to be determined by this election, it will set the course for the future structure and role of CIRA within the Canadian Internet.
I have argued that governance reform is essential and that a new model based on creating an independent, CIRA-funded public policy arm is needed to allow the organization to fulfill its public interest mandate while maintaining its core expertise in managing the dot-ca domain. Just as important is the need for CIRA to reassert the public interest at the centre of its decision-making process. I hope to bring that view to the board and believe that Kevin McArthur, Hank Intven, and Bill Sandiford are likely to do so as well. If you are a CIRA member, you will be receiving an email notification of the opportunity to vote. A public interest focused CIRA starts with a publicly-active membership, so please click on the link in the election email and take a few moments to cast your vote.