Marilyn Cade passed away on 3 November 2020. Shortly before her death, she spoke with POWER PLAY's Ayden Férdeline about her accomplishments, leadership style, and hopes for the future.
Marilyn Cade was AT&T's chief lobbyist on Internet policy issues and instrumental in developing formal governance mechanisms for the Internet's Domain Name System.
INTRO [00:00:04] You're listening to POWER PLAYS, the podcast charting how important decisions about the Internet, its infrastructure, and its institutions have been made. Here's your host, Ayden Férdeline.
Ayden Férdeline [00:00:31] Welcome to POWER PLAYS, I'm Ayden Férdeline. Today on POWER PLAYS, I am going to play an interview that I recorded recently with my friend and mentor, Marilyn Cade. Marilyn Cade passed away on November 3rd. She was a wonderful person, and I think our conversation here captures her intellect, her humor, and her hopes for the future. If you don't know Marilyn, she began her career in the 1970s as a social worker in Missouri, but by the early '90s, she was a major fundraiser for Bill Clinton and had risen to become AT&T's chief lobbyist on technology policy issues. She never quite retired. She volunteered her time widely supporting various national and regional Internet Governance Forum initiatives. She not only knew the history of these initiatives; she formed many of them. She led from behind, elevating the voices of others and kindness, integrity, and diversity were values she sought very sincerely to instill in others. I'm proud to have been a friend of Marilyn. I even have the badge from her to prove it. At meetings, Marilyn would hand out badges to be worn that said FOM. Friend of Marilyn. I have so many personal memories of her. I remember attending the World Summit on the Information Society for the first time, and Marilyn was there in the ITU tower in Geneva showing me how to use the coffee machines. Running me through the three kiss protocol for greeting people. Telling me where to sit in the Popov meeting room so you could best ambush someone who entered the room that you needed to network with. I remember sharing taxis with her in Marrakech and in Abu Dhabi, getting kicked out of a cocktail reception in Johannesburg by security because we both left our conference badges in our respective hotel rooms, many breakfast meetings together before sessions began. She has died too young. She was only in her early '70s, but she had the stamina and the mind to last forever. I will miss Marilyn deeply. I think everyone who met her will miss her because when it came to ICANN, the ITU, or any other meeting she attended, no one could work the room like she did. She knew that personal relationships mattered and she sought to know everyone. I'm going to turn this podcast over to Marilyn now. You'll hear my voice occasionally as I intervene to ask questions, but for the most part, you are only going to hear her speak. Because Marilyn Cade was a brilliant storyteller. We begin with Marilyn describing how she became involved in the initiative to launch ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, back in the '90s.
Marilyn Cade [00:03:35] I was headed to the U.S. Congress for a Hill hearing. Something having to do with e-commerce. And my secretary - we had secretaries in those days, not just smartphones - my secretary waved me down and said, "there's a man on the phone that says Mike Roberts told him to call you" and I can't get him to hang up. So I put my briefcase down and I picked up the phone and the voice on the other end of the phone said, "Marilyn, I'm Jon Postel." And I sort of held the phone out in front of me. And I looked at it and said, why would Jon Postel be calling me? And he said, "Because Mike Roberts told me to and Joe Sims told me to." And I'm like, OK, tell you what, I am headed to a congressional hearing, five minutes, but I'm really not sure why you're calling me.
Marilyn Cade [00:04:57] So Jon proceeded to tell me a little bit about the decisions he had made to reroute Internet traffic as a test. I was very familiar with the action as he had unilaterally, in my view, decided to reroute Internet traffic over a weekend as a test to determine perhaps how the A root server could be moved. At least that was the speculation of the AT&T Labs guys that I was interfacing with.
Marilyn Cade [00:05:40] And this had completely disrupted the research networks because scientists and researchers and sysadmins work whenever, but it's typically at night and weekends. And so the guys at AT&T Labs and elsewhere had spent the entire weekend troubleshooting a flaw, so to speak, that Jon had purposely created. I listened to him and I said, I'm still not understanding why I should talk to you. And he said, "because Mike Roberts and Ira Magaziner and Joe Sims told me to talk to you. I'm being sued." Now, I come from the commercial world and I'm going like, OK, what did you think was going to happen, Mr. Scientist? But that didn't seem like the right thing to say. So I told Jon that I would speak with Joe Sims and with Mike Roberts and I would call him back.
Marilyn Cade [00:06:54] One thing I should say, which is probably public knowledge, if you went and looked for it, is that I was very close to both Mike Roberts and coincidentally, knew Joe Sims fairly well because he was the law partner at Jones Day, where my partner, my personal partner at that time, worked for many, many years before he was appointed by President Clinton to a presidential appointee position.
Marilyn Cade [00:07:32] So I knew Joe, I went to the Hill for the congressional hearing and I procrastinated about making the phone call. So the next day I got another phone call. This one was more exciting.
Marilyn Cade [00:07:52] My secretary sticks her head in my office and says the AT&T General Counsel's office is on the phone. And if you don't know this, if you are a Hill lobbyist who is not day to day involved in the policy legal decisions, but is just going about their job of trying to follow what is going on in emerging Internet policy and e-commerce, my assignment in Washington was pretty exciting. I got to work with the emerging technologies, which at that time were high performance computing and communication, parallel processing and the Internet technologies and the Internet itself. But I did not regularly talk to the General Counsel's office from AT&T.
Ayden Férdeline [00:08:56] So what was your reaction to that, getting this call from the Office of the General Counsel?
Marilyn Cade [00:09:02] I mean, when the General Counsel called somebody at my level, while you took the phone call, you were immediately packing your personal items off of your desk and stuffing them in a cardboard box and your briefcase because you knew you were going to be fired for something that you hadn't done to protect the corporation from whatever this was that you should have known about. So the General Counsel comes on. The phone call went something like this. Marilyn Cade? Yes. You are our lobbyist in Washington for Internet issues? Yes. Are you aware of the activity that is going on to propose moving the A root server to the ITU in Geneva, Switzerland? No. No, I hadn't heard about that yet. Well, the General Counsel proceeded to tell me that the media was contacting the Chairman's media contact asking about this, because, as everybody knows, at that time, AT&T was, of course, very, very heavily involved in the ITU. And some of our competitors were of the view that they could bar AT&T from becoming a competitor in the Internet by really trying to assert that communications was different. They were new entrants. They were very different and sort of labeling AT&T as an out of date communications company dependent on the ITU for global regulation of the comms sector, comms industry. So at one point, I am sure that the General Counsel said something like, "there's this list of 300 entities. Because it's in alphabetical order, AT&T is at the top. We're getting media inquiries about this and I don't know why this group called Internet Society is trying to do this, but we are one of the funders, the Labs is one of the funders, you're the person responsible for interfacing with the Internet Society. Fix it now." Click. Now, I am sure that's not what he said because the General Counsel of AT&T was this wonderfully soft spoken Southern type. The CEO, Bob Allen, would never have taken that kind of tone in asking for someone to. But in my mind, you know, I had failed. As I sat there, eventually the name of the head of the Internet Society emerged into my feeble brain. And I picked the phone up and said, "why are you trying to get me fired?"
Marilyn Cade [00:12:27] So that led to my becoming heavily involved in learning about something called the new GTD MoU, which was a bizarre idea by seven people. More people were involved in planning but it was a bizarre idea, in fact, to move the A root server to Geneva, Switzerland, to the ITU, 13th floor, and to create a board of seven people, one of whom was Christopher Wilkinson from the European Commission, a staff person, one of whom was Bob Shaw, Robert Shaw from the ITU, a staff person, and one of whom was Albert Tramposch from WIPO, a staff person. Now, for those who aren't aware of this, there is no way that the Secretary General, and in the case of WIPO, Director General, would have agreed to having staff hold such a position on an external board.
Marilyn Cade [00:13:44] There are a lot of people at ICANN that are still heavily engaged that were involved at that time. And I'm not going to name any of them. But I will just say that my next act was to convene a consultation. And literally I went to all of the trade associations that AT&T was a member of. My portfolio was the high tech and ICT sector. So I was pulling in those associations, plus the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable, where the CEO was AT&T CEO was a member in both. And I held a public meeting, an open meeting at an organization called ITAA. It's merged with other organizations now, but then it was headed by Harris Miller.
Marilyn Cade [00:14:46] DEC was there, and by the way, the DEC guys were all involved up to their eyeballs in this idea of freeing the A root server. IBM was there. Oracle. Sun. You know, people forget that 20 years ago, Microsoft was a fledgling presence in Washington, D.C. Sun didn't even have a Washington office. Other companies didn't exist. The ICT sector was a very, very different sector. But companies like Fujitsu and Canon and many, many others that are sort of the mainstays on the equipment side were were there. And we're in some cases actually sending people from the home office if they didn't have a Washington office. So the head of ISOC then and several other of the supporters came, and made, I invited them to do a briefing on their proposal. And I invited the staff from the relevant Congressional Subcommittee on Science and Technology because I chaired the high performance computing and communication consortia. And I knew better than to annoy by leaving them out of the of the discussion. We did not have significant presence from the White House. That came very, very shortly thereafter as a result of this public meeting. So at the meeting, the team brought a transparency. PowerPoint didn't exist then.
Marilyn Cade [00:16:40] The transparency showed an image of the tower, the ITU International Telecommunications Union tower, which is about 15 stories tall in Geneva, Switzerland. And at the bottom, it said, United Nations International Telecommunications Union, Geneva, Switzerland. Image of the tower. And at the right hand corner, there was a red arrow pointing to the following phrase. The arrow pointed to the 13th floor, the phrase said, "future home of the A root server."
Marilyn Cade [00:17:23] The room became extremely quiet because hardware guys aren't that active at the ITU. But you can, if you know the history of telecommunications, it's really an interesting concept to think about where we are today, continuing to combat efforts by those who are active in the ITU, which is supposed to be focused only on global comms issues, communication issues, that we still continue to combat the idea that the ITU should have some kind of oversight role or interventionist role in this. In the Internet. The room gets very quiet and one of the staff from the Hill ask if he can use the phone. Mobile phones didn't exist. I sent him to Harris's office with, escorted by Harris the executive director, and I could have predicted what happened. Maybe 15 minutes of uproar with people arguing and DEC saying they've been aware of this and there are advantages to think about how this will globalize the Internet, etc. Others are arguing against it. Barbara Dooley, who is the executive director of the Commercial Internet Exchange, and her attorney, Ron Plesser and AT&T, was one of the founders of CIXs, saying we're not moving anywhere. The A root server is going to stay in the United States. And Jim comes back in. The staffer comes back in and says, may I, may I ask the presenters a question. And he said, "this has been a very interesting presentation. Would you welcome an invitation to a congressional subcommittee hearing in two weeks?" I had been wondering what I was going to do to put a big rock in front of this wheel, so to speak. At this point I looked around, I dusted my hands off and said, OK. What do you think? They were ecstatic with joy. High fiving each other. Congratulating each other, working out the details of when the hearing would be. The hearing happened. They brought the transparency and showed it. The chair in the seat was Chip Pickering from I believe it's Mississippi. And Chip was filling in for a colleague who was extremely ill and was home for medical treatment. And I knew Chip. I would say they didn't. It was quite clear. And sitting behind Chip was the representative, was the senior staff and another staff person who I didn't know very well, holding big binders of information. And this is not today's Congress because so much now would be on the iPad or automated. But at the time, we were still living in a paper world and laptops didn't exist. Mobile phones didn't exist. People need to remember where we were. There were about a hundred and fifty to one hundred and sixty seven million users on the Internet. So you can see how far we've come from where we were then. So the proponents of the new gTLD MoU present the outline of their plan, they show the transparency. The member of Congress and the chair leans forward and says, "so do I understand your proposal includes moving the A root server to the United Nations International Telecommunication Union offices in the tower located in Geneva, Switzerland?" Five heads bobbed up and down. Yes, chair.
Marilyn Cade [00:22:24] Jim handed him, the staff handed him a big binder, and he started reading, so you propose to move the A root server, which is funded by federal grant managed by DARPA and the National Science Foundation, number, yes, and, turn the page, federal grant for years, blah, blah, blah, blah. Yes. So at the end of this reading of the amount of federal money which had gone into the development of the research that had supported the development of the Internet, the member of Congress sort of indicated that there would be further inquiries into such ideas about moving U.S. government property to a United Nations entity in Geneva.
Marilyn Cade [00:23:29] After the hearing, it was extremely noisy as we all spilled out into the hallway and everyone else was. The proponents were congratulating the ISOC staff and each other. I was huddling with people like Joe Alhadeff from Oracle and Art Riley from Cisco Systems and the legal counsel for ITAA, Mark Perl and Rick Lane from the Chamber. And they all were saying, OK, what's next? Because, you know, given the tone of the hearing, we could be spending the next two years having hearing, over hearing, over hearing, over hearing and pretty much negative debates about who owns what.
Marilyn Cade [00:24:29] And since we had to pass a law in the United States to allow commercial traffic on the Internet, and that's what led to the creation of CIXs, the Commercial Internet eXchange. Ron Plesser, the outside counsel to CIX, was also part of this discussion. And, you know, we're all looking at each other and going, how do we you know, that can't happen. But obviously, you know, maybe we have been asleep at the wheel. We haven't been paying attention to what this little subgroup has been doing. So I went back to my office and we were going to reconvene the next day. Jerry Berman from CDT was joining us. And that night at dinner, I told my partner about the hearing and things were going to be less than positive.
Marilyn Cade [00:25:28] And, you know, this was not going to look good for the Internet Society. AT&T was one of the corporate sponsors back when seventy-five thousand dollars was real money. There were only like five or six of those. One was the company that Vint Cerf worked for. So. By chance, literally by chance, we were having dinner with Mack McLarty, President Clinton's chief of staff, and I was making conversation and trying to be humorous about, you know, what's going on in this Internet space. And Mack looked at me and said. I think you're right, it's going to get pretty noisy up on the Hill, call Ira Magaziner. He's working on President Clinton's e-commerce agenda and right now it's got seven key points and he wants to add an eighth one.
Marilyn Cade [00:26:33] So the next day I pick the phone up, literally, called Irs's office and said, "hi, my name is Marilyn Cade." And Ira said, yeah, Joe Sims warned me you were going to give me a call, I of course I'm going like, this is much too small a world. So I went over to brief Ira and filled him in on my understanding of what was going on. And we began - the industry and Ira - with heavy, heavy, I would say, collaboration across the high tech sector. Began thinking about what would happen next. And the next meeting I went to with Ira, Becky Burr was in the room and Karen Rose was in the room, from NTIA. There were people in the room who I recognized as coming from the agencies that were responsible for the noncommercially focused gTDLSs. Such as .mil. Which, of course, was not something that the guys who had worked on the new gTLD MoU had ever thought about because all they were thinking about actually was the interest in becoming rich by refocusing decisions and perhaps even governance of .com. That and .net, that was really the primary focus. The education community was regrettably restricted to .edu only being available to US-based education institutions, which has always been, I think, kind of a loss. But anyway, NTIA issued the green paper. There were over 400 responses when they issued the analysis of how many responses they had received. I posted a response that they needed to count again because 123 of them came from one person named Jay Fanello, who was hired by NSI, and it was a cut and paste job pretending to come from different people. But the content was exactly the same. And later Jay showed up, funded by NSI, to take a protective role on behalf of NSI's position. Green Paper gets published. Then the White Paper is published and there are a series of public meetings that are held, Ira is at them, Becky is at them. There's a big one held in Boston. There's a big one. There's several held. I hold two or three largely in Washington, but also in Boston and a group called the Boston Working Group, which, by the way, included two Kiwi's, strangely enough, who flew over in order to participate, which people find very, very interesting and don't really understand. But there's a university in New Zealand that was one of the early adopters of the Internet and of the 11 countries that made up the majority of the roughly 150 million users at the time we launched ICANN, New Zealand and Ghana were among those countries, which is always a surprise to people.
Marilyn Cade [00:30:34] But it is a testament to the fact that ICANN, the decisions that were taken to create this new international organization really was based on the interest and the commitment and the work of individuals. And I like to say that the foundation of ICANN is formed by hand crafted bricks, not by the custom bricks that you turn out. And those bricks reflect the either the perhaps the individual commitment or the commercial commitment of a company. But in many, many cases, when you interview the first 300 people who helped to make the Internet into the communications network that it is, they all were Jon Postel brethren, I would say. I came at it through my relationship with Mike Roberts and Larry Len Webber, and because I chaired the High Performance and Communications Consortium and because of AT&T Labs, because I supported the Labs teams that were working in this area and the president of AT&T WorldNet. So I was coming at it from yes, AT&T did have a commercial interest, but our commercial interest was in e-commerce. And getting that eighth plank or pillar in President Clinton's e-commerce agenda was actually probably one of the most critical things that could have happened because it ended so much squabbling. It also led to Benjaman, the European Commissioner, creating a, I'm going to call it a competing e-commerce platform. And Ira then traveled to build support to Australia, where Paul Twomey was the minister of ICT and created a platform for e-commerce for Australia.
Marilyn Cade [00:33:15] Ira traveled to Japan, met with the Keidanren, with Jates, which is the very, very highly reputable research entity, which is co-funded by the really big Japanese companies such as Fujitsu and Mitsubishi etc, and the government and. So what we were seeing was a shift toward, OK. There's general agreement, NTIA has found rough consensus in the responses to the white paper. And one other group submitted counterproposals, elements of those counterproposals were incorporated, and in the final recommendation of the white paper, and basically we were ready to go.
Ayden Férdeline [00:34:20] Can you expand upon that a little bit? Why was it that the idea for ICANN got traction over those other proposals?
Marilyn Cade [00:34:29] Well, first of all, they were like the GTL MoU, in that they were like maybe six people or seven people and the other proposals were not complete. They did not address the white paper completely. The Boston Working Group, as I recall, because I in 2000, I went to New Zealand to meet with AT&T's technical teams that supported our Fortune 500 customers in that region and well, in New Zealand and in Australia primarily, their focus was more on bottom-up consensus-based decision making. It did not include, the proposals didn't include a full governance structure. They didn't include an examination of the antitrust laws. They didn't, they didn't look into the elements of how the new organization was going to be funded. So what NTIA did and Ira did, Ira was directly involved, was to pull out elements that there had been critical comments that had come in about how are users going to be protected, what kind of governance structure, how will the board be established? Well, the big debate about how to choose the board. Hundreds of bios were sent to Jon, and I know because I sent a good number myself and a somewhat mysterious process which did not involve NTIA, it involved Jon and other trusted people, selected sort of a planepy of qualified people. More on the technical side.
Marilyn Cade [00:36:42] And what was proposed in the initial version of ICANN was very much reflective of Jon's view and Jon's DNA. So a lot of people would have been ruled out in Jon's mind because they didn't adhere to what many of us embrace as an underlying if you don't know anything else, about an RFC and you were involved at that time. You knew RFC 1591, which Jon wrote himself, which a rough summary would be, you do all that you do for the good of the Internet user. Now, technical people who know him will argue that's not what he meant. But that was sort of the I think, the mantra that drew many of us into supporting the idea and also the idea that it was time to move to an international organization.
Marilyn Cade [00:37:48] There are a limited number of international organizations that have as much responsibility as ICANN has. One that I would point to that plays a very, very critical role, but is not highly embraced, is IEEE, who developed standards in key areas and helps to implement those standards. They have, we're close to half a million individual engineers and scientists and they have a mission that they are rabidly committed to. They're not fishing for other missions, as perhaps some other international organizations are today. And maybe they're more of a role model than we had thought about in terms of how to engage with bringing more knowledgeable individuals, not just because you have an opinion, but because you actually have an understanding to participate in the policy process.
Marilyn Cade [00:39:03] We launched ICANN with a $1.3 million line of credit, Mike Roberts credit card, after we managed to hound him or coerce him or coax him into agreeing to be the first executive director, if you don't know anything about Mike, he has an extremely interesting background. First CIO of Stanford, I'm going to get his title wrong, but he. There are people who talk about the big ships. Mike was a technical officer on a big ship in the Navy. And then he was the executive director of Educom. This is a guy who more and more and more and more than qualified and highly trusted by the technical community. Mike recruited, with the help of a few other people, recruited Esther Dyson, who was a very interesting choice as the first chair. And once Esther agreed to be the first chair, she was not a passive player at all. We had agreed on a 15 person board and 10 of the board were seated with five seats, one per region, reserved to be elected by some process yet to be defined because we certainly couldn't. The At-Large didn't exist. In fact, we went through multiple conniptions to develop something that could eventually emerge as the At-Large. There were four staff when Mike unlocked the door and he and Molly weren't paid many, many months in the first year. Molly was the technical officer. So the first board meeting was in Singapore, which I did not attend. But perhaps some fun will be the story about how my phone rang at 2:00 A.M. because instead of my going to Singapore, I sent John England, who was the general counsel for the American Electronics Association.
Marilyn Cade [00:41:44] He and Mark Pearl from ITAA were doing pro bono work for this group of companies. We had contributed to the ideas for drafting the formulation of what was then called the DNSO, because it merged, it was a merger of the Country Codes and the 1G operator for .org, .net, and .com, NSI, and John fell asleep in the airport on the way over and my phone rings at like 2:00 A.M. In the morning. It's Esther from Singapore yelling at me that if I don't walk in that door in the next hour with the bylaws, the copy of the changes to the bylaws, there may not be a DNSO. And John, I am told, I wasn't there, John comes running down the aisle. Here they are, Madam Chair. Here they are. Here they are. The drama must have been amazing.
Marilyn Cade [00:42:51] The first meeting I came to, interestingly enough, the second meeting was held in Berlin. And Jay Fanello was there with several friends, colleagues, and there were two microphones. And we spent the entire time. We spent two days hashing through various things and hearing opinions. And every time I would speak, Jay and his 21 or 22 friends would boo. And every time Jay or one of his friends would speak, they would applaud, and at one point I'm standing at the microphone and I turned around and looked behind me and where were my buddies who had been at all of those planning meetings and committed? And I see Steve Metalis sitting in the back of the room. And I marched back, literally from the microphone, and stand in front of him and five or six other people from industry and said. OK, here's how it goes. The next time I speak, you applaud and the next time Jay speaks, you boo. Got it? And went back up to the microphone and Esther said something wrong, Marilyn. And I said, I don't think so. And took about half a day for Esther to have enough of the booing and the clapping and we had new rules.
Ayden Férdeline [00:44:39] In that - the booing and the clapping - do you think that was simply because of ideological differences in what you were saying, or do you think there was a gendered aspect to it?
Marilyn Cade [00:44:53] There was no gender aspect to it. It was not. It was the, when Rick Lane spoke, he was booed. You know, it was the side thing. It's like, you know, protecting NSI. In the negotiations, NSI agreed to the spin-off of .org and the consideration of the spin-off of .net. They also accepted, and remember these negotiations were being overseen by the Department of Commerce and by Ira. So the company had to agree to create a structural barrier between the registry and the registrar and they literally were given. No, I mean, they agreed to it, but there was no firm date. So at one point, the line of demarcation between the registry and the registrar was a masking tape barrier, so to speak, on the floor. And people went their separate ways of doing their jobs. That's not the first time that has happened. That has happened with other entities that have been divided. But eventually the company, NSI became the registrar and the company eventually emerged as, the registry emerged as VeriSign.
Marilyn Cade [00:46:34] A lot of people in ICANN don't actually understand the history of how we got to where we are. The first meeting would have had, the first board meeting would have had well under 300 people in Singapore at it. We had maybe 350 to 400 here in Berlin. Ron Andruff, who was just beginning to explore what ICANN was at the time, says that he wandered from room to room and one room would have six people in it and another would have ten and another would have maybe seven or eight. And he couldn't figure out what we were doing. What we were doing was trying to establish the constituencies. We began that process in Berlin and we were assigned a board member who has passed since, but he arrived to tell a hundred people split between the ISPs and the business community and the intellectual property community. This is how it's going to be. And about an hour later, Steve Metalis and Tony Holmes and I kicked him out of the room and wouldn't let him back in. We were going to self-design the way that the community worked. We had another financial crisis that occurred not long after that. The registries and registrars started holding their breath on paying their fees to ICANN so they would delay the payment by a month or two months or three months. And literally we were in a financial crisis not because there shouldn't have been revenue, but because they were collectively refusing to pay.
Marilyn Cade [00:48:41] And after a couple of private meetings with some yelling and screaming from a group of companies who had what are called preferred registration contracts with both the existing, with NSI as a registrar and also some of the new registrars. After some yelling and screaming about how contracts are there to be enforced, and then some political pressure and a hearing or two, the registrars and registry kind of got the message that they did have to pay.
Marilyn Cade [00:49:26] They were paying eight cents a name. And in Ghana, Ron Andruff is sitting next to me. A former hockey player from Vancouver and jumping up and down in his seat when he hears this and it's like, I'm going to the mic, I'm going to the mic, I'm like, OK, go to the mic. No, no, you have to help me. Here's what I think. And he lays out this very coherent argument about how he pays all these fees on his communications bill. And he thinks eight cents is underpaying, so he proposes that the board pass a change in the fee to twenty-five cents. And of course, I have wandered around the room telling people. There's a big round of applause. And Jon Nevitt wanders to the microphone sort of with a dazes look on his face and goes, well, it cost us. And Ron has explained that this is basically not their money. It's the registrants money. They are collecting the money, aggregating it and paying it to ICANN. So Jon goes to the microphone, as I said, with this kind of dazed look on his face, wondering, what's my argument? What's my argument? You can tell what he's thinking because, well, it does cost us something to collect the money and pass it on. And Ron, right back at the mic goes, keep a nickel, give ICANN 20 cents. Another big round of applause. The board passes the change in the amount. And it was a breakthrough moment for the community of users who were saying, we want this organization to survive. It needs a reliable revenue stream.
Ayden Férdeline [00:51:36] So there are so many things that I want to follow up on. Thank you so much, Marilyn. This has been great back to that moment, whether it was booing at the mic. When you think about ICANN today, is it more civil than that? What do you think about community behavior now? Does the community continue to behave in ways that were initially envisioned?
Marilyn Cade [00:52:00] When we created ICANN, and again, I want to reinforce the idea that the majority of the participants of creating the organization had some kind of affinity to Jon Postel. Jon died. Quite unexpectedly, he was to have been the CTO of ICANN. The organization might look very different had he lived in the sense that the criteria for fact-based engagement was much higher. It wasn't that opinions didn't count in the world we were in, but informed opinions counted and civility. Look, the technical community can be as aggressively critical as the legal community, but generally the facts bear out in that community. And the other thing that Jon brought that we've lost, and it's tragic we've lost it, is the DNA we adhered to. Again, took us back to RFC 1591 and a, not the idea that you couldn't make money, but the idea that ethical behavior should be self-imposed and should be self adhered.
Marilyn Cade [00:54:09] And, you know, yes, you need contracts, but, you know, you shouldn't have to be told that you can disagree without being disagreeable. You shouldn't have to be lectured by an ICANN staff person to remember that there is a code of conduct. It was inherent in the spirit of our first board and of our first, I would say our first two executive directors, both Mike Roberts and Stuart Lynn. Being allowed to be unkind and personal is something that has grown up and excused as though that is the commercial way. I worked in a commercial environment for 20 some years, in an environment where the code of conduct for the employee was, I would have said, higher than the 10 years I spent in state government in terms of the expectation of, you do not gossip about people. You don't attack people when you challenge their, you know, I think we've all become used to even in our daily lives, we've become lax in thinking about how to collaborate and cooperate. And we put a label on behavior, and we accept behavior, that is very, very far away from the first concepts that Jon embodied. I don't want this to sound like Jon was the epitome of all that anyone should aspire to. But I think that within the Internet ecosystem that Jon brought the kind of commitment, where people worked as volunteers to accept the responsibility of operating a ccTLD with no pay. Many of them were based at universities, so they did have daytime access, the university in New Zealand, you know, we're talking about time difference. We're talking about so many challenges. Volunteers in the Pacific island, there's a, I don't know what the number is now, but there was this team of techies, maybe 10, 12, 15 of them, who were laboring in these islands. And they volunteered to take on setting up a ccTLD. Now, some of them didn't live there, and there was no way there would have been Internet connectivity had they not stepped up to it. There's the story about Niue is a story that can be repeated about many of the ccTLDs. Had somebody not volunteered to underwrite it and yes, maybe used the fees for selling the .nu, but it brought that goodness to and connectivity for the Internet to that little island, which otherwise wouldn't exist. Jon somehow gathered these people around him. I recruited a business executive from BT to be a candidate for the first board. You want me to do what? Huh? OK.
Marilyn Cade [00:58:24] That was a technical, he happened to be a technical guy, I recruited Frank Fitzsimmons from the business community who had never heard of ICANN or the fact we were creating a new organization. And somehow I convinced him to spend three years of his life. And by the way, we didn't pay board travel and there was no board staff. And we were sued by one of our board members, as a matter of fact, you know, and these folks were volunteering over and over and over and over, real volunteers. So just the good side that came out, I think we've lost - it's there, but it's today those, if you take the 2500 people who come to the AGM, there are at least half of them have that DNA somewhere in their soul, but they don't always have an opportunity to express it or to use it to build more cohesiveness, perhaps because they don't have stature or they're not accepted as being authorities. But I do believe that that concept of the hand crafted brick, which we need to keep making, has to keep building this organization because it's much too important. And somehow we've got to do a better job of conveying why it's important and it's not just so somebody can hold a domainfest conference or something of that nature or auction or do secondary auction of domain names.
Ayden Férdeline [01:00:41] I know you said you were not particularly close to Postel, but how do you think he perceived the transition?
Marilyn Cade [01:00:47] Mike and Larry and Joe Sims, who was the outside counsel, Joe donated, Joe did so much pro bono work. And Joe's an antitrust attorney. The mystery was always why Joe adopted Jon, and he did, and donated probably millions of dollars of pro bono work of himself and colleagues at Jones Day. It was an amazing, amazing relationship to me. But I'm the girl that stood in front of transferring IANA to ICANN initially. I said no. And because I said no, I, of course, recruited the high tech sector to say no and given, so it wasn't Postel I knew well, right, it was Joe Sims and it was Larry and it was Mike Roberts and Esther and the board and all of them had a go at me about my saying no. And, you know, first of all, why did I think I had the right to say no and why was I saying no? And then some days my entire bank of phone calls was all about, why are you saying no? I was saying no because ICANN was too new. We didn't have any funding yet. We hadn't lived the first three years as any organization must make it the first three years better if you make it the first five and show that you can adapt. And there was no way that if the transfer of IANA was proposed, even the support of Magaziner and NTIA and endorsement by Clinton, if I could not convince the CIO of AT&T Labs that that was a secure decision, I couldn't convince the John Patrick from IBM, the head of the office there at IBM in Washington. I couldn't convince him that was a stable organization. And it's interesting because later, Peter Dengate Thrush was the chair of the board and he created something called the President's Strategy Committee, and we spent three years working on the, how to create the process that would lead to the IANA transition.
Marilyn Cade [01:04:07] I was the only woman, everybody else was and everybody else was a former government diplomat, Janis Kanlkin as well, and Vint Cerf, who was sort of on the committee but usually only popped in after we had a complete next stage to our proposal. Vint would show up at the next meeting and give us a complete counterpoint. PowerPoint, usually multiple pages long, ignoring the previous work. But other than that, it was me and a bunch of former diplomats and Peter as the chair and Paul Toomey. We went through the process of something that looked like the green paper and the white paper again. We had meeting after meeting after meeting to try to come up with what a process would look like and what the substance behind transferring it, what the stability would look like, etc. And the thing that's interesting, people were at the time, they were sort of like why you, you know, there wasn't some well, why me was because I had said no in the beginning with extremely well-articulated arguments that might have been written by attorneys from someplace else and other colleagues, but from the industry, from the high tech sector.
Marilyn Cade [01:05:41] But, Jon, initially was very unhappy about IANA not being transferred. At that time, he knew probably how ill he was. He was going in for surgery. Most people didn't know. I mean, I didn't know. I wasn't that close to him. Again, I'm close to Larry and close to Mike and close to Ira. And when we woke up. I think we were all in absolute shock to have lost him and at the same time. And I never directly addressed this, but at the same time, I think that introduced an element of instability into ICANN, where it wasn't that people didn't still believe, it was that they were worried, some of us were worried that the techie geeky types would say without Jon, who is there to trust. And it was essential that Mike was there and that the board was truly representative, of, the ten board members were truly representative. Whether Jon would have done it exactly this way - I think sometimes we've gotten a little too egalitarian where just because you have an opinion, you think your opinion has to be reflected in the process or the outcome. I see it every day when I see individuals who do not represent anyone, they don't consult with anyone. And they really believe that their voice and opinion and I'm going to use an example, but not a name.
Marilyn Cade [01:08:02] Oh. You are creating, ICANN is creating a mechanism to distribute the auction funds. Well, I've been on an NGO board we gave away, I don't know, maybe a million point four, therefore I'm an expert in the processes for grant making and grant evaluation, so a lot of that kind of thing going on at ICANN. An individual lack of depth in accepting that you may have an opinion, but that doesn't make you an expert. And then the issue is, how do you aggregate those opinions, but still put them through a filter where you do no harm to the organization, but you do consider the opinions that are being put forward.
Ayden Férdeline [01:09:07] I want to dove into that question of legitimacy, it is certainly my impression that in parts of the ICANN community, there is a game of leadership musical chairs, where there are very few new participants entering and certain voices who represent only themselves dominating decision making processes for decades on end. I'm wondering what you think about this, whether you think it is true and how we can bring about seeing more informed participation in ICANN activities when there is not a lot of new blood coming in to certain parts of the community?
Marilyn Cade [01:09:48] I, I think it may come down to trying to develop a better, more effective understanding of what leadership is. I probably have a different view of whether that's a problem based on what the model of participation and decision making is. And so I'm going to use myself as an example. I played a very heavy role in dealing with the external environment that led to the creation of ICANN. Using other groups, I chaired the high performance computing and communication consortia, which was a multistakeholder consortia that included representatives of government, of education, of science, of business, NGOs, activists, etc. I represented a high tech company at very powerful and prestigious high tech associations. I led, I created and co-led with Sarah Deutsche the ad hoc copyright coalition, which killed two WIPO treaties and conditioned another, because they harmed the Internet. But none of that was me. That was all empowering others to become engaged, I acted as the executive director for six months of a small organization that was opposing the Time Warner and AOL merger over SMS standards. I helped to create the internet summit, America Links Up, which was a $4 million nationwide voluntary teach-in to teach teachers and children and school boards about the Internet. I helped co-found the Congressional Internet Caucus Advisory Committee. None of that was me. All of that was bringing together voices and aggregating those voices. When I became, so when we created ICANN and launched the business constituency, initially I was not, I chose not to be an officer, chose not to be a councilor. Beginning in 2000, I cochaired, sorry, I chaired two task forces at the same time, 40 to 60 people in each. I funded the transcripts out of my budget. I worked with Bruce Tonkin and Chuck Gomes to raise $60,000 a year to hire Glenn with no contract to be the first secretariat to that council. That wasn't me. That was multiple people. Tonken and Chuck Gomes, others, Metalis, understanding that if we didn't come together to build this structure, when I, I then became a councilor for the BC, I then became the BC chair for three years, and when I, for a significant, I created the newsletter that the BC does, when I left the BC, which has been recently, my feeling was that a lot of structures had been put in place.
Marilyn Cade [01:14:27] Do I think that everybody shares my view of what being a chair is? Unfortunately, no. Most people think that being a leader or being a chair is being in charge. I believe in leading from behind. And when you, in that kind of environment, having a mature chair who has gone through and learned and improved their chairing functions. The technical community believes you have to, I'm going to, this is a bad term, they're going to I hope laugh when I say this, but the technical community acts toward leadership more like aging cheese. And so there's much more of a peer, you know, are you helping others? Are you coaching others? Are you, and I'm not saying our technical community, I'm thinking more IEEE and some of the other. And I'm not thinking about ISOC either, which is more of a staff-driven approach, but that the RIRs, for instance, the regional Internet registries, there's something called a NOG and it's the network operators group. And they, and I was first introduced to them 20 some years ago, and I was supervised by two AT&T Labs science researchers. They had to struggle to get an agreement among their peers that I should be allowed to join the calls because I was some Washington girl, I didn't know anything. I wasn't a sysadmin. What was I doing? And I was under strict instruction not to speak by my own colleagues. And they would have a preparatory call with me before the NOG call and then they would have a call with me afterward to decode for me what had been said. And I got to watch how leaders emerged. And most of those people never saw each other, they might meet at an IETF, but most of them never got to travel and they were you know, they were the back engine of dealing with the challenges and issues that were going on on the network.
Marilyn Cade [01:17:30] I watched how people earned respect. And I think we've perhaps at ICANN, we've gotten too much into the particularly because some of the leadership positions come with funding, we've gotten too much into the assumption that you are a skilled leader if you manage to get elected. But if you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there. Much to my dismay, I always thought Arthur Buchanan, my father, made that up. I didn't realize it was Erma Bombeck. Apparently responsible for some of the wittiest things my father ever said, too bad, but I'm not sure. A lot of people do not agree with me. But I will use an example of someone I have huge respect for that I think has successfully led the ISPs since we created ICANN, and that's Tony Holmes. And he's played different roles. He's been the chair, he's been a counselor, he's been the vice chair. He's been kind of a coach and mentor. And I'd like to think that Tony is. And even when he left BT, he continued to, has continued until very, very recently to, make sure that he's available to try to bring in new blood. ISPs are really, really, really hard to get away from their day to day business because their day to day business falls apart when they're not there and particularly small ISPs. And so understanding the dynamics and the differences of each of the different subsectors, I think in some cases ICANN's mentoring programs had been a big failure, but with really good intentions. And it's the staff also got into this and Fadi got into this in his last year, this idea that you can anoint a leader. You have to earn the skills and experience of being accepted as a leader and you don't always have to have the title to be extremely influential and again, I'm going to go back to, what's the function? And if you, if we allow the function to be I'm in charge of making the decision, as opposed to I'm responsible for facilitating the decision, then we have a problem, because I think in some cases we have put people with no skills at all in chairing and no skills at all in consensus building and no skills at all in understanding the voice of the other.
Marilyn Cade [01:21:43] We put them in decisional positions. I was trained by, in graduate school, I was trained by someone who also actually Obama was directly trained. My professor in graduate school was a disciple of the street worker, essentially, in Chicago. And for my practicum, I did conflict resolution with black female gangs in St. Louis, girls who were teenagers and with psychiatric work with and counseling with white teenagers at a psychiatric hospital. Gang work is really great training for leadership because you can't, you have to be accepted. And I think we haven't broken the code yet about how the community. So we have ICANN doing a lot of things, leadership training, mentoring, but we haven't agreed on how we're going to season our leaders, and I think that's a really important step for us to take.
Ayden Férdeline [01:23:25] Was ICANN fun in the 20 or so years you were a part of it? Did you enjoy it?
Marilyn Cade [01:23:33] Yes, and some of the reasons I enjoyed it was, I love problem solving. So when I was chair, we had funding only for the council. We had no funding. And then eventually we got the council to spend it. And I took the money away from them and split it up and would only I would give the travel to the person who had to travel the furthest. And then somebody else got the hotel, somebody else got the per diem and it drove the the councilors nuts. That was their money. And then I wrangled the funding for the printing of the first newsletter. I got ICANN to fund it as a pilot. When I became an officer, the BC had a huge financial debt that had been run up for a variety of reasons. I was not an officer. I wasn't a counselor. To my shock, there was a debt that was, let's say it was significant. And so I raised the dues. And by the way, I didn't go. How would you feel about my raise in the dues as your brand new chair? I presented, I did a business case. I presented the situation. I pointed out how many corporations we had as members, and I said, we're going to double your dues. And by this period of time, we will be cash flow even. And by this period of time, we'll be able to offer, to go back to a reduced but it's not going back to the level it was. And we'll be able to offer a reduced fee for developing country participants. And that's problem solving and people. I like to think I didn't dictate, but I did present the options and the option of the business constituency having a debt of over $50,000 was not acceptable. You know, I like to solve problems. I like to bring people on board. Probably the most enjoyable thing I've done recently has been to spend that time in the engagement booth trying to encourage fellows and NextGen to think differently about why they're getting involved in ICANN. And pushing them pretty hard to also get involved in the national IGF and to bring ICANN into their national IGF. So if you sort of think about this as a Venn diagram, right.
Marilyn Cade [01:26:51] We can't afford to pay for everyone who wants to attend an ICANN meeting, but we can make ICANN more local, if we make sure that we are thinking hard and influencing the thinking of the ICANN staff. Too many of the ICANN staff in engagement have diplomatic backgrounds. That was a structure of Fadi's who, for some reason, they came up with this weird idea that they needed to go call on a government. They needed someone who came who had government credentials. You know, who the people are that are most effective on calling on government? Business people. From that country. And I think that's been fun. Hey, it was fun to be part of the intrigue of the beginning, you know, it was like building a puzzle and you hadn't yet defined what the picture was going to be, that the little bits and pieces of the puzzle were, you know, like you start out with, oh, well, that might be a tree or maybe it's the base of a well. And I thought that was huge fun. I think meaning all of these different people has been huge fun.
Ayden Férdeline [01:28:32] What was it like being a woman in technology in the '90s?
Marilyn Cade [01:28:38] Well, first of all, I was a lobbyist for technology and I had a huge, huge advisory resources. AT&T labs, oh my God, you know. And my boss had created this thing called the Technology and Infrastructure Center that I, I was the director. I didn't do the day to day stuff. But, you know, I'm bringing in senior ambassadors to Washington, D.C. to hear a speech from Arno Penzias, a Nobel Prize winner from the Labs, I'm escorting the CEO, the new CEO of AT&T Computer Systems to meet with the President. I'm meeting with Bill Nye, the Science Guy, to coauthor, literally coauthor, a video on the NII for President Clinton. It was like, that was my day. I would say half of the people who were engaged in the issues I was engaged with were female. Elizabeth Frazey from the Walt Disney Company, Barbara Dooley from CIX, former journalist. Most of the chairs of associations from business were all male, but there would be an occasional, but we didn't have an old girls club or a new girls club or, you know, and I was carrying around a pretty important business card. And I don't mean AT&T Communications. It was AT&T WorldNet, an ISP, and AT&T Computer Systems that put me in a, I was on an advisory group, for instance, the only woman appointed to the director general of WIPO's Advisory Committee on E-Commerce and Intellectual Property, 19 vice presidents and presidents of the Entertainment and Big Pharma and me. So it never occurred to me that there was a gender issue.
Marilyn Cade [01:31:08] My lawyer was a woman. The lawyer that supported me locally was a woman, the lawyer team that supported me out of the general counsel's office. One man, one woman, the lawyer that represented WorldNet, a woman. Now, certainly when I went to Congress, it was pretty noticeable because even the senior staff weren't women. But for me, it was more the tech committes. Women were not really involved so much in science and tech. The general counsel, by the way, for a good long time at AT&T was a woman, Francine Berry, who was like, you know, she could not only out-lawyer, she could out everything else any man in the room. Let me tell you, we were all like, yes, Francine. She was just a powerhouse of belief and very committed to promoting women.
Marilyn Cade [01:32:10] I do think it's a very different, and regrettably, different environment in countries. And perhaps we're not sensitive enough to the challenges that are faced in so many countries about women and girls having access to the skills and the confidence factors that they need. There's not money or recognition of how differently the brain evolves at different times for each of the sexes. And there is not in some countries, there's not the cultural opportunity for girls and boys to interact with each other in Afghanistan and many other countries, their after school activities for boys, soccer, computer clubs, etc. Boys are allowed to walk on the street. Young boys, boys that are pre-teen and early teen, they're allowed to walk on the street to go to an Internet cafe. Girls are not allowed to. There has to be a separate entrance, girls, and there's no curriculum. There are a hundred, just over one hundred and sixty million children who will never go to school of any kind. So when we think about that and we think about what ICANN is doing, I like to you ask me what was fun. I would say another fun thing has been to look for that nexus of what ICANN is doing and what kind of social and cultural changes can emerge through the use and access to the Internet?
Ayden Férdeline [01:34:16] You mentioned Afghanistan, and I believe you've traveled there three times to support the national Internet Governance Forum there. Can you expand upon what it is that you value about the national and regional Internet Governance Forum initiatives and why it is that you participate in them?
Marilyn Cade [01:34:36] In 2015, at the IGF, Janis Karklins was the chair, ambassador Janis Karklins was the chair and he came to the consultative session that I had established. There was no focal point for the NRIs. There were 56 NRIs. National and regional IGFs, but we were short hand it. Every good activity needs a sound acronym, as in NRI. There are now 122 and 14, 15 of them are so-called youth IGFs. What I love about them is they are truly organic.
Marilyn Cade [01:35:21] If you remove from the map of the NRIs the regional IGFs which are very different, and you focus just on the national IGFs, there's a process which they, we developed, Anya and the NRIs and I developed, there's a communications network. And what led to this work was an observation on my part. I was walking at ICANN meetings and greeting the NRI from Cameroon or Brazil and the person next to them would go, Oh, your country has an NRI because they didn't know each other. There was no network, there was no focal point. I created this activity where I informally meet with the coordinators at ICANN meetings. Once or twice a year I'm able to get Chengetai or Anya to, the UN will allow them to attend.
Marilyn Cade [01:36:38] They're all microcosms of the challenges in their country. So in Afghanistan in particular, the first year, I'm just going to make a touch back to the gender issue. The first year, all of the women are wearing hijabs and or wearing scarves fairly tightly worn, I'm wearing a scarf, but in the very loose casual, you know, it's sort of covering my hair, but it's much more casually wrapped. And I really felt it as a Western woman I didn't have to, but I really felt that I should show the cultural recognition of. All of the women are sitting together, all twenty, twenty five of them in the back of the room. And I went back to them and introduced myself one by one by one by one to each of them, gave them my business card and invited them, instead of sitting in the front row, because I was a guest of honor, I moved back about six or seven rows and managed to get five or six of them to come and sit with me. The head of the TRA came back and said, Marilyn, we would like you to sit with the guest of honor. And I said, I will when we start the ceremony, but I would like to sit with the women who are here. Meeting two, we started out with all of the women sitting in the middle rows. Last year I went back to where the women were sitting, there were a number of new women, and I said, this section with me is reserved for you. They all got up and came to the front of the room. It was like 20, 30 women. Right. And they moved up with their purses and started looking at the guys, the college students and the young entrepreneurs who are sitting in their seats. And the young men just got up and moved.
Marilyn Cade [01:39:02] And that's actually a cultural change for them because they're invited and expected to be in the front of the room. So what I love about, we did the first kids academy children ages six through 11, they've been more innovative than EuroDIG, than Asia-Pacific. They're a country that is still dealing with conflict, with people being killed.
Marilyn Cade [01:39:40] The second meeting, I managed to convince the United Nations to let Chengetai Masango who leads the IGF secretariat and is a U.N. employee, Anja Genko, who is the focal point, at the time was a contractor so she could come. But to have a U.N. employee come to Afghanistan is actually quite a big deal from a security standpoint. The morning they arrived, the 28 journalists were killed on the edges of the Green Zone. We carried on. And on day two, families still brought their children to the kids academy. That's what I love about the NRIs. It's local. It reflects the culture. They struggle with funding because what's easy for me in a developed country where there's Telefonica, who you can ask for a financial grant, or there's Facebook or Google. And regrettably, I have seen entities like ISOC withdrawing their funding. One thing that's unique about Afghanistan over almost every other NRI except Sudan and South Sudan is that no one will travel to Afghanistan.
Marilyn Cade [01:41:22] The ISOC staff won't travel, the ICANN staff won't travel. So the first IGF Afghanistan, 70 to 75 percent of our speakers were remote. The second year was about the same amount. And last year, the team there in Afghanistan, Omar Ansari, Mazor and the ISOC chapter have, with strong help from the previous minister and the head of the TRA, you know, there's been a change in leadership there, but the present head of the TRA and the minister are just as supportive as Marjan, who was the minister, and Azizi, who was the head of the TRA. I think almost 50 percent of our speakers were from Afghanistan.
Ayden Férdeline [01:42:20] One thing that I have always noticed about you, Marilyn, and that I personally have appreciated, and I think others have appreciated, too, has been your willingness to be that mentor. You were certainly very comfortable with your own position and you're willing to share your knowledge with others. And the NRIs have really allowed you to do that.
Marilyn Cade [01:42:43] They are amazingly. One of the challenges is trying to participate remotely and be relevant to them, and I do try to do that. So when they ask me to speak, I actually try to speak about something, not just pat them on the back for what they're doing, but speak about one of the issues that they're dealing with. And I think not enough people offer to do that. I think that you're a lot more and I hope some who watch this will think about this and say, oh, is there a national IGF in my country? Is there a sub regional like the West Africa, the East Africa, SEEDIG, where I can become involved?
Marilyn Cade [01:43:54] What am I doing to contribute to a change in policy areas that I care about or say I care about and I'm debating about it globally? I'm going to ICANN and I'm debating and I'm, you know, presenting my point of view. But what am I doing to actually change a national law or practice? You can argue about treaties. Average treaty, I would say, is 10 to 20 years in development. Out of date, long before you actually go to the negotiation. You're lucky if you keep the treaty from being enacted because it's very, very difficult to un-enact a treaty. And treaties don't change national law because even if a country signs on to the treaty, they still have to pass the law that puts the treaty into effect. And then pass the national law that creates enforcement, etc., etc. So becoming involved at the national level, anywhere from just trying to educate parliamentarians to meeting with ministers or their deputies and being a source of informed information, I think the positive value of the NRIs is that conduit. So you won't be surprised that this is probably the most fun professionally for me.
Ayden Férdeline [01:45:54] When you look back at the early history of ICANN, and what ICANN is today, and what the other Internet governance processes that you are a part of today are today. When you look through that lens of history, what worries you, what excites you?
Marilyn Cade [01:46:14] The overcommercialization that's evolving at ICANN. That is ... I was appalled, appalled by decisions taken and influenced by Paul Toomy and Vint Cerf when Vint was the chair of the board and Paul was the executive director. We were on a path to have maybe five hundred new gTLDs with a priority on IDNs and community-facing gTLDs. And all of a sudden we fell into the, let a thousand flowers bloom, if 700 wither and die, who cares?
Marilyn Cade [01:47:02] Well, if you registered in that gTLD, you care. So ICANN took on an overcommercialization approach and ignored, in my view, ignored the fact that there is more to being the trusted body that oversees this coordination than generating new gTLD registries. The lack of enforcement of the contracts appalls me as a former business person. The casualness with which people approach really serious examinations. You made a comment earlier. You asked me earlier about, you know, this sort of, how do you bring new blood in? Is there kind of a closed door approach to leadership? Look, I look at some of the review teams and there's people on the review teams that have been involved in ICANN for less than three years. And when you look at their record of actually any meaningful work, it's very lacking. At the same time, there is an issue with dominance of people who have been around perhaps too long. So that whole review process worries me. The nominating committee process at ICANN needs complete reform. And we need to consider the fact that in the last nine years, other than Cherine Chalaby, who is the senior business person who has been on that board? Senior business person. And why does that matter? Well, if you're trying to establish credibility in a sector, you can point to the tech creds of many of the board members, but the board is, the first board may actually have been the best board ICANN will ever have, and that's not right. So we have to completely rethink the nominating committee, that whole process, the nominating committee has got to be completely reformed. And I'm not saying everybody has to be a senior scientist or a senior business man. I've also not ever understood the nominating committee, seemingly, you know, being in love with putting former government people on the board in the past. It's not necessarily good training for being an effective board member. I think ICANN has too many staff and they pay them too much. And that worries me because it drives the organization toward a commercialization as opposed toward an approach of being responsible for coordinating the unique identifiers. We should never have adopted a, ICANN seems to use as its measure how much money you make at a high tech company. We're not a high tech company. We're some other strange hippopotamus quasi, camel, quasi elephant type creature that needs to understand that we're unique. Executive director of the American Red Cross, which has capped her salary voluntarily at five hundred thousand dollars. No bonuses. The Red Cross saves people's lives, you know, they process blood and guarantee. They harvest Durah, they you know, I can tell you a lot about what they do. They used to be my client, but when I was at AT&T Computer Systems. But voluntarily. Now, if you compare the businesses, the American Red Cross runs and their life saving functions, she probably would command a salary of at least a million dollars, maybe more, so that worries me a lot.
Marilyn Cade [01:51:47] I think the other thing that worries me is ICANN edging too close to the ITU by osmosis, because the staff don't like sitting in the back of the room. They want their own tent card at the at the ITU meetings. They ignore UNESCO, which is the natural partner for them to spend more time with, as well as UNCTAD. If you're going to cozy up to specialized agencies, then you ought to treat them equally in terms of the value they bring.
Marilyn Cade [01:52:22] And certainly UNESCO both with human rights and also with the IDN role. And they're willing and interested. UNCTAD has a star of a secretary general. And, you know, if we're committed to enhancing the engagement of SMEs in registering domain names. Another thing that worries me is the attitude of the ICANN staff toward the country codes. Country codes actually build presence in a country. New gTLDs don't. So too much money, I think, is a risk at ICANN, because if I can start printing money by issuing new gTLDs, issuing new gTLDs, these issuing new gTLDs, it in my view, and legal voices may tell me otherwise, it puts it's not for profit status at risk, at least its credibility and legitimacy, and it may even create antitrust issues. Which is, you know, think of how long we've gone without a congressional hearing. That's good news. But it may may not last.
Ayden Férdeline [01:53:55] Do you think that the decision in late 2019 by the Internet Society to attempt to sell the Public Interest Registry to Ethos Capital could or should have attracted congressional scrutiny?
Marilyn Cade [01:54:12] I was shocked, amazed and appalled by the move of the Internet Society to divest itself. In my view. I do not believe that was ever what Jon Postel had intended, and I don't care at all for the snarky quotes from people who think that they can interpret what Jon meant.
Marilyn Cade [01:54:39] I was certainly around enough and saw how he supported and encouraged other approaches. I think the Internet Society damaged its own credibility significantly, and I don't know how they plan to recover, but their present approach to explaining their decision, certainly lacks credibility. I think there were some other decisions being taken that sort of making the assertion that the fee is now 10 dollars, though the increase will only, will stay at 10 percent. That's, you know, within the affordability of NGOs. But none of that explains this decision. It also doesn't explain the lack of consultation. And it seems to be that the Internet Society thought they owned .org. So this was not a rebid, which, OK, if we're going to rebid, then rebid. But that's not what this was. And they have had a windfall of profit orchestrated by heavily by the influence of Vint and others. Several years ago, when .org was spun off to provide funding to support a permanent home for the IETF. Well, ISOC has had a lot of money to spend through that. That has come. All of their community network, you know, all of their work has been funded by the windfall profits that they get from the registration fees. The chapters aren't listen to. So the board, the present board of ISOC, I have no idea what they were thinking because they're certainly incoherent in any explanation that fits reality as I can see it, and I think there's a big legitimacy issue. It's very, very different to have a noncommercial space or a space intended for noncommercial purposes operated by a venture capitalist, then by a not for profit organization. Very different.
Marilyn Cade [01:57:19] And if people don't know that ... I'm disappointed at the lack of media focus and understanding, and I'm hoping that there will be more attention paid to this. I'm not judging the motivation of a venture capital firm, but it makes me uncomfortable to think that this is the direction that the ICANN board would accept or that the ICANN community would accept or that the ISOC community would accept.
Ayden Férdeline [01:58:03] We should probably add a little context that this decision has already been made. .org wasn't sold, thanks that is, to the ICANN board, not the ISOC board, ISOC just expects us to move on as though nothing happened. It is, after all, an independent trust and not a membership-driven organization. The chapters are not listened to unless their views align with HQ. Individual members have no way of appointing anyone to the board. They are not required to ratify decisions that are made. How can we hold ISOC accountable?
Marilyn Cade [01:58:41] Media, media, media, media, media, media, media, media, media. I'm sorry, media, you know, companies change their entire business practices when they start getting bad press.
Ayden Férdeline [01:59:04] That was Marilyn Cade, who passed away on November 3rd, 2020. May she rest in peace. In her memory and tribute, the website www.MarilynCade.org has been established to host words of remembrance.
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