• Governance Ecology - The Operating Entity

last modified January 15, 2014 by tomlowenhaupt

Note: Much of this page was made obsolete by the city's decision to file an application the .nyc TLD.

What's the appropriate governance structure for the .nyc TLD? And how does .nyc link with the New York City community and the Internet's global oversight systems? These questions are in the forefront of our search for mechanisms to guide the .nyc TLD's development as a public interest resource. We look here at Connecting.nyc Inc.'s corporate structure, its relationship with city residents, businesses and civic organizations, the city's elected and administrative structures, and its role within the Internet's global oversight milieu as one example of a public interest oversight model .


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Board of Directors 
(perception vs reality) 

board-of-directors.jpg

(Commons photo courtesy of Charles Frednes.)

 Good Governance Defined

Wiser Earth defines good governance as "the practice of decision-making and administering an organization, company, or public institution in an impartial, efficient, transparent, and fair way that is free of corruption and respects the rule of law."

 Board Membership

We have created a Board Governance Committee to oversee the member recruitment process. We currently have five members and are considering expanding membership. In any such expansion, or in filling vacancies, we will seek members with the following backgrounds:

          • knowledgeable of the city's economic and social needs;
          • representative of city's cultural and ethnic diversity;
          • passionate about making better communities and a better city;
          • work comfortably in group situations;
          • listen well and be thoughtful in considering issues;
          • Internet savvy; and
          • willing to make a substantial time commitment for during the acquisition phase (July 2009 - June 2010). This should include one Saturday per month to meet about current issues. Additionally, willingness to take on an occasional special task , e.g., pick up the phone and make a call to that special person, plan or attend a event...

         If you are interested in serving on our board, email tom@connectingnyc.org.


Governance Options

  • Traditional Broad Representation Board - Providing seats for representative of geographic, community, and institutional stakeholders and competency seats in finance, DNS & networking technologies, and the intersection of privacy and security.

  • Geographic Seats for Representatives of Civic Organizations or Community Boards
Brooklyn -
Bronx -
Manhattan -
Queens -
Staten Island -
  • Competencies Seats
Financial -
DNS and Networking Technology -
The Scylla and Charybdis Seat (Intersection of Privacy and Security) -
  • User Seats
Internet Society/NY -
Over 60 years of age -
Under 25 years of age -
Member of Connecting.nyc, Inc.'s Advisory Council
  • Respected Institutions

Chambers of Commerce -
City Government -
CUNY -
Public Libraries -
Tourist Bureau -

Agile Transition Board - The period ­up until the ICANN decision will be one of rapid change requiring quick decisions. Decision-making by a "Broad Board" can be expected to be slow and place decision-making authority in the hands of the organization's executive director. Additionally, filling such a large board with involved and competent members in the short period will be time consuming and challenging. Two alternative suggestions have been posed for the Agile Board.
  • Alternate A - A more agile board with five members is another possibility. Its membership might consist of a member recommended by the city council and representing the public, another business interests as selected by the mayor, a third representing users by a member from media or academia, with the executive director having a tie breaker vote. We are creating a pool of candidates from which to choose members. Should you be interested or know of anyone interested, have them send a letter of interest to the Board Development Committee c/o toml@communisphere.com.
  • Alternate B - A small board membership composed of strong supporters of the Community / Networking capabilities of our offering. 

Other Governance Options - We are preparing a Governance Development Process to add breadth and depth to the exploration. See the Governance Development Process page.

  • Representatives - An alternate Transition Board might have a five or six member board with each borough selecting a member on the board, possibly with the Boroughs' elected representatives making the appointments.
  • Stock Classes - Perhaps the practice of corporate America in issuing different classes of stocks is an appropriate model. For example, class A stock has 4 seats on the Board and are selected by traditional recommendation methods. Class B stock has 5 seats on the board and are selected by vote of domain name holders.

     

 Common Pool Resource Governance

Common pool resource and common pool regimes provide an interesting governance direction. The thought leader in this area is Elinor Ostrom, an American political scientist and winner of the 2009 Noble Prize for economics, who has identified eight "design principles" of stable local common pool resource (CPR) management. Typical common-pool resources include irrigation systems, fishing gounds, pastures, forests, water, and the atmosphere. A first reading of her work indicates many similarities with these resources and a TLD. See Common Pool Resources for more.

  Government Control

Who controls the net? It was originally anything but  government. Today we're on the verge of a 180. See this article

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Overview

We're inventing a governance structure here to enable a 400 year old community to manage the integration of a global technology into every object, every thought, and every action. If thoughtfully developed, the .nyc TLD will be the central nervous system for a smarter New York City. To properly analyze our governance options for the .nyc TLD it is helpful to look upon it as having three "life phases" - acquisition, development, and operation. 

There are a number of visions on the organization structure that best serves each phase, including government, not-for-profit, private, and various combinations of these. The selection of the most effective structure for each life phase is central to .nyc's long term success in serving the needs and dreams of the residents and organizations of our great city.

About Connecting.nyc Inc.

Connecting.nyc Inc. ­was incorporated in New York State as a not-for-profit on April 10, 2007 and filed for the IRS's 501(c)(3) tax status on December 18, 2007. The assumptions and experiences that led to the selection of this structure and our goals, plans, and processes for creating an inclusive and transparent governance structure are presented below.­

Guiding Fundamentals

In researching an appropriate governance structure for the .nyc TLD we observed the following:

  • In a digital era, a TLD will be as integral and important a part of New York's existence as our roads, subways, water, schools, libraries, and air.
  • Residents and organizations should have a guiding say in the operation of such vital resources.
  • Governance authority for the TLD's oversight derives from its users and those upon whom it has direct impact.
  • The ICANN, a California not-for-profit corporation established to operate the Internet's Domain Name System, will make the final decision as to the entity to which the .nyc TLD is issued.
  • City governments' role in the .nyc TLD's governance is scaled by the ICANN requirement that applicants for geographical TLDs are "required to submit a statement of support or non-objection for its application from the relevant government(s) or public authorities."
  • The competitive nature of the TLD market (one can choose a .com or from more than two hundred other TLDs), sensitivities associated with .nyc's naming operation, and the benefits derived from operating .nyc in the public interest, shade toward a measure of independence from the traditional governance structures.
  • The ongoing operation of the .nyc TLD will be guided by its governance structure, the relationship with the city's stakeholders, and its participation with the Internet's global oversight and development structures - ICANN, IETF, IGF, etc.
  • The .nyc TLD holds many of the characteristics of a common pool resource and its governance might be guided by experience of common property regimes.

The .nyc Stakeholders

With the .nyc TLD's operation intimately tied into the city's future, we take a broad view of .nyc's stakeholders and seek inclusion of the following in the .nyc TLD's governance processes:

  • Residents - Both those online and off.
  • Future Residents - A mechanism to provide for the needs of future residents is challenging with the answer perhaps to be found within the sustainability movement.
  • Businesses and Institutions - Particularly those with a nexus in the city.
  • Community and Civic Organizations
  • City Government
  • The Internet Community - With .nyc part of a global network, the Internet's technical community (ISPs, ICANN, ISOC, IETF) is another important stakeholder. 
  • Greater New York City - Although controversial, the idea that NYC is a regional property rather than just that of the 5 boroughs, emerges from the view  that what happens in "New York" affects the world's view of the region, not just the city. And that rampant crime or skulduggery in the city will have an impact on the viability of tourism and general  business in the city and the region.

Structure Inspirations

In selecting a governance structure for Connecting.nyc Inc., we draw from the following experiences:

  • ICANN - Instructive was the ICANN's initial governance structure and its experiment with public involvement. While the ICANN's experiment with traditional democratic processes for the selection of board members has been (temporarily?) set aside, we will explore the possibility that the limited geographic size, extant governance structure, and homogeneity of New York City might enable public participation in Connecting.nyc Inc.'s governance.
  • Public Access Cable TV - We were also inspired by the governance structure developed for the city's public access cable TV channels. These channels are operated in all five boroughs by not-for-profit corporations, which provide a layer of independence for their operation and for our elected representatives.

In consideration of these experiences, the desire to include all stakeholders, the inclinations of the ICANN, the competitive nature of the TLD market, and the sensitivity of issuing some domain names (e.g., themayors*ucks.nyc, sexslaves.nyc), we settled on a flexible, not-for-profit operating structure as providing the range of options and responsiveness needed to meet our mission.

Governance Today & Tomorrow

Connecting.nyc Inc.'s board structure has evolved from an Initiation Board, to its current Transition Board, and, with the necessary processes and approvals in place, we anticipate a transition to a user controlled board. (Note: we were off on our estimate of the timing of .nyc's issuance and our progress with the governance process. The below should probably be changed from 2009 to 2011.)

dotnyc-governance-transitions-3.0.jpg

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  • Initiation Board - Connecting.nyc Inc. was incorporated in 2007 under a Board meeting New York State's ­initiation requirements. A Board Development Committee composed of board members and outside advisers then worked to create­ our current Transition Board.
  • Transition Board - A five member voting board, with ex-officio members, now guides Connecting.nyc and will do so through its early operating phase. See the Board Members page. As we begin ­issuing domain names and establishing relationships, we will move toward a more user controlled board.
  • User Selected Board - In its initial form, the ICANN was to have board members elected by domain name users. Anyone who owned a domain name was to have a vote for a regional representative on its board of directors. One such election was held. Being global in nature, the logistics were challenging and opinions differ as to the success of the selection procedures (see report). But with New York City's more limited geography and identifiable user population, we are exploring the opportunities for stakeholder selection of board members. The Governance of Connecting.nyc Inc. graphic below provides one vision. While empowering .nyc through user selection of board members might be problematic, we are committed to user participation in our governance processes. This wiki is an initial step to enabling public participation in the open and transparent operation of Connecting.nyc Inc. and an essential level of accountability. See the Governance Development Process page for more on this and user generated governance.

     

    Governance of the .nyc TLD

 

Resident Advisory Network

While the board of directors assumes legal responsibility for the corporation's overall direction, a user oriented advisory board will facilitate input from the broader community. An advisory board representative will have an ex-officio seat on the board of the directors.

Membership on the Advisory Network is open to all interested in a better New York City. Visit the Advisory Netwrok's workspace and learn more about its activities and membership.

Policy Development Process

Instructive in creating our processes for policy is the formal Policy Development Process used by ICANN. See ICANN experiences.

Transparency Policy

Connecting.nyc prides itself on operating in an open and transparent manner, with this wiki an integral part of our public engagement commitment.

There are some exceptions, for example, one might ask, "If connecting.nyc is open and transparent, why have a private space for discussing membership on the board of directors?"

Prospective board member identification is one of the few places where a private space becomes essential (bank and website passwords are another). Here's the thinking. Having a quality board of directors is vital to our success. When we made it known that we were interested in recommendations for board members, many names were suggested, some familiar to the typical New Yorker. If we listed them on this public wiki, we would be opening up prospective board members to questioning as to their acceptance or rejection of a position, perhaps even before we've had an opportunity to ask. Imagine the phone call, "Ms. Big, will you be taking a position on Connecting.nyc's board?" "Never heard of it. No." And what if we decide against offering a seat? "Mr. Big, Connecting.nyc had you listed as a prospective board member, why didn't you accept the offer?" An embarrassed Big frowns on .nyc.

If you have thoughts on our transparency policy, please join the conversation on our Transparent Policy page. If you would like access to our private page on board membership, email a request to toml@communisphere.com.

Corporate Documents

  • IRS 501(c)(3) Status - Our initial filing was December 18, 2007. In December 2008 we received notification from the IRS that, if we would like our application to be handled expeditiously, we should forward some additional documentation. We did so. In December 2009 (yes a year later) we were told that "first thing in January" we'd hear a decision. March 1, 2010,  still waiting.

Research Links

  • Debian Governance - "the authors showed how a production community designed a governance system that incorporates a constitutionally endowed basis of authority with democratic mechanisms to ensure control by the majority, with shifting conceptions of authority and meritocracy over time."

Related Governance Pages

Key .nyc Pages

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