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Internet Society Board of Trustees Meeting on March 13-14, 2020, changed to a virtual meeting

Internet Society community members,

Due to concerns associated with the COVID-19 coronavirus, including the possibility of quarantines and other travel restrictions, the Internet Society Board of Trustees has decided to hold its meeting on 13-14 March, 2020, as a virtual meeting instead of a physical meeting in Cancun, Mexico. This board meeting was originally planned to follow the ICANN 67 meeting in Cancun, which was also changed to a virtual meeting.

The agenda and remote participation information will be published to https://dev.internetsociety.org/board-of-trustees/meetings/ within the next few days.

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Working together to build a bigger, stronger Internet

[Published on behalf of the Internet Society Board of Trustees.]

The Internet Society’s vision is that the Internet is for everyone. Earlier this month, we wrote about our efforts to ensure a stable and diverse funding model to support the work that takes us towards our vision. The role of the Board of Trustees is to provide, with support from the community, the strategic direction for that work. In this post, we discuss our recent and current strategic efforts, put them into context, and provide pointers with more information for our community to get involved in defining our wanted future.

Naturally, the starting point of our current strategy was to agree with the community on the overall direction. Therefore, two years ago, during 2017, the Board consulted with our community to revise our mission statement into what we have today. Many of you contributed to that 2017 effort, which resulted in the following three focus areas:

  • Building and supporting the communities that make the Internet work;
  • Advancing the development and application of Internet infrastructure, technologies, and open standards; and
  • Advocating for policy that is consistent with our view of the Internet

Based on that community agreement on the development of this new mission, the Board of Trustees began the work on a plan to change the structure of the Internet Society in order to best support this refreshed mission. This plan eventually led to the creation of two new “supporting organizations” during 2018.

One aspect of our plan was working with the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to create a new supporting organization in the form of the IETF LLC. The establishment of the IETF LLC was discussed at length with the IETF community. While the Internet Society remains the largest funding source for the IETF, the result is that the IETF LLC formally gives the IETF legal status, and more freedom to manage their support activities, including budgeting.

A second aspect of our plan was the creation of the Internet Society Foundation to provide funding to the community in several key areas. As the Foundation team recently explained in the Foundation’s own Action Plan 2020, they will be funding work within our Chapters, Special Interest Groups (SIGs), and other communities; funding research and innovation; and supporting partners to help develop disaster-resilient communities. In addition, the Foundation will be supporting projects that strengthen communities, and improve lives and livelihoods. As usual, we will be seeking ideas from our community.

The Internet Society Foundation has already been providing grants in 2019 and is looking forward to expanding that work in 2020. Remain alert for future calls for grant applications.

Once our new mission and the structure above were in place, in 2019 the Board of Trustees turned its focus on aligning ISOC’s internal structure and short term-plan with the long-term direction given by our mission. Encouraged by the Board, both efforts were championed by Andrew Sullivan, our President and CEO, and the Internet Society Executive Team.

ISOC’s new internal structure makes it easy to set up projects that include the necessary competence. It also facilitates identifying areas where new capabilities need to be developed. We believe that the new structure provides ISOC with a solid foundation to implement its future action plans.

ISOC’s 2020 Action Plan was developed together with our community. Through the outreach we conducted over the past six months, over 3,000 of our members contributed to surveys and feedback sessions, helping to shape and guide the direction of this new Action Plan. The Board of Trustees approved the Action Plan on November 24, 2019, in part because we are confident that what we now have in place reflects the voice of our community. 

We also want to thank all the members our community who joined us last Wednesday, December 11, to learn more about the Action Plan and how we will focus on building, promoting, and defending the Internet to make it bigger and stronger for everyone. We look forward to working with you all to move our 2020 projects forward and to achieve the tangible and impactful outcomes we seek.

As we set out on the path to 2025, we plan to continue consulting our community to develop our action plans. Please, stay tuned and continue providing us with your valuable input. Our goal is to make sure the direction of the Internet Society and its work remain aligned with community interests.

To sustain the important work in support of our mission, the work within our supporting organizations, and the projects within our Action Plan, we on the Board of Trustees have a duty to ensure the long-term viability of the Internet Society. Therefore, reducing financial risk is of strategic importance for the Internet Society. Previous boards have worked on revenue diversification activities for many years with limited success.  As we wrote earlier this month, we believe the sale of the PIR will help the Internet Society reduce this financial risk, while at the same time enabling PIR to do much more to grow the .ORG domain business and provide new services to .ORG registrants.

If you are interested in the work Board does, several years ago we started making both the minutes and the video recordings of our Board meetings publicly available. We also hold Open Forum meetings and webminars where the community can interact with the Board. In addition, trustees interact with parts of the community at multiple events on a constant basis.

As we head toward 2020 and to our longer-term strategy for 2025, we look forward to continuing to work with all of our Chapters, Special Interest Groups (SIGs), Organization members, individual members, and partners to realize our vision that “The Internet is for everyone”. We believe in an Internet that is open, globally-connected, secure, and trustworthy. Thank you for all you do to ensure that the Internet is a resource to enrich people’s lives and a force for good in society.


Image: Community members of Pu’uhonua O Waimanalo work together with the Internet Society to learn how to use and install the Internet during the Internet Society/ Pu’uhonua O Waimanalo training session on November 14th, 2019. © Elyse Butler

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The sale of PIR: The Internet Society Board Perspective

[Published on behalf of the Internet Society Board of Trustees.]

Last Friday we held a webinar with Internet Society members to answer questions about the sale of the Public Interest Registry (PIR). We were also able to unveil more details about the sale and its long-term contribution to the stability of the Internet Society (ISOC). On that call, we listened to our community members carefully. We heard the concerns regarding this decision from those who are worried about the future of the .ORG community, and who believe that we – as a non-profit and mission-driven organisation- are risking undermining our own legitimacy and responsibility to the public Internet.

First and foremost, we take the reaction from our community very seriously. Clearly, some members of the community believe that the decision to move forward with this transaction is harming our reputation. We fully understand the concerns expressed by our chapters and members, and we know that a lot of the criticism we have faced since announcing the transaction stems from the fact that we have not consulted openly, or been as clear as we should have been about what this sale would mean for both .ORG, and the Internet Society. It has always been the Board’s intention to be as open, transparent, and forthcoming about this deal as realistically and legally as possible, while keeping in mind that there are still more steps to go through before it is expected to close in Q1, 2020. I hope it is evident that we have had to balance the need to listen and communicate with  the need to keep parts of the negotiations and decision-making confidential in the interests of the transaction itself. We remain committed to communicating as much as we can, when we can.

Let me emphasize again however, that we continue to believe that this deal will help protect ISOC’s future and ensure its long-term stability and growth. It is our job as the Board to do what is the interest of ISOC, its community and its mission, even when that may not be popular or well-received in the media. It was for this reason that the board voted unanimously to approve the deal (aside from one trustee who is recused from PIR matters). Hopefully through this conversation we can share our thinking and help the rest of the community have the same confidence we do.

This is a good deal not just for ISOC, but also for the .ORG community.  Under the Internet Society, PIR has always been constrained in the amount of investment it could make in growing the business, because of the need to produce a reliable revenue stream. Under Ethos, PIR will have an opportunity to invest more in the registry and expand services for all registrants. Ethos Capital has stated its commitment to building upon PIR’s success, and to supporting its continued growth so that it can become an even more reliable and useful home for non-profit organizations and members of the .ORG community. So the .ORG community should expect to see continuity in how .ORG is managed, with opportunities for improvement in the future.

The deal also helps the Internet Society focus on its vision “the Internet is for everyone”. It not only frees the organization from the time it takes to oversee the management of PIR, but means that we will no longer be reliant on one single revenue stream, from one company, in one industry. The diversification that becomes possible for the Internet Society through this sale will ensure far, far greater stability in our funding going forward, meaning that we will be able to plan longer term and focus fully on work that takes us toward our mission. I would like to be clear that this is about stability and risk mitigation, not about profit. It’s about the Internet Society’s mission, and doing more to fulfil our mission, which remains our focus. 

In the same vein, I would stress that this is not abandonment of the Internet Society’s principles. We have an important role to play in expanding the Internet’s reach, and making it stronger for everyone, and we believe the sale of PIR will enable us to focus on this. This doesn’t mean we are turning our backs on the .ORG community. We want to see that community grow, and we want .ORG to continue to be a place for non-profits to live online and to help them fulfil their online goals. One of the key considerations of the Board was to ensure that through this deal, we uphold the brand and message and mission of PIR, and keep its strength working in service of the public interest. In particular, the establishment of a “Stewardship committee” with representatives from the community was an important aspect of our consideration of Ethos’ proposal, because it will help to ensure that the community has a say in how PIR is run in the future.

I have every confidence that .ORG will be able to thrive under new ownership, and that the non-profit community will continue to be well served in future. 

We will continue to listen. We have heard loud and clear that there is a sense of broken trust with the community that we are part of. I will acknowledge that while we have communicated quite factually about the deal, we regret not showing enough empathy for these concerns, as they are real and valid.  And for that, we acknowledge our shortcomings, and will use this as a lesson moving forward in striving to be more empathetic and engaging with our community. While there will be work needed to bring the community back together after all this is settled, we are committed to seeing that work through, and building a community that is stronger than ever.

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Announcing the Internet Society’s New President and Chief Executive Officer

Today is an exciting day for the Internet Society. It gives me great pleasure to announce, on behalf of the Internet Society’s Board of Trustees, that Andrew Sullivan has been selected as the Internet Society’s new President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO). He will formally take up his position on September 1, 2018.

This selection now successfully concludes the CEO search process we began last November.

The CEO selection process involved extensive work on the part of the Board but gave us much food for thought. We received a wealth of extremely impressive applications from more than a hundred internal and external candidates covering a huge range of talent and experience. We had some thought-provoking conversations as part of the process and I would like to express my sincere appreciation to everybody who applied for the position.

I believe Andrew’s success in being selected for this crucial role represents an enormous opportunity for the Internet Society and the global Internet.

Andrew brings a wealth of Internet industry and technology experience with him. He has served in a number of past roles, including time at Dyn, now a Global Business Unit of the Oracle Corporation, managing Domain Name System (DNS) development and architecture departments and as the Internet Architecture Board (IAB) Chair for two consecutive years, 2015 and 2016. Andrew also played an instrumental role in the IANA Transition. He is currently serving as Chair of the IETF Administrative Oversight Committee (IAOC), where he has been involved with discussions around updating the relationship between the IETF and the Internet Society.

Most importantly for us as a global community of members, organizations and individuals that care deeply about the Internet, he embodies the core values of openness, transparency, inclusion and diversity that lie at the very heart of the Internet Society. He is committed to the ISOC vision of an Internet that works for all of us and believes fervently in the struggle to bring to everyone an Internet that is open, globally-connected, trusted and secure.

Not only that, but he is also committed to strengthening and growing our global community. Together, we have built this global technical infrastructure, this resource to enrich people’s lives, and this force for good in society. Because it is a challenging time for the Internet, he knows that it’s also a challenging time for the Internet Society, but he firmly believes in the power of this community to realize its shared vision for the Internet.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Kathy Brown for her strong leadership over the past four and a half years. She has been pivotal in the organization’s transformation and I believe that we have never been in a stronger position, not just to face the challenges ahead of us, but to emerge as a true world leader in shaping the path and future direction of the Internet for the good of all humanity.

Kathy will continue in her current role as President and CEO until September 1. On taking up his role and assuming his new post, he and Kathy will work together during a period of transition to ensure a smooth handover of responsibilities.

Please join me in congratulating Andrew as we prepare to welcome him to this critical role leading the Internet Society.