osewalrus (osewalrus) wrote,

Today I am a Wonk!

Every profession has its milestones. One of them in mine is getting to testify before a Congressional committee (or subcommittee) as "expert wonk for your perspective." I've always wanted to do this but figured it wouldn't happen while I was at MAP because this is a very snobby city and why have the #2 guy in the org instead of the #1 guy (my boss, Andy Schwartzman -- who has tried to give them me instead on a number of occassions).

But, through a weird quirk of fate, I got asked on Monday to do the House hearing on the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). You can read either my 23 page testimony or 3 page exec summary on our website, www.mediaaccess.org. I will eventually write up the substance for my professional blog. But over here, I am simply enjoying having finally gotten to play "consumer guy".

Under Washington Rules, you need "free market guy" to balance "consumer guy." In this case, it was Progress & Freedom Foundation's Tom Leonard. Tom and I had gone toe-to-toe about 10 months ago on munibroadband where, IMNSHO, I wiped the floor with him with my devestating logic, swift command of the facts, and the fact that I am funny (while Tom is all serious econ dude). Note to would-be policy wonks: if the audience laughs (assuming it's not at your substance) you are much more likely to win on style points. Also in attendance were Tom Knuer (the head of the relevant agency), Paul Twomey (PResident of ICANN) and two trade association guys (both of whom cared about two things -- don't turn ICANN over to the UN and make sure the WHOIS database stays wide open).

I had two basic points: 1) If the rest of the world is pissed at us, we should really try to figure out why. 2) ICANN needs to either stop doing policy or do it right.

I'm not sure exactly what to make Rep. Eshoo's remark that "I'd like to thank all the witnesses, particularly Mr. Feld. You certainly seem t have built up a lot to say in the last five years." (Actually, it's been about 10 years.)

The only even minor action was when Shimkus asked if we should keep the "A" Root in the U.S. Everyone else was "yes sir, you betcha." I said that since we wanted this to be accepted by the rest of the world, we shouldn't make a catagorical statement about this without negotiation. Perhaps we could find a way to satisfy the international community about moving the A root under conditions that would satisfy our legitimate concerns.

John Knuer responded that he didn't see why we should risk our security just to make other countries "feel good." Which, for me, is part of the problem with this administration. I responded, politely, that there is a world of difference between "we have legitimate security concerns but will work with the international community to address them" and "boy, sucks to be you, don't it."

On a pre-Rosh Hashanna note, this is the bigest problem with ICANN. They have no consideration for others. Al Capone once said you get more with a kind word and a gun than you do with a kind word alone. That's true (sometimes). But it also turns out to be true that you get more with a kind word and a gun than you do with a gun alone.

Bottom line, it was fun. I don't think it mattered much in the long run. But I get to check one of my Washington Wnk ambition boxes, so I'm happy.

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