ICANN secures temporary funds

Criticised for its funding methods, non-profit ICANN continues to struggle for a regular income source.

The cash-strapped non-profit group tapped by the US Commerce Department to transition the domain name registration business from a government-sponsored monopoly to a competitive process will announce next week at a meeting in Santiago, Chile, that it has secured enough funds to keep it from going broke.

The group is known as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN.

ZDNN reported Wednesday that Mike Roberts, ICANN's interim president and CEO, wrote in a 7 June email to officials at IBM and MCI Worldcom that unless he received an immediate cash infusion of $500,000 to $1m, "there won't be a functioning ICANN by the end of August". Roberts recently testified before Congress that ICANN was some $800,000 in debt. But ICANN has apparently found its financial footing, at least in the short run.

An MCI Worldcom official, in a 6 July email, proposed to ICANN that his company and IBM lend up to $1m to keep the organisation afloat. "We've actually gotten some loans from people that will be announced shortly," said Joe Sims, ICANN's attorney, "That has solved our short-term problems."

Sims declined to name the companies making loans to ICANN or the total amount of additional funds ICANN has secured. He did confirm that an announcement of new funding would be made by Roberts next week when the group meets in Chile.

It isn't known how much longer ICANN can continue to operate on the new funds. "Until we run out," is all Sims would say. "Until we get a regularised funding source, we're going to be living on this sort of hand-to-mouth existence, and we'll sort of have constant little problems with whether we have enough money for any given moment," Sims said.

On 26 July, ICANN held a closed-door "special meeting" in which it adopted a resolution that allows it to borrow up to $2m in unsecured loans from "various lenders" selected by Roberts himself. Minutes of that meeting were only made public on ICANN's Web site Tuesday.

Whatever new money ICANN has received, the group still remains in the red, Sims acknowledged. Only part of the $800,000 in unpaid bills that Roberts mentioned to Congress has been paid off. "I can't tell you what exactly Roberts has done with the money that has come in," Sims said. "Some of it has gone to pay part of the outstanding bills, I don't know whose," Sims said. "Some of it has gone to pay the current expenses, so we don't increase our debts and some of it is obviously being saved for future expenses."

Regardless of ICANN's continued precarious financial situation, Sims said there is "zero chance" that ICANN would fail from lack of funding.

"There's been too much time and energy spent on the ICANN process from too many people for it to fail because of lack of funds," Sims said. "It might blow up for some other reason, but I don't believe the commercial community is going to allow it to fail for a lack of funds."