In a sure sign that the winds of change are blowing in the addressing world, on November 9 it was announced that I was one of the 6 people elected to the Advisory Council (AC) of ARIN, the Internet address registry for the North American region. The AC mediates between ARIN’s open public policy discussions and its board of trustees, managing the proposal, discussion and amendment processes and forwarding policies that it deems to have sufficient support to the board for approval or rejection.

Having been nominated by disgruntled members eager to bring new, dissenting voices into the ARIN, I was somewhat surprised to learn that I did squeak into office. It’s likely that ARIN’s management and staff were even more surprised.

The AC is not a powerful body. The board is the ultimate decision maker and there are 15 AC members with diverse views. But being in the group does put one in the loop as far as internal discussions and the handling of policy proposals are concerned. As if to underscore the seriousness of the position, as well as the mixed blessing of being on it, only a day after the election I was greeted with a  sweeping Non-Disclosure Agreement that must be signed before I could join the AC email list and telephone conferences. I am still contemplating the implications of this NDA.

I understand and respect the need to agree not to disclose commercially sensitive information about specific companies’ networks, and I also understand the need to avoid publicizing confidential discussions or make attributions when members of deliberative bodies frankly express their views. I note, however, that ICANN’s policy development councils (the GNSO, ccNSO and ASO) have no such restrictions. Furthermore, I am told that the NDA is not applied selectively but is extended to cover the content of any and every message exchanged on the Council. Hence, it could be used as part of an attempt to preclude informed public discussion of the policies and issues ARIN faces. If I feel that the NDA is being abused in that fashion I will let the community know. This could lead to my dismissal from the AC.

Still, I am looking forward to serving on the Council and appreciate the fact that ARIN seems to run free and fair elections. ARIN describes its policy development process as “following three principles: open, transparent, and bottom-up.” We shall see.