Internet-Draft Open Participation Principle February 2021
Kuehlewind, et al. Expires 26 August 2021 [Page]
Network Working Group
Intended Status:
Best Current Practice
M. Kuehlewind
J. Reed
R. Salz

Open Participation Principle regarding Remote Registration Fee


This document proposes a principle for open participation that extends the open process principle as defined in RFC3935 by stating that there must always be a free option for online participation to IETF meetings over the Internet.

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This Internet-Draft will expire on 26 August 2021.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

Remote participation for IETF in-person meetings has evolved over time from email-only to live chat and audio streaming, and, currently, to a full online meeting system that is tightly integrated with the in-room session and enables interactive participation by audio and video. Due to this evolution, and because most in-person attendees paid registration fees and this has been sufficient to support the meeting, online participation has historically been free for remote attendees.

Given this more full-blown participation option, the IETF has started to observed an increasing number of remote participants. This increase can be explained by the ease with which new participants can join a meeting or only attend selected parts of the meeting agenda, and also by a less strongly perceived need to attend every meeting in person, either due to financial reasons or other circumstances. In order to better understand these trends the IETF started requiring registration as "participant" (in contrast to an "observer") for remote participation, still without any registration fee applied.

With the recent move to fully online meetings, however, there is no longer a distinction between remote and on-site participants. Since costs still have to be covered, there is the need for a meeting fee for remote participants, which risks the removal of the free remote option.

This change led to concerns about the impact both on those who regularly remotely attend meetings, as well as people looking to attend IETF meetings for the first time. In both cases, even a small registration fee can be a barrier to participation.

2. Principle of open participation

This document outlines the principle of open participation and solicits community feedback in order to reach consensus on this or a similar principle that the IETF Administration LLC (IETF LLC) can use to guide future decision about registration fees for full online meetings.

The principle this document states is simple: there must always be an option for free remote participation in any IETF meeting, whether or not that meeting has a physical presence.

This principle aims to support the openness principle of the IETF as defined in [RFC3935]:

"Open process - any interested person can participate in the work, know what is being decided, and make his or her voice heard on the issue. Part of this principle is our commitment to making our documents, our WG mailing lists, our attendance lists, and our meeting minutes publicly available on the Internet."

It should be noted that opennees as defined in [RFC3935] should be seen as open and free. While the principle in RFC3935 is explicitly noting that this principle includes a requirement to open basically all our documents and documentation and making them accessible over the Internet, it was probably written with mainly having email interactions in mind when talking about participation. This document extends this principle to explicitly cover online participation at meetings.

In order to fully remove barriers to participation, any free registration option must offer the same degree of interactivity and functionality available to paid remote attendees. The free option must be clearly and prominently listed on the meeting website and registration page. If the free option requires additional registration steps, such as applying for a fee waiver, those requirements should be clearly documented.

3. Financial impact

Online meetings have lower costs than in-person meetings, however, they still come with expenses, as do other services that the IETF provides such as mailing lists, document access over the datatracker or other online platforms, or support for videoconferencing, e.g with Webex accounts for working groups and other roles in the IETF.

These and other running costs of the IETF are also cross-financed by income generated through meeting fees. The intention of this document and the principle stated herein is not to make participation free for everyone but to always have a free option that can be used without any barriers other than the registration procedure itself.

It is not in scope for this document or the shmoo working group to make suggestions for changing the IETF's overall funding model. This is the responsibility of the IETF LLC Board taking agreed principles like the one proposed in this document into account.

4. Considerations on Use and Misuse of a Free Participation Option

This document does not provide specific requirements on when to use or not use the free option. The purpose of the free option is to enable everybody who is interested in participation to join meetings without the meeting fee imposing a financial barrier. These cases cannot be limited to a certain group, like students or "self-funded" participants, nor to any specific other restrictions like the number of meetings previously attended or previous level of involvement. The purpose is simply to maximise participation without barriers in order to make the standards process as open as possible.

It is expected that participants who have financial support to use the regular registration option will do so. Paying a registration fee is a way for their sponsor to support the sustainability of the IETF. For example, a higher late payment charge can be used to maximise this financial support. However, this document does not comment on the actual payment structure of the IETF meeting fee other than the requirement for a free option. The fee payment structure is set the by the IETF LLC such that the viability of the IETF and the need of IETF participants to work productively within the IETF can be warranted.

Aggregated data on the number and percentage of free registrations used should be published, as this will permit analysis the use and change in use over time of the free registration option without revealing personal information. If the number of paid registrations decreases, this can however also have various reasons, such as restrictions on travel to physical meetings due to cost savings or environmental reasons, general cost savings and lesser focus on standardization work, or simply lost of business interest. These are risks that can impact the sustainability of the IETF independent of the free registration option due to its dependency on meetings fees to cross finance other costs.

5. Acknowledgments

6. Normative References

Alvestrand, H., "A Mission Statement for the IETF", BCP 95, RFC 3935, DOI 10.17487/RFC3935, , <>.

Authors' Addresses

Mirja Kuehlewind
Jon Reed
Rich Salz