Internet-Draft Open Participation Principle March 2023
Kühlewind, et al. Expires 7 September 2023 [Page]
Network Working Group
Intended Status:
Best Current Practice
M. Kühlewind
J. Reed
R. Salz

Open Participation Principle regarding Remote Registration Fee


This document outlines a principle for open participation that extends the open process principle defined in RFC3935 by stating that there must be a free option for online participation to IETF meetings and, if possible, related IETF-hosted events over the Internet.

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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, subsequently, to a full online meeting system that is tightly integrated with the in-room session and enables interactive participation by audio and video. Remote participation has historically been free for remote attendees.

Given this more full-blown participation option, the IETF has started seeing 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, due to either financial reasons or other circumstances. In order to better understand these trends, the IETF started requiring registration for remote participation, still without any registration fee applied.

With the move to fully online meetings in 2020 and 2021, however, there was no longer a distinction between remote and on-site participants for those meetings. Since IETF meeting costs and other costs still had to be covered, a meeting fee was charged for remote participants, eliminating the free remote participation option (for a time).

The introduction of a fee for remote participation raised concerns about the potential impact on both, those who regularly remotely attend IETF meetings and those people considering attending an IETF meeting 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 that the IETF Administration LLC (IETF LLC) is expected to incorporate into decisions about the registration fee structure for remote participation.

The principle this document states is simple: there must be an option for free remote participation in any IETF meeting, regardless of whether the meeting has a physical presence. Related events collocated with an IETF meeting are part of the IETF's open process [RFC3935] and are encouraged to follow this principle as well, if they offer remote participation at all.

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."

While RFC3935 explicitly notes that this principle includes a requirement to open basically all our documents and material and to make them accessible over the Internet, it was written with mainly having email interactions in mind when talking about participation. This document extends this principle to explicitly cover remote participation at meetings. Particularly in this context, openness should be seen as open and free.

This document does not stipulate that all IETF meetings or related IETF events must have a remote participation option, because there could be technical or other reasons why that might not always be possible. This document rather states that if remote participation is provided, there should always be a free option to make the process as open as possible. Having said that, it is of course strongly anticipated that at least all working group sessions as well as BoFs and the administrative plenary of an IETF meeting provide an option for remote participation.

Moreover, 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 participants. Specifically, it must not be possible to identify participants that used the free option. However, of course this does not mean that all services must be provided for free to participants using the free registration option, but only those services that are provided as part of the regular registration. Offering additional services to a subset or all participants at an additional charge is still possible, e.g. if special needs are required. However, to promote inclusivity, it should also be considered if those services can also be offered without charge for those in need and who cannot afford the fee.

Further, 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. Particularly, to avoid any potential negative implications on inclusivity, any personal information that is collected with respect to the use of the free remote participation option must be held confidential.

3. Financial Impact

Fully online meetings as well as remote participation incur expenses, as do other services that the IETF provides. This includes items such as mailing lists, document access via the datatracker or other online platforms, as well as support for videoconferencing, like use of Meetecho and others. Meeting fees are a way to distribute these and other operating costs of the IETF among participants, even though they do not fully offset the costs of either holding the meeting or operating the IETF. As such, the intention of this document and the principle stated herein is not to make remote participation free for everyone, but to always offer a free remote option that enables remote participation without any barriers other than the application for the free registration itself for those where the registration fee is a barrier for participation. This principle applies to remote participation only, providing thereby one free option for participation. In-person participation is not in scope for this document as the costs considerations are broader than just the registration fee.

It is not in scope for this document to make suggestions for changing the IETF's fee structure or overall funding model. As defined in the RFC871 it is the IETF LLC's responsibility to manage IETF's finances and budget and as such "[t]he IETF LLC is expected to act responsibly so as to minimize risks to IETF participants and to the future of the IETF as a whole, such as financial risks." Further, it is the responsibility of the IETF LLC Board "to act consistently with the documented consensus of the IETF community" [RFC871], taking agreed principles like the one proposed in this document into account.

If unlimited free remote participation is determined to adversely affect financial sustainability of the IETF e.g. if the number of paying participants or the cost of free participation emerges to be a signification factor, the LLC is expected to implement additional measures to manage these costs. This document does not and cannot restrict the LLC in its financial responsibility and therefore does not impose any limitation on the use of appropriate measures. If the LLC decides to do this, they should make their decision and rationale known to the community and consider community consultation as specified in Section 4.4 of RFC8711 in oder "to obtain consensus-based community input on key issues". Further, they should describe the implemented process in sufficient detail for participants to make an informed decsion about the use of the free option.

As discussed in the next section, assessment of eligibility is difficult and consequently any limit on the number of available free registrations, which likely requires an assessment of eligibility, can cause unfairness and negatively impact openness which should be considered seriously in any LLC decision. As such, this document defines the principle of free participation but leaves room for choices in the implementation by the LLC. Specifically, it cannot provide guidance on appropriate measures against misuse as any measures need to be adapted to the specific problem in a specific situation in order to minimise both the financial risk as well as its impact on openness and inclusivity.

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

This document does not provide specific requirements on when it is appropriate for an IETF community member to use or not use the free option to remotely attend a meeting. 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 paid 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.

The LLC is responsible to ensure the financial stability of the IETF and therefore should monitor trends in the use of the free participation option that could endanger the viability of the IETF and, if necessary, manage the associated costs. Aggregated data on the number and percentage of free registrations used should be published, as this will permit analysis of the use and change in use over time of the free registration option without revealing personal information.

As the principle defined in this document aims to promote openness and thereby enhance participation, an increase in use of free registrations is a success and likely a sign of increased interest and not necessarily a sign of misuse, specifically as long as the number of paid registrations stays reasonably stable. If the number of paid registrations decreases, however, this can be due to various reasons other than misuse, 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 loss of business interest. Such trends can impact the sustainability of the IETF due to its dependency on meetings fees to cross-finance other costs, independent of use of the free registrations.

5. Security Considerations

This document introduces no new concerns for the security of Internet protocols.

6. IANA Considerations

This document has no IANA actions.

7. Acknowledgments

Thanks to everybody involved in the shmoo working group discussion, esepcially Brian Carpenter, Jason Livingood, Lars Eggert, and Charles Eckel for proposing concrete improvements and their in-depth reviews.

8. References

8.1. Normative References

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

8.2. Informative References

Padlipsky, M., "Perspective on the ARPANET reference model", RFC 871, DOI 10.17487/RFC0871, , <>.

Authors' Addresses

Mirja Kühlewind
Jon Reed
Rich Salz