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Open Participation Principle regarding Remote Registration Fee
RFC 9501 also known as BCP 239

Document Type RFC - Best Current Practice (December 2023)
Authors Mirja Kühlewind , Jonathan Reed , Rich Salz
Last updated 2023-12-15
RFC stream Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)
Additional resources Mailing list discussion
IESG Responsible AD Lars Eggert
Send notices to (None)
RFC 9501

Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)                      M. Kühlewind
Request for Comments: 9501                                      Ericsson
BCP: 239                                                         J. Reed
Category: Best Current Practice                                  R. Salz
ISSN: 2070-1721                                      Akamai Technologies
                                                           December 2023

     Open Participation Principle regarding Remote Registration Fee


   This document outlines a principle for open participation that
   extends the open process principle defined in RFC 3935 by stating
   that there must be a free option for online participation to IETF
   meetings and, if possible, related IETF-hosted events.

Status of This Memo

   This memo documents an Internet Best Current Practice.

   This document is a product of the Internet Engineering Task Force
   (IETF).  It represents the consensus of the IETF community.  It has
   received public review and has been approved for publication by the
   Internet Engineering Steering Group (IESG).  Further information on
   BCPs is available in Section 2 of RFC 7841.

   Information about the current status of this document, any errata,
   and how to provide feedback on it may be obtained at

Copyright Notice

   Copyright (c) 2023 IETF Trust and the persons identified as the
   document authors.  All rights reserved.

   This document is subject to BCP 78 and the IETF Trust's Legal
   Provisions Relating to IETF Documents
   ( in effect on the date of
   publication of this document.  Please review these documents
   carefully, as they describe your rights and restrictions with respect
   to this document.  Code Components extracted from this document must
   include Revised BSD License text as described in Section 4.e of the
   Trust Legal Provisions and are provided without warranty as described
   in the Revised BSD License.

Table of Contents

   1.  Introduction
   2.  Principle of Open Participation
   3.  Financial Impact
   4.  Considerations on Use and Misuse of a Free Participation Option
   5.  Security Considerations
   6.  IANA Considerations
   7.  References
     7.1.  Normative References
     7.2.  Informative References
   Authors' Addresses

1.  Introduction

   Remote participation for IETF in-person meetings has evolved over
   time from email-only to live chat and audio streaming, and, from
   there, to a fully online meeting system that is tightly integrated
   with the in-room session and enables interactive audio and video
   participation.  Remote participation has historically been free for
   remote attendees.

   Given this more full-blown participation option, the IETF has started
   to see an increase in the 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 decrease in the perceived need to attend every meeting
   in person.  Financial considerations may also be a factor.  In order
   to better understand these trends, the IETF started to require
   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 distinction between remote and on-site participants for
   those meetings.  Because IETF meeting costs and other costs still
   needed to be covered, a meeting fee was charged for remote
   participants, replacing the free participation that was previously
   available for all remote attendees.

   The introduction of a fee for remote participation raised concerns
   about the potential impact on both those who regularly attend IETF
   meetings remotely and those who are 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

   The principle 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 requires our
   documents and materials to be open and accessible over the Internet,
   it was primarily written with 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 be possible.
   However, if remote participation is provided, there should always be
   a free option to make the process as open as possible.  At a minimum,
   working group sessions, BoFs, and the administrative plenary are
   expected to provide a remote participation option.

   Note that this document does not specify the implementation details
   of the free option and leaves this to the LLC.  At the time of
   publication, an approach to request a fee waiver was implemented.

   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, whether those services can also be offered without
   charge for those who are in need and cannot afford the fee should be

   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.  In particular, 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 kept 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 (e.g.,
   Meetecho).  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
   free registration when the registration fee is a barrier to
   participation.  This principle applies to remote participation only,
   thereby providing one free option for participation.  In-person
   participation is not in scope for this document as the cost
   considerations are broader than just the registration fee.

   Changes to the IETF's fee structure or overall funding model are not
   in scope for this document.  As defined in [RFC8711], it is the IETF
   LLC's responsibility to manage the 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" [RFC8711], taking into account agreed principles
   like the one described in this document.

   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 as a
   significant 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 implement additional measures, they should share their
   decision and rationale with the community and consider whether
   community consultation as specified in Section 4.4 of [RFC8711] is
   needed "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 decision about use of the
   free option.

   As discussed in the next section, assessment of eligibility is
   difficult.  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 implementation
   details to the LLC.  Specifically, it does not 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
   minimize both the financial risk and its impact on openness and

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 other specific restrictions like the
   number of meetings previously attended or previous level of
   involvement.  The purpose is simply to maximize 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 maximize this financial support.  However, this
   document does not comment on the actual payment structure of the IETF
   meeting fee other than requiring a free remote option.  The fee
   payment structure is set by the IETF LLC such that the viability of
   the IETF and the ability of IETF participants to work productively
   within the IETF can be ensured.

   The LLC is responsible for ensuring the financial stability of the
   IETF; therefore, they 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

   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, because it is likely a sign of increased
   interest and not necessarily a sign of misuse.  The increase should
   not be linked to the number of paid registrations.  In particular,
   the number of paid registrations may decrease for 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 meeting 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

6.  IANA Considerations

   This document has no IANA actions.

7.  References

7.1.  Normative References

   [RFC3935]  Alvestrand, H., "A Mission Statement for the IETF",
              BCP 95, RFC 3935, DOI 10.17487/RFC3935, October 2004,

7.2.  Informative References

   [RFC8711]  Haberman, B., Hall, J., and J. Livingood, "Structure of
              the IETF Administrative Support Activity, Version 2.0",
              BCP 101, RFC 8711, DOI 10.17487/RFC8711, February 2020,


   Thanks to everybody involved in the SHMOO Working Group discussion,
   especially Brian Carpenter, Jason Livingood, Lars Eggert, and Charles
   Eckel for proposing concrete improvements and their in-depth reviews.

Authors' Addresses

   Mirja Kühlewind

   Jon Reed
   Akamai Technologies

   Rich Salz
   Akamai Technologies