March 28, 2014 – 30 Hours Later – Back from Singapore & GAC Communiqué is Live –
The United States’ relinquishment of Internet “control” (IANA function transfer) is the hot topic of discussion at ICANN and at home. As I previously published, this is an opportunity for you to be engaged in the future of ICANN and Internet Governance. Naturally, the Government Advisory Committee (GAC) welcomed the briefing from NTIA Assistant Secretary, Larry Strickling and it looks forward to contributing to the process of transition and creation of a “truly global” multi stakeholder model. GAC is encouraging a broader outreach to include those governments that are not (yet) members of the GAC in the discussion. Whether or not you agree with the GAC approach, the only way to protect your interests (and the future of the Internet) is to be engaged over the next year and participate in the transfer discussion.
On the issue of Community Applications (a gTLD to benefit community interests), there is underlying concern that the existing Community Applicant Model (and Community Priority Evaluation (CPE)) may be inadequate to promote and protect the public interest and support community involvement in the new gTLD process (as opposed to corporate or brand applications). To that end, the GAC reiterated its advice from the Beijing and Durban Communiques seeking “preferential treatment for all applications which have demonstrable community support.” While a few Community Applicants have been through CPE, there is a lack of transparency regarding CPE Evaluators and the metrics that have been used to evaluate the Applications.
For those that do not know, CPE grading is on a 16 point scale, to pass and receive acceptance as a community application, parties must receive a minimum of 14 points. While I’m not advocating that the Applicants that have already failed CPE should have passed, it is possible that they should have scored higher. To ensure proper grading, promotion of the public interest and to create a better community model we should have greater transparency in this process. For starters, it might be important to know who is evaluating the Applications (EIU Evaluators are confidential), and more detailed decisions would be helpful. It would also be useful to help community applicants apply and pass in the next round.
For Spa Lovers, Amazonians, and the Sommeliers of the world you will be pleased to see that the Singapore Communiqué provided some comment on resolution of the .SPA, .AMAZON, and .WINE & .VIN strings. GAC supports the city of Spa, Belgium and one of the string applicant’s agreement. As for Amazon (the Corporation) and the Amazonians of the river basin, GAC is concerned with the length of time the ICANN Board is taking to address issues regarding the GAC’s objection advice regarding Amazon’s application.
On the outstanding issue regarding the fate of .WINE and .VIN, the Singapore Communiqué provides that there are still (a few influential) GAC members that have concern regarding delegation of these strings. I’ll leave it to you to figure out which GAC members care most about .WINE and .VIN (hint, it’s not the Iranian or Chinese Reps.) While the NGPC accepted the GAC’s advice to the ICANN Board that there was no GAC consensus advice on additional safeguards for .WINE and .VIN, the NGPC action will allow the strings will continue to proceed through the normal evaluation process with no additional safeguards will be required for the TLDs. In response, GAC has advised the Board to closely consider how these strings are delegated and has also encouraged the applicants to continue negotiations. Thus, it appears we will see a resolution of .WINE and .VIN shortly.
What may be even more telling is the information in the Attachment to the Communique that delves into “Safeguard Advice.” For data and security folks there will be continued discussion on WHOIS verification and checks. GAC is concerned about the effect of NGPC shifting of responsibility from Registry Operators to ICANN to audit and preform checks on WHOIS accuracy and verification processes. This is no small issue, and many Registry Operators that I have spoken with have problems with the system in place.
Since Beijing, the Public Interest Commitments (PICs) and Public Interest Commitments Dispute Resolution Process (PICDRP) have been created and subject to continued evaluation and debate. It appears that the PICs and the PICDRP process, while a worthy step in the right direction, may be insufficient to address concerns and also lack binding commitment from Applicants.
In response to GAC Advice on CAT 1 (Consumer Protection and Regulated Market Strings), GAC is seeking further clarification on whether the NGPC intends to create a separate Registry Agreement (RA) for these sensitive strings or will they rely on the CAT 1 PIC Specifications. The GAC is also seeking clarity from the NGPC on how CAT 2 (Sensitive Strings with Restricted Registration Policies) Registry Operators will be monitored and evaluated. Are we relying solely on “transparency” to protect against discriminatory registration polices or should we have something stronger? This author, for one, is not convinced that the “transparency model,” alone, will be sufficient to protect against abuses. Also, should change requests be required for those applicants that claim they are moving from a closed string to an open string? These are more than policy statements — they have real impact on how Intellectual Property and Data related strings are handled. If IP rights are important to you, and you haven’t followed the “closed generic” debate, you should get up to speed on this topic. Think about strings like .MUSIC, .TUBE, .VIDEO. and .BOOK.
In sum, while it is debatable whether some points of concern are too onerous or unnecessary, it appears that on balance, the Singapore Communiqué is moving in discussion in the right direction and is contributing to a better process. Click here for the full text of the Communiqué