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.org price cap complaints more like “spam” says Ombudsman

Kevin Murphy, September 11, 2019, 15:40:53 (UTC), Domain Policy

ICANN’s Ombudsman has sided with with ICANN in the fight over the lifting of price caps on .org domains, saying many of the thousands of comments objecting to the move were “more akin to spam”.

Herb Waye was weighing in on two Requests for Reconsideration, filed by NameCheap and the Electronic Frontier Foundation in July and August after ICANN and Public Interest Registry signed their controversial new registry agreement.

NameCheap wants ICANN to reverse its decision to allow PIR to raise .org prices by however much it chooses, while the EFF complained primarily about the fact that the Uniform Rapid Suspension anti-cybersquatting measure now appears in the contract.

In both cases, the requestors fumed that ICANN seemed to “ignore” the more than 3,200 comments that were filed in objection back in April, with NameCheap calling the public comment process a “sham”.

But Waye pointed to the fact that many of these comments were filed by people using a semi-automated web form hosted by the pro-domainer Internet Commerce Association.

As far as comments go for ICANN, 3200+ appears to be quite a sizeable number. But, seeing as how the public comments can be filled out and submitted electronically, it is not unexpected that many of the comments are, in actuality, more akin to spam.

With this eyebrow-raising comparison fresh in my mind, I had to giggle when, a few pages later, Waye writes (emphasis in original):

I am charged with being the eyes and ears of the Community. I must look at the matter through the lens of what the Requestor is asking and calling out. The Ombuds is charged with being the watchful eyes of the ICANN Community. The Ombuds is also charged with being the alert “ears” of the Community — with listening — with making individuals, whether Requestors or complainants or those just dropping by for an informal chat, feel heard.

Waye goes on to state that the ICANN board of directors was kept well-briefed on the status of the contract negotiations and that it had been provided with ICANN staff’s summary of the public comments.

He says that allowing ICANN’s CEO to execute the contract without a formal board vote did not go against ICANN rules (which Waye says he has “an admittedly layman’s understanding” of) because contractual matters are always delegated to senior staff.

In short, he sees no reason for ICANN to accept either Request for Reconsideration.

The Ombudsman is not the decision-maker here — the two RfRs will be thrown out considered by ICANN’s Board Accountability Mechanisms Committee at its next meeting, before going to the full board.

But I think we’ve got a pretty good indication here of which way the wind is blowing.

You can access the RfR materials and Waye’s responses here.

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Comments (6)

  1. Brad Mugford says:

    If there are not many comments, there is no public interest. If there are a lot of comments, it is spam.

    It is a no win situation with ICANN.

    There were thousands of comments from different individuals, groups, organizations, charities, non-profits, for-profits, registrars, etc.

    Many of these comments were from large non-profits and organizations that represent thousands of non profits.

    All these comments were just ignored and labeled “spam”.

    The clear consensus opinion was that unlimited price increases is not consistent with ICANN’s mission statement, and it put the interests of one stakeholder above all others.

    ICANN showed that their “multi-stakeholder” model is nonsense.

    I am not surprised ICANN ignored this and just did what they wanted. ICANN has turned into a corrupt organization at this point that does not exist for the greater good. It only exists to enrich a limited number of parties.

    Brad

  2. John Laprise says:

    No. He noted that many commenters used an automated system which diminished their weight in the eyes of ICANN. The lesson here is that if you want to be heard, DIY and encourage others to do the same.

  3. Matt says:

    Just because some of those who submitted comments used guidance from pre-prepared templates does not mean the comments they submitted do not reflect their heartfelt views. They were probably not well-versed in how to submit comments to ICANN and had never done so before. Yet, they took the time to do it because it was important to them. And now their comments are being labeled “spam”? And thus those well-meaning individuals and non-profits who participated in the comments period are spammers in ICANN’s eyes?

    Every comment is legitimate and represents an actual individual or organization voicing their opposition to ICANN’s decision to lift price caps on the legacy dot org tld.

    Organizations like ICA should be commended for making the average person who is adversely impacted by policy decisions imposed upon them by powerful interests aware of such developments and helping them to voice their concerns and defend themselves against those actions.

    Instead, it seems like ICANN is trying to delegitimize those who submitted comments based on the technicality that the comments were form-based and are thus somehow not authentic. No. Comments submitted during a comment period are legitimate comments, period. Now it is not enough to submit a comment during the comment period? Now ICANN is trying to add a second hurdle that the comments must be original works of prose to be considered valid? Come on.

    Why does it seem that so many of ICANN representative’s statements regarding the registrant community are so mocking, dismissive, and derisive?

    Brad Mugford’s assessment above hit the nail on the head.

  4. Patti G. says:

    Talk about ICANN’s unprofessionalism and petty vindictiveness. Grow up, boys. We are all in this together.

  5. Chris says:

    He’s right. Icann should just have emailed all 10 million .org domain owners and asked them if they wanted to get rid of price controls and want more ways to lose their domains.

    Then you only talk to people with a direct interest in the .org tld. And would have received a very nuanced 9 million NO!’s without any spam.

  6. Don says:

    These violations are criminal and should be brought forth in court.

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