ICANN’s 41st public meeting kicks off in Singapore on Monday, and as usual there are a whole array of controversial topics set to be debated.
As is becoming customary, the US government has filed its eleventh-hour saber-rattling surprises, undermining ICANN’s authority before its delegates’ feet have even touched the tarmac.
Here’s a high-level overview of what’s going down.
The new gTLD program
ICANN and the Governmental Advisory Committee are meeting on Sunday to see if they can reach some kind of agreement on the stickiest parts of the Applicant Guidebook.
They will fail to do so, and ICANN’s board will be forced into discussing an unfinished Guidebook, which does not have full GAC backing, during its Monday-morning special meeting.
It’s Peter Dengate Thrush’s final meeting as chairman, and many observers believe he will push through some kind of new gTLDs resolution to act as his “legacy”, as well as to fulfill the promise he made in San Francisco of a big party in Singapore.
My guess is that the resolution will approve the program in general, lay down some kind of timetable for its launch, and acknowledge that the Guidebook needs more work before it is rubber-stamped.
I think it’s likely that the days of seemingly endless cycles of redrafting and comment are over for good, however, which will come as a relief to many.
A big sticking point for the GAC is the price that new gTLD applicants from developing nations will have to pay – it wants eligible, needy applicants to get a 76% discount, from $185,000 to $44,000.
The GAC has called this issue something that needs sorting out “as a matter of urgency”, but ICANN’s policy is currently a flimsy draft in desperate need of work.
The so-called JAS working group, tasked with creating the policy, currently wants governmental entities excluded from the support program, which has made the GAC, predictably, unhappy.
The JAS has proven controversial in other quarters too, particularly the GNSO Council.
Most recently, ICANN director Katim Touray, who’s from Gambia, said the Council had been “rather slow” to approve the JAS’s latest milestone report, which, he said:
might well be construed by many as an effort by the GNSO to scuttle the entire process of seeking ways and means to provide support to needy new gTLD applicants
This irked Council chair Stephane Van Gelder, who rattled off a response pointing out that the GNSO had painstakingly followed its procedures as required under the ICANN bylaws.
Watch out for friction there.
Simply, there’s no way this matter can be put to bed in Singapore, but it will be the topic of intense discussions because the new gTLD program cannot sensibly launch without it.
The IANA contract
The US National Telecommunications and Information Administration wants to beef up the IANA contract to make ICANN more accountable to the NTIA and, implicitly, the GAC.
Basically, IANA is being leveraged as a way to make sure that .porn and .gay (and any other TLD not acceptable to the world’s most miserable regimes) never make it onto the internet.
If at least one person does not stand up during the public forum on Thursday to complain that ICANN is nothing more than a lackey of the United States, I’d be surprised. My money’s on Khaled Fattal.
The eleventh hour surprise I referred to earlier.
The US Department of Justice, Antitrust Division, informed ICANN this week that its plan to allow gTLD registries such as VeriSign, Neustar and Afilias to own affiliated registrars was “misguided”.
I found the letter (pdf) utterly baffling. It seems to say that the DoJ would not be able to advise ICANN on competition matters, despite the fact that the letter itself contains a whole bunch of such advice.
The letter has basically scuppered VeriSign’s chances of ever buying a registrar, but I don’t think anybody thought that would happen anyway.
Neustar is likely to be the most publicly annoyed by this, given how vocally it has pursued its vertical integration plans, but I expect Afilias and others will be bugged by this development too.
The DoJ’s position is likely to be backed up by Europe, now that the NTIA’s Larry Strickling and European Commissioner Neelie Kroes are BFFs.
Cybercrime is huge at the moment, what with governments arming themselves with legions of hackers and groups such as LulzSec and Anonymous knocking down sites like dominoes.
The DNS abuse forum during ICANN meetings, slated for Monday, is usually populated by pissed-off cops demanding stricter enforcement of Whois accuracy.
They’ve been getting louder during recent meetings, a trend I expect to continue until somebody listens.
This is known as “engaging”.
IPv6, DNSSEC and Internationalized Domain Names, in other words. There are sessions on all three of these important topics, but they rarely gather much attention from the policy wonks.
With IPv6 and DNSSEC, we’re basically looking at problems of adoption. With IDNs, there’s impenetrably technical stuff to discuss relating to code tables and variant strings.
The DNSSEC session is usually worth a listen if you’re into that kind of thing.
The board meeting
Unusually, the board’s discussion of the Guidebook has been bounced to Monday, leading to a Friday board meeting with not very much to excite.
VeriSign will get its .net contract renewed, no doubt.
The report from the GAC-board joint working group, which may reveal how the two can work together less painfully in future, also could be interesting.
Enough of this blather, I’ve got a plane to catch.