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US says it will not block the new gTLD program

Kevin Murphy, December 9, 2011, 17:06:18 (UTC), Domain Policy

NTIA boss Larry Strickling has come out in support of ICANN and its new top-level domains program, warning that its opponents “provide ammunition” to authoritarian regimes.

Speaking in Washington DC yesterday, Strickling warned that organizations fighting to put a stop to the new gTLD program risk provoking a UN takeover of the internet.

In a strongly worded defense of the six-year-old ICANN multistakeholder process that created the program, he said:

we are now seeing parties that did not like the outcome of that multistakeholder process trying to collaterally attack the outcome and seek unilateral action by the U.S. government to overturn or delay the product of a six-year multistakeholder process that engaged folks from all over the world.

The multistakeholder process does not guarantee that everyone will be satisfied with the outcome. But it is critical to preserving the model of Internet governance that has been so successful to date that all parties respect and work through the process and accept the outcome once a decision is reached.

When parties ask us to overturn the outcomes of these processes, no matter how well-intentioned the request, they are providing “ammunition” to other countries who attempt to justify their unilateral actions to deny their citizens the free flow of information on the Internet.

This we will not do. There is too much at stake here.

Strickling is assistant secretary at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, which oversees the US government’s relationship with ICANN and IANA.

He’s made similar remarks in support of the multistakeholder model in the past, but never quite as firmly or directly aimed at opponents of the new gTLD expansion.

While he was diplomatic enough not to single out any one group, he was pretty clearly referring to the recently formed Coalition for Responsible Internet Domain Oversight.

CRIDO was formed by the Association of National Advertisers to fight new gTLDs. Yesterday, it had its day on Capitol Hill, but failed to convince Senators that the program should be stopped.

But Strickling did sound a note of caution about new gTLDs, saying that he agreed with Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who expressed concern about possible negative impacts of the expansion:

We agree with the Chairman’s concerns over how this program will be implemented and its potential negative effect if not implemented properly. We will closely monitor the execution of the program and are committed to working with stakeholders, including U.S. industry, to mitigate any unintended consequences.

But the minutiae of the Applicant Guidebook was not Strickling’s focus. Instead, it was the wider political picture.

The threat of an International Telecommunications Union takeover of the internet’s policy-making functions has plagued ICANN for almost as long as it has existed.

Strickling noted that the ITU’s World Conference on International Telecommunications is coming up one year from now, and that some nations will attempt to usurp ICANN.

Some nations appear to prefer an Internet managed and controlled by nation-states.

We expect that some states will attempt to rewrite the regulation in a manner that would exclude the contributions of multistakeholder organizations and instead provide for heavy-handed governmental control of the Internet.

For the ANA and CRIDO, Strickling’s remarks are a huge setback.

The ANA has previously said that it planned to use all three branches of the US political system — lobbying Congress and the NTIA, or taking ICANN to court — to achieve its ends.

The Senate clearly wasn’t interested yesterday and the NTIA has now confirmed that it’s on ICANN’s side.

That leaves only one option.

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Comments (13)

  1. gpmgroup says:

    The differences between the competing positions could easily be resolved. – Introduce new gTLDs where they are actually needed.

    Of course this doesn’t sit well with those who see “demand” as simply a metric of the volume of domains sold.

    Why does it have to be a one size fits all approach? (Community applications excepted)

    Different types of new gTLDs will have markedly different benefits, reach and implications for innocent third parties. They are not suited to a single regulatory framework.

    At the time I could never figure out why Peter Dengate Thrush was so adamantly opposed to even any discussion on the matter.

    • Tim says:

      It’s a nice idea- “where they are actually needed”, but you’ll find yourself in the same position… who defines “need” exactly? Can you show me one example of an existing TLD that is “needed”? If we’re only talking about “need”, who needs domain names at all? IP addresses are all that are strictly needed.

      “To make money” – would that be a justifiable need? If not, then all registries should be non-profit right? (Which personally I’m not opposed to)

      At some point surely “want” has to feature, and it doesn’t have to be entirely wrong – it just needs to be within the context of a regulatory framework, which will never be perfect, but I’m yet to see a better option.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      It’s one-size-fits-all to prevent the kind of exploitation we saw in the last round. There’s no way, in my view, that .xxx and .mobi should have qualified as “sponsored” TLDs, for example.

      If you carved out exceptions for .brands, say, you can guarantee that all the domain industry participants that have been trademark frontrunning, for example, would all instantly declare themselves “brands”.

  2. How much money are spent so far on new TLD project can not be compared to how much money can be lost after it goes live!
    Risky business!!!

  3. TAG says:

    I so totally called this reaction from the NTIA 🙂

  4. gpmgroup says:

    Tim,

    I would see need when there are public benefits and very limited consequent costs and implications for those not involved. As opposed to benefits primarily for contracted parties, especially ones which are predominantly derived from costs to innocent third parties with little or no value in return. I think Mr Strickling’s remarks were considering the need to make the multi-stakeholder model work.

    Profit and non profit organizations can both be either extravagant or good custodians of the namespace. I think the banking industry provides a useful analogy here; most people think that using peoples savings to lend to people buying property providing it is done within a responsible framework is good. However when those same organizations use their customer’s money to speculate on more exciting risky ventures, more people would think this wasn’t such a good thing.

    Most people would also expect a regulator to have safeguards in place so that any unreasonable or irresponsible behaviour would not normally be possible, but if it does occur in limited cases it will be quickly detected and punished sufficiently.

  5. gpmgroup says:

    Tim & Kevin,

    A better option than the single one size fits all would be to have the community agree on a categorization of gTLDs into classes such as scripts, cultural, cities, brands, open, generic etc. Having seen the ones already stating an interest this shouldn’t be a too difficult task. Work out the costs and benefits for each class and then open the first RFP’s rounds for TLDs in the classes where there is the most demonstrable benefit.

    Careful design of the classes would enable ICANN to focus the growth of the Internet where it is most needed (that word again) or where the most public benefit could be derived.

    We know this would work as we need to look no further than all of the benefits of IDN ccTLDs. With the exception of Bulgaria’s application, would it be fair to say this program seems to have been successfully implemented without complaint or contention?

    Compare and contrast the implementation of IDN ccTLDs with .xxx, .jobs and ICANN’s proposal for a one size fits all for new gTLDs, where in each case significant numbers of people feel ICANN’s proposals are unjust and irresponsible.

  6. gpmgroup says:

    Thanks for the interesting links.

    One thing that comes across is; it is the applicants who are complaining about ICANN’s processes and procedures in the IDN ccTLD applications.

    .xxx .jobs and new gTLDs the complaints are predominantly from others affected by someone else’s application.

    A lot of the concern stems from the notion that someone can “control” a vertical or at least have bought or will be able to buy an unfair advantage from ICANN, through ICANN allowing a contracted party to buy exclusive rights to the top level and in turn use those rights to compete against others who have to use the second level.

    Trademark Law doesn’t allow this to happen for very good reasons. Can you imagine what would happen if a single company could buy exclusive rights to trademarks for generic terms in each vertical market and then use that advantage to exclude or compete against all others?

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      The new gTLD program does have objection mechanisms.

      It’s going to be interesting to see whether they prevent that scenario or not.

      • TAG says:

        The GAC in Dakar indicated they will be looking at business models of applicants in addition to merely evaluating the string itself for possible GAC advice. Perhaps this is something they may consider.

        Competition is one issue that ICANN did not budge on in the last set of concessions to GAC concerns, though that specifically relates more to vertical integration.

        One entity monopolizing a vertical industry naming category could easily lead to corporate censorship of the web, unfair competition etc. Bad News

        Objections can come from a variety of sources. Businesses should be vigilant of this process to be sure.

        • gpmgroup says:

          One entity monopolizing a vertical industry naming category could easily lead to corporate censorship of the web, unfair competition etc. Bad News.

          Objections can come from a variety of sources. Businesses should be vigilant of this process to be sure.

          I don’t think relying on businesses to vigilant is a robust enough solution to ICANN’s design failings in the new gTLD proposal.

          http://domainnamewire.com/2011/12/12/dot-secure-trademark/#comments

          In any system and especially ones where there appears to be lots of easy money to be made, some people will become very innovative to secure what they believe will give them an advantage.

          Then ICANN ends up being shamed into acting, but after the fact – a bit like trying to instill ethical behavior into a former board member who struggles with being able to define the difference between public interest and personal interest behavior.

  7. Joe says:

    Who cares? The gTLD concept will quickly fail after ICANN is reminded (once again) that the world only wants .COM and is not interested in any silly alternative extensions.

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