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Two ICANN directors update their conflicts profile after .africa complaint

Kevin Murphy, December 19, 2012, Domain Registries

ICANN directors Mike Silber and Chris Disspain have updated their official statements of interest — used to identify potential conflicts on the board — after a complaint from a .africa applicant.

The new SOI statement more clearly specifies the relationship between South African ccTLD policymaker ZADNA — for which Silber acts as treasurer — and Uniforum, which has applied for the .africa gTLD.

(December 28 Update: Silber, in the comments below, states that the update to his SOI was in no way a response to the DCA complaint.)

It also gives a bit more information about Disspain’s employer, .au policymaker AuDA, and ARI Registry Services, which is providing the back-end registry services for dozens of new gTLD applicants.

Here’s Silber’s new SOI summary, with the relevant new text highlighted:

Member of the Management Committee and Treasurer of the Internet Service Providers’ Association (ISPA) South Africa. He is also, a Director and Treasurer of the .za Domain Name Authority, the ccTLD administrator for .za. The .za Domain Name Authority has concluded an arms-length operating agreement with Uniforum t/a the .za Central Registry for Uniforum to operate the .za registry. Under the agreement, Uniforum will collect and pay transaction fees to .za Domain Name Authority. Uniforum is acting as the registry service provider for various new gTLD applicants.

Here’s Disspain’s, again with my emphasis:

Director and CEO of .au Domain Administration Limited, the .au ccTLD manager; .au has sponsorship agreement with ICANN under which .au pays ICANN a yearly amount based on the amount of names under management. Former Officer of ICANN, Paul Levins, is a Director of .au Domain Administration Limited. .au Domain Administration Limited licenses AusRegistry Pty Ltd to run the registry for the second level names in .au. Under the Registry License agreement, AusRegistry pays fees to auDA; companies affiliated with AusRegistry are affiliated with new gTLD applications.

AusRegistry is technically ARI’s parent, but they share many of the same senior executives.

The updated statement comes shortly after a complaint filed with ICANN’s Ombudsman by .africa applicant DotConnectAfrica about Silber and Disspain’s alleged conflicts of interest over the gTLD.

While the indirect connection between Silber and DCA’s rival .africa applicant Uniforum is clear, it was not obvious to Ombudsman Chris LaHatte what Disspain’s conflict was supposed to be.

LaHatte found no actions that constituted conflicts of interest from either director, but he appeared to nudge the board to providing fuller disclosure, which is what seems to have happened here.

CoCCA withdraws from APTLD over support for AusRegistry “monopoly”

Kevin Murphy, October 24, 2012, Domain Registries

Registry services provider CoCCA has pulled out of the Asia Pacific Top Level Domain Association after APTLD gave support to AusRegistry in its campaign to continue to run .au.

The company claims that APTLD — the Hong Kong-based association of ccTLD operators from the region — backed AusRegistry because AusRegistry is one of its largest donors.

The allegations center on a consultation run by AuDA, the policy overseer for Australia’s .au domain.

AuDA is currently deciding whether to renegotiate AusRegistry’s longstanding registry back-end contract — which is its preferred option — or open it up to public tender.

Draft recommendations published for comment last month suggest that the contract should remain with AusRegistry when it expires in 2014, albeit with renegotiated terms.

CoCCA is mad with APTLD for submitting a comment in support of these recommendations without first consulting its membership, suspecting AusRegistry’s sponsorship of APTLD might have something to do with it.

(October 24 Update: APTLD has submitted a revised comment here. The original submission can be found here.)

In an email to APTLD last week, CoCCA director Garth Miller said:

That AusRegistry, a large for-profit company that is an associate member of APTLD can simply make a phone call to a board member and get the board to make a public submission on behalf of all members that a scheduled public tender be cancelled and AusRegistry be awarded the contract – worth as much as several hundred million dollars, because they have made substantial contributions to the APLTD in the past and are likely to do so in the future if awarded the contract is, in my view, disturbing.

CoCCA, which already provides registry services for a few ccTLDs in the region and runs the .cx (Christmas Island) ccTLD, reckons the .au back-end contract should be opened to competitive bidding.

Judging by the other submissions to AuDA’s consultation, which are published here, it’s a minority view.

Every other comment — most of which were sent by .au registrars, even newcomers such as Go Daddy — supports the recommendation that AusRegistry should keep the deal.

And AusRegistry says that everything is above board. CEO Adrian Kinderis said in a statement sent to DI:

AusRegistry has been actively seeking acknowledgments and recommendations from valued partners and industry leaders over the past month. This included an approach to APTLD to seek a reference from them to acknowledge the positive industry engagement and continued support and participation of AusRegistry in the Asia Pacific domain name industry. APTLD responded positively to our request. AusRegistry has made no secret of such, and to suggest that clandestine calls have taken place is simply not true.

APTLD also denied that it has done anything wrong, though it does not appear to be denying that AusRegistry contributions may have played a part in its decision.

In a statement, APTLD told DI:

The allegation on APTLD must be a misunderstanding and is untrue. APTLD has no comments to make on the tendering process and whether a public tender should be conducted. APTLD does not have sufficient local knowledge to provide any constructive comments. All APTLD can provide is a reference for AusRegistry as an active and positive player in the domain name industry in the Asia Pacific region. Past contributions to APTLD is just one of the many factors when the Board considers whether to provide a reference to a particular member.

AusRegistry has been running the .au registry under contract with AuDA since 2001. It’s used its experience to launch ARI Registry Services, a pretty big player in the new gTLD back-end market.

Last time its .au deal was renegotiated, prices came down.

ARI expands its DNS business

Kevin Murphy, October 22, 2012, Domain Services

ARI Registry Services officially announced its aggressive targeting of the DNS services market at an event in Toronto last week.

The company says it is the named DNS provider in over 450 new gTLD applications, giving it a substantial foot in the door should they be approved by ICANN.

That’s almost three times as many applications as ARI is involved with as registry provider.

“To our competitors, we are coming for you,” a tired and emotional ARI CEO Adrian Kinderis said during the launch event at a club in Toronto last Tuesday, which DI attended.

“Bring it on,” equally tired and emotional executives from larger competitors were heard to mutter in the audience.

ARI seems to be targeting just TLD operators to begin with, while competitors such as Verisign, Neustar and Afilias also offer managed DNS to enterprises.

ARI already runs the DNS for Australia’s .au.