ICANN has blown off US senator Ted Cruz by declining to answer a bunch of framed questions about its engagement with China.
In a letter (pdf) to Cruz and fellow senators Michael Lee and James Lankford, ICANN chair Steve Crocker testily explains that ICANN has offices and relationships all over the world, given the nature of its mandate.
There’s a suggestion that ICANN’s board resents the “insinuation” that talking to China means it’s ready to be captured by it or implement its censorship policies.
ICANN does not endorse the views of any particular stakeholder, regardless of the organization’s engagement efforts, the composition of its advisory committees, and where it holds its meetings. In this sense, ICANN’s engagement with China as a global Internet stakeholder does not suggest any level of support for the nation’s government or its policies. Similarly, no endorsement of such matters could reasonably be inferred from the operations of the United States’ largest technology firms operating in China, including Cisco, Dell, HP, IBM, Intel, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Qualcomm and Uber. These firms, like ICANN, do not endorse the policies, laws, and regulations of China simply by operating there. As long as the U.S. Government has a policy of engagement with China, U.S. firms operate there without the insinuation that doing so makes them complicit in China’s censorship.
The letter was written in response to a bullet-pointed list of a few dozen question Cruz has posed in letters over the last couple of months.
The Cruz missives were a fairly obvious fishing expedition, with the senators apparently looking for sticks to beat ICANN with in the form of evidence that the organization is too friendly with the dreaded Chinese.
Some on the right wing of American politics seem to see the transition of ICANN/IANA partially away from US government oversight as a wedge issue they can use to show Obama is happily selling the ‘Murican constitution to China.
But Crocker ducks most of Cruz’s questions, preferring instead to present an alternative narrative.
He does not, for example, give answers to simple factual questions related to former CEO Fadi Chehade’s joining as co-chair of a committee of the China-led World Internet Conference.
Instead, he refers Cruz to a previous letter from Chehade, and notes that Chehade is no longer with ICANN.
He does not answer anything related to XYZ.com’s proposals related to selling .xyz domain names in China, which Cruz reckons could be used to censor the people of Hong Kong.
Neither does he confirm that ICANN pays government-affiliated CNNIC for collocated office space in Beijing, which wasn’t disclosed until it came out at a press conference last month.
I imagine Cruz, in receipt of Crocker’s letter, is feeling much the same as I do when an interviewee waffles in response to simple questions.
I doubt this exchange is over.
Donuts says that problems obtaining “licenses” from the Chinese government are to blame for the fact that it is yet to launch any of its Chinese-script new gTLDs.
Currently, four of the company’s portfolio of 156 gTLDs are in Chinese. Three have been delegated to the DNS root but none of them have been launched.
The first, .游戏 (for “games”) has been in the root since October 2013, but does not yet have a firm date for Sunrise. Another, .商店 (“shop”), was delegated just last week, almost a year after Donuts signed its Registry Agreement with ICANN.
Donuts explained the .游戏 delay with the following statement:
The Chinese government division which handles this area is MIIT [Ministry of Industry and Information Technology] and in conjunction with [.cn registry] CNNIC they are still to advise of the licensing application process. We hope to make these TLDs available during the first half of 2015.
No additional details were available and it’s not clear what licenses Donuts — which is based in the United States — thinks it needs to obtain before launching.
I’ve heard rumors that China may introduce a licensing system in future, but other new gTLD registries with Chinese-script strings in their stable have managed to launch their gTLDs just fine without a Chinese government license.
TLD Registry — legally based in Dublin, Ireland, founded by Finns — launched .中文网 and .在线 earlier this year and has tens of thousands of names under management.
Thousands of those domains, which match Chinese geographic names, were allocated to Chinese government, however.
“No licenses are currently possible, because the new law is MIA,” TLD Registry chief marketing officer Simon Cousins told us.
Chinese ccTLD operator CNNIC suffered up to half a day of degraded performance and intermittent accessibility yesterday, after being hit by what it called its “largest ever” denial of service attack.
CNNIC is one of ICANN’s three Emergency Back-End Registry Operators, contracted to take over the running of any new gTLD registries that fail. It’s also the named back-end for seven new gTLD applications.
According to an announcement on its web site, as well as local reports and tips to DI, the first wave of DDoS hit it at about midnight yesterday. A second wave followed up at 4am local time and lasted up to six hours.
According to a tipster, all five of .cn’s name servers were inaccessible in China during the attack.
Local reports (translated) say that many Chinese web sites were also inaccessible to many users, but the full scale of the problem doesn’t seem to be clear yet.
China’s .cn is the fourth-largest ccTLD, with close to 10 million domains under management.
The Chinese government-controlled news agency Xinhua has dropped out of the race for the new gTLD .广东 — the local name of Guangdong, China’s most populous province.
The withdrawal clears a path for the only other applicant for the string, Guangzhou Yu Wei Information Technology, to pass more quickly through the ICANN approval process.
Guangzhou Yu Wei is affiliated with Zodiac Holdings, the Cayman Islands-based portfolio applicant founded by James Seng, but it also has backing from the Guangdong provincial government.
As a formally designated Geographic string, government backing is necessary for approval.
Xinhua had not appeared especially enthusiastic about its bid. Its prioritization number of 1772 means it didn’t bother to participate in ICANN’s lottery last December.
Zodiac, on the other hand, took advantage of the IDN bias in the process and wound up with a priority of 79. It passed Initial Evaluation in early April.
The company filed a Community application, but a Community Priority Evaluation will obviously no longer be required. It intends to restrict .广东 to registrants that can prove a local presence.
Zodiac is using .cn registry CNNIC as its back-end registry provider.
Neustar, Nominet and CNNIC have been picked to provide backup registry services for new gTLDs that fail.
ICANN has named the three companies as Emergency Back-End Registry Operators for the new gTLD program.
They’ll be responsible for taking over the management of any new gTLD that goes out of business, putting registrants at risk of losing DNS resolution and registry functions.
The idea is that the EBERO(s) would be paid out of funds placed in escrow by gTLD applicants, in order to gracefully wind down any failed TLD over the space of a few years.
In reality, I doubt there’s going to be much call for their services; M&A activity is a more likely outcome for gTLDs that fail to meet their sales expectations.
ICANN highlighted the geographic diversity of the three companies (Nominet is British, Neustar American and CNNIC Chinese) as a stability benefit of its selections.
The three were chosen from 14 respondents to an RFI published last year.
The absence of an EBERO was one of the shortfalls of the new gTLD program highlighted by Verisign in its recent letter warning ICANN about perceived security and stability risks.
While ICANN has acknowledged that the EBEROs are unlikely to be ready to roll before the first new gTLDs start to launch, it has noted that they don’t need to be.
If any new gTLD catastrophically fails during the first few months of launch, it will reflect extremely poorly on the financial and technical evaluations applicants have been undergoing for the last nine months.