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New gTLD registry contract approved, but applicants left hanging by GAC advice

ICANN has approved the standard registry contract for new gTLD registries after many months of controversy.

But its New gTLD Program Committee has also decided to put hundreds more applications on hold, pending talks with the Governmental Advisory Committee about its recent objections.

The new Registry Agreement is the baseline contract for all new gTLD applicants. While some negotiation on detail is possible, ICANN expects most applicants to sign it as is.

Its approval by the NGPC yesterday — just a couple of days later than recently predicted by ICANN officials — means the first contracts with applicants could very well be signed this month.

The big changes include the mandatory “Public Interest Commitments” for abuse scanning and Whois verification that we reported on last month, and the freeze on closed generics.

But a preliminary reading of today’s document suggests that the other changes made since the previous version, published for comment by ICANN in April, are relatively minor.

There have been no big concessions to single-registrant gTLD applicants, such as dot-brands, and ICANN admitted that it may have to revise the RA in future depending on how those discussions pan out.

In its resolution, the NGPC said:

ICANN is currently considering alternative provisions for inclusion in the Registry Agreement for .brand and closed registries, and is working with members of the community to identify appropriate alternative provisions. Following this effort, alternative provisions may be included in the Registry Agreement.

But many companies that have already passed through Initial Evaluation now have little to worry about in their path to signing a contract with ICANN and proceeding to delegation.

“New gTLDs are now on the home stretch,” NGPC member Chris Disspain said in a press release “This new Registry Agreement means we’ve cleared one of the last hurdles for those gTLD applicants who are approved and eagerly nearing that point where their names will go online.”

Hundreds more, however, are still in limbo.

The NGPC also decided yesterday to put a hold on all “Category 1” applications singled out for advice in the Governmental Advisory Committee’s Beijing communique.

That’s a big list, comprising hundreds of applications that GAC members had concerns about.

The NGPC resolved: “the NGPC directs staff to defer moving forward with the contracting process for applicants who have applied for TLD strings listed in the GAC’s Category 1 Safeguard Advice, pending a dialogue with the GAC.”

That dialogue is expected to kick off in Durban a little over a week from now, so the affected applicants may not find themselves on hold for too long.

Negotiations, however, are likely to be tricky. As the NGPC’s resolution notes, most people believe the Beijing communique was “untimely, ill-conceived, overbroad, and too vague to implement”.

Or, as I put it, stupid.

By the GAC’s own admission, its list of strings is “non-exhaustive”, so if the delay turns out to have a meaningful impact on affected applicants, expect all hell to break loose.

Chehade commits to grow the number of domain registrars in Africa

ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade has told African policymakers that he wants to make it easier for companies on the continent to become accredited registrars, saying he wants to grow the number five-fold in a year.

During a “Multistakeholder Internet Governance” meeting in Addis Ababa earlier this week, Chehade said he wants to see 20 more African registrars, in addition to the paltry five accredited today.

It can be hard for African firms to become accredited under ICANN’s rules due to assurances needed from banks and insurance companies, he said.

We committed to do our best. Dr Tarik Kamel and I made commitments yesterday. We will be talking to the African Development Bank, we will work with [the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa], we have relationships in the insurance industry. We will put our personal relationships — and I hope all of us cooperate on that — to change this.

We made a public commitment, that I may regret, that we will try as fast as we can by Durban to at least have some initial answers to facilitate this for the African community, because hopefully with your help and your assistance within a year we won’t be saying we have five accredited registrars, we’ll be saying we have 25.

The ICANN meeting in Durban, South Africa is slated for mid-July.

Chehade also told the audience that it didn’t make any sense that African domain registration money was flowing out of the continent due to the outdated registration practices of ccTLD operators there.

The speech largely focused on macro-policy issues of internet governance affecting the continent.

Naturalized American Chehade wore his Egyptian hat throughout, referring to Africans as “we”.

Listen to the whole 30 minutes here.

ICANN to return to South Africa in 2013

Kevin Murphy, August 31, 2012, Domain Policy

The location of ICANN’s second meeting in 2013 has been revealed as Durban, South Africa.

A proposal submitted by the local ccTLD manager, .za Domain Name Authority, was approved by the ICANN board of directors earlier this week.

It’s the second time ICANN has hosted one of its thrice-yearly public meetings in the country; in 2004, Cape Town was the venue.

The Durban meeting will run from July 14 to July 19 2013. It’s the third upcoming meeting on ICANN’s calendar after Toronto (October) and Beijing (April 2013).

Durban, a popular tourist destination, is South Africa’s third-largest city, with a population of about half a million almost four million.

Three South African city gTLDs announced

UniForum, which runs South Africa’s .za country code, reportedly is applying to ICANN for three local city top-level domains.

The company, which also goes by the name of ZA Central Registry, is going for .capetown, .durban and .joburg (for Johannesburg), according to a report in MyBroadband.co.za.

That’s in addition to its controversial African Union-backed .africa bid.

ZACR is one of several ccTLD registries to get into the new gTLD game. In Europe, Nominet (.uk), Afnic (.fr and others), SIDN (.nl) and Nic.at have already announced applications.

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