Hundreds of stakeholders are gathering in San Jose, Costa Rica today for the first official day of ICANN’s 43rd public meeting.
While the news that the US government has deferred the renewal of ICANN’s IANA contract for another six months has set the most tongues wagging so far, there’s a lot more going on.
In this in-depth DomainIncite PRO ICANN 43 preview, we take a look at:
- Why many attendees think the shock IANA news is a personal slight against ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom.
- How protecting the Olympic and Red Cross trademarks could lead to the new gTLD application window being extended.
- Why the Governmental Advisory Committee is pushing for greater powers to reject new gTLD applications.
- Which companies have applied for the potentially lucrative Trademark Clearinghouse contract (and which one is our favorite to win), and why unanswered questions have the IP community worried.
- What criteria new gTLDs will be judged against after they launch.
- Why critical talks between ICANN and domain name registrars could lead to the retail price of domain names doubling, and why that probably won’t happen any time soon.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration has dealt a stunning blow to ICANN in its bid to carry on running the internet’s critical IANA functions.
The NTIA said this hour that it has canceled the RFP for the new IANA contract “because we received no proposals that met the requirements requested by the global community”
NTIA thinks that ICANN’s bid was unsatisfactory, in other words.
The NTIA said:
Based on the input received from stakeholders around the world, NTIA added new requirements to the IANA functions’ statement of work, including the need for structural separation of policymaking from implementation, a robust companywide conflict of interest policy, provisions reflecting heightened respect for local country laws, and a series of consultation and reporting requirements to increase transparency and accountability to the international community.
The government may cancel any solicitation that does not meet the requirements. Accordingly, we are cancelling this RFP because we received no proposals that met the requirements requested by the global community. The Department intends to reissue the RFP at a future date to be determined (TBD) so that the requirements of the global internet community can be served.
However, it has extended ICANN’s current IANA contract until September 30, 2012.
This means ICANN still has its IANA powers over the DNS root zone, at least for another six months.
While the NTIA has not yet revealed where ICANN’s bid for the contract fell short, it is known that the NTIA and ICANN’s senior management did not exactly see eye to eye on certain issues.
One of the key sticking points is the NTIA’s demand that the IANA contractor – ICANN – must document that all new gTLD delegations are in “the global public interest”.
This demand is a way to prevent another controversy such as the approval of .xxx a year ago, which the Governmental Advisory Committee objected to on the grounds that it was not the “the global public interest”.
Coupled with newly strengthened Applicant Guidebook powers for the GAC to object to new gTLD application, the IANA language could be described as “if the GAC objects, you must reject”.
If the GAC were to declare .gay or .catholic “not in the global public interest”, it would be pretty tough for ICANN to prove otherwise.
But ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom has previously stated that he believed such rules imposed by the US government would undermine the multistakeholder process.
He told the NTIA last June that the draft IANA contract language stood to “rewrite” ICANN’s own process when it came to approving new gTLDs.
The IANA functions contract should not be used to rewrite the policy and implementation process adopted through the bottom-up decision-making process. Not only would this undermine the very principle of the multi-stakeholder model, it would be inconsistent with the objective of more clearly distinguishing policy development from operational implementation by the IANA functions operator.
Since then, language requiring ICANN to prove “consensus” on new gTLD delegations was removed, but language requiring it to demonstrate the “global public interest” remains.
The game is bigger than petty squabbling about new gTLDs, however.
The US government is worried about International Telecommunications Union treaty talks later this year, which many countries want to use to push for government-led internet governance.
A strong GAC, backed by an enforceable IANA contract, is one way to field concerns that ICANN is not responsive enough to government interests.
It’s tempting to view the deferral of the IANA renewal as an attempt to wait out Beckstrom’s tenure as CEO – he’s set to leave at the end of June – and deal with a more compliant replacement instead.
Just hours before ICANN’s Costa Rica meeting kicks off, the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration has cast uncertainty over the new gTLD program by throwing another of its now-traditional last-minute bombs.
CLICK HERE for the updated story.
It’s canceled the request for proposals that was expected to lead to ICANN being awarded a new IANA contract – the contract that enables it to approve new top-level domains.
In an amendment to the November RFP posted last night, the Department of Commerce said it “hereby cancels RFP SA1301-12-RP-IANA in its entirety.”
In a notice on the Federal Business Opportunities web site, it added:
Request for Proposal (RFP) SA1301-12-RP-IANA is hereby cancelled. The Department of Commerce intends to reissue the RFP at a future date, date to be determined (TBD). Interested parties are encouraged to periodically visit www.fbo.gov for updates.
ICANN’s current IANA agreement is due to expire at the end of March and, by my reading, the NTIA has used up all of its options to extend.
Many expected ICANN or the NTIA to announce that the new contract had been awarded to ICANN yesterday, or when the Costa Rica meeting officially kicks off this coming Monday.
For the RFP to be canceled now without explanation hangs a huge question mark over ICANN’s ongoing ability to approve new gTLDs.
There are already community murmurs about ICANN extending the current gTLD application window beyond its current April 12 deadline, and this development may feed such rumors.
This is a developing story, but at the moment it appears that yet again the NTIA’s last-minute attention-seeking bombshell has stolen the show before the show even begins.
UPDATE: Shortly after this story was published, the NTIA released its rationale for the cancellation. Read about it here.
ICANN chairman Steve Crocker has again said he expects the new generic top-level domains program to kick off next week as planned, and that he expects it to “run smoothly”.
His comments came in a New Year email sent to the rest of the ICANN board of directors, as well as the chairs of the community’s various policy-making bodies.
Here’s an extract focusing on new gTLDs:
In terms of immediacy, the opening of the window for applications for new gTLDs is January 12, ten days from now. This is occupying a large fraction of our attention and is also the source of much attention from our stakeholders and others watching us. An enormous amount of work has gone into the program and I, among many, many others, are eager to see what will happen. The opening of the window on January 12 will be a noteworthy day, but the closing date, three months later and the publication date for the names a bit later will also be quite noteworthy. I know there is a bit of controversy over some specific aspects of the program, but I am confident the program is well constructed and will run smoothly.
It also touches on broader themes, notably ICANN’s effectiveness as an organization:
We often emphasize our commitment to a multi-stakeholder model. There’s no question this is important. However, from my point of view, we are organized around broad participation from all parties because it’s a system that has worked well in the Internet ecology. And “working well” means the job gets done. If we are not effective and reasonably efficient at doing the job we were created to do, the details of our processes will matter very little. We have many processes in place to measure ourselves in terms of transparency, accountability and other attributes of fairness. I applaud and support all of these, but I would like us all to keep in mind that in addition to these very important measures that we also focus on making sure that we deliver the service our community needs.
This echoes remarks Crocker made at ICANN’s last meeting, in Dakar last October, when he stamped his authority down on the registrar community, which stood accused of dragging its feet over improvements to how it deals with law enforcement.
“If all we have is process, process, process, and it gets gamed or it’s ineffective just because it’s not structured right, then we have failed totally in our duty and our mission,” he said at that time.
ICANN’s board of directors has finally approved .sx, the new country-code top-level domain for newly autonomous Dutch territory Sint Maarten.
In an unexpected non-meeting earlier this week, the board voted to delegate .sx to SX Registry, a joint venture of Luxembourg registry startup OpenRegistry and Canadian registrar MediaFusion.
The vote had been delayed from the board’s meeting in October as SX Registry went through the required pre-delegation motions with ICANN’s IANA department.
Sint Maarten was created in October 2010 when the Netherlands Antilles (.an) split into three separate territories.
The ccTLD .cw for Curacao was assigned to the University of the Netherlands Antilles in October this year, but .bq for Bonaire, Saint Eustatius and Saba, has yet to be delegated.
The legacy .an domain is scheduled to be decommissioned before October 2014.