The incoming head of the US Department of Commerce has indicated that it is unlikely he’ll try to reestablish the US government’s unique oversight of ICANN, at least in the short term.
But at his confirmation hearing in Congress yesterday, Trump nominee for secretary of commerce Wilbur Ross said he’d be open to ideas about how the US could increase its power over ICANN.
He was responding to a question from Ted Cruz, the Texas senator who made halting the IANA transition one of his key concerns last year.
Cruz, framing the question in such a way as to suggest ICANN is now in the hands of an intergovernmental consortium (which it is not) asked Ross whether he was committed to preventing censorious regimes using ICANN to hinder Americans’ freedom of speech.
As such a big market and really as the inventors of the Internet, I’m a little surprised that we seem to be essentially voiceless in the governance of that activity. That strikes me as an intellectually incorrect solution. But I’m not aware of what it is that we actually can do right now to deal with that. If it exists, if some realistic alternative comes up, I’d be very interested.
His response also mischaracterizes the power balance post-transition.
The US is not “essentially voiceless”. Rather, it has the same voice as every other government as a member of the Governmental Advisory Committee.
Its role is arguably still a lot more powerful than other nations, given that ICANN is now bylaws-bound to remain headquartered in California and under US jurisdiction.
As head of Commerce, Ross will have authority over the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the agency most directly responsible for dealing with ICANN and domain name issues in general.
NTIA itself will to the best of my knowledge still be headed by assistant secretary Larry Strickling, who handled the IANA transition from the US government side. (UPDATE: this may not be correct)
Ross, 79, is a billionaire investor who made most of his estimated $2.5 billion fortune restructuring bankrupt companies in the coal and steel industries.
DotConnectAfrica is continuing its legal attempt to prevent the .africa gTLD from being delegated to a competitor supported by African governments.
The recalcitrant applicant has filed for another temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction that would prevent ICANN handing .africa to the successful applicant, ZA Central Registry, according to ZACR.
DCA’s last application for an injunction was refused by a California judge in December, but last week it renewed its efforts to stymie the long-delayed geo.
ZACR said on its web site yesterday:
On January 4, 2017, DCA filed an ex parte (emergency) temporary restraining order (“TRO”) asking the Court to prevent ICANN from delegating .Africa to ZACR. The Court denied DCA’s ex parte request for a TRO on the grounds that there was no exigency that required an immediate ruling. The Court further clarified that the prior order denying DCA’s preliminary injunction motion was based upon all arguments submitted by ICANN and DCA (thereby rejecting DCA’s contention in its ex parte papers that the ruling did not include ZACR’s arguments). However, the Court agreed to consider DCA’s new arguments as grounds for a new motion for a preliminary injunction. DCA was given until January 6, 2017 to file its motion. ICANN and ZACR shall file opposition papers by January 18, 2017. DCA will then be given an opportunity to file a reply.
The court is scheduled to hear arguments for and against the injunction January 31, ZACR said.
In the meantime, .africa remains in limbo.
ICANN has terminated its last formal oversight link with the US government.
Late last week, ICANN chair Steve Crocker and Larry Strickling, assistant secretary at the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration mutually agreed to retire the seven-year-old Affirmation of Commitments.
The AoC, negotiated during the tail end of Paul Twomey’s leadership of ICANN and signed by successor Rod Beckstrom, laid out ICANN’s responsibilities to the US government and, to a lesser extent, vice versa.
It included, for example, ICANN’s commitments to openness and transparency, its promise to remain headquartered in California, and its agreement to ongoing reviews of the impact of its actions.
Ongoing projects such as the Competition and Consumer Trust Review originate in the AoC.
The rationale for concluding the deal now is that most of significant provisions of the AoC have been grandfathered into ICANN’s revised bylaws and other foundational documents following the IANA transition, which concluded in October.
Reviews such as the CCT and the lock on its California HQ are now in the bylaws and elsewhere, ICANN said in a blog post.
It’s worth mentioning that the US gets a new administration led by Donald Trump in a little over a week, so it probably made sense to get the AoC out of the way now, lest the new president do something insane with it.
The letters from Crocker and Strickling terminating the deal can be read together here (pdf).
The dot-brand .orientexpress has derailed. That’s a train pun, expect more.
The gTLD operator has become the latest to signal (like a railway signal) to ICANN that it no longer wishes to run its dot-brand, this week asking for a contract cancellation (like a train cancellation).
Despite having left the station (like a train station) in February 2015, it only ever registered its mandatory nic.orientexpress domain, and that doesn’t even resolve any more, according to DI PRO tracking (like a train track).
While the Orient Express brand is familiar to many due to the famous Agatha Christie murder mystery novel, it’s been applied to multiple train companies and journeys over the years.
The gTLD was originally applied for, unopposed, in 2012 by Orient-Express Hotels. However, that company renamed itself to Belmond in 2014.
Belmond still runs a luxury train route bearing the Orient Express name, but apparently its devotion to the brand has run out of steam (like a steam train) and its gTLD was no longer just the ticket (like a train ticket).
It’s the 20th dot-brand to change its mind about owning a gTLD after its ICANN Registry Agreement was already signed.
According to DI PRO stats, almost 100 dot-brands are actively using their domains currently, so it’s not as if the concept has been a complete train wreck (like a train train wreck).
The Internet Commerce Association has called for a “moratorium” on the Uniform Rapid Suspension policy being added to legacy gTLD contracts, months before Verisign’s .net contract is up for renewal.
In a blog post, ICA counsel Phil Corwin accused ICANN staff of making policy by the back door by compelling pre-2012 registries to adopt URS, despite a lack of ICANN community consensus policy.
In the last few years the registries for .jobs, .travel, .cat, .pro, .xxx and most recently .mobi have agreed to adopt many aspects of the 2012 Registry Agreement, which includes the URS, often in exchange for lower ICANN fees.
the real test of [ICANN’s Global Domains Division’s] illicit strategy of incremental de facto policymaking will come later this year, when the .Net RA comes up for renewal. We have no idea whether Verisign will be seeking any substantial revisions to that RA that would provide GDD staff with substantial leverage to impose URS, nor do we know whether Verisign would be amenable to that tradeoff.
The .net RA is due to expire July 1 this year.
Verisign pays ICANN $0.75 for each .net domain registration, renewal and transfer. If that were to be reduced to the 2012 standard of $0.25, it would save Verisign at least $7.5 million a year.
The URS provides brand owners with a way to suspend trademark-infringing domains in clear-cut cases. It’s based on UDRP but is faster and cheaper and does not allow the brand owner to seize ownership of the domains.
ICA represents large domain speculators, most of which have their investments tied up in .com and .net domains. It’s complained about the addition of URS to other gTLDs but the complaints have largely fallen on deaf ears.
ICANN has said that it does not force URS on anyone, but that it takes the base new gTLD program RA as its starting point for bilateral negotiations with registries whose contracts are up for renewal.