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After .org price outrage, ICANN says it has NOT scrapped public comments

Kevin Murphy, October 11, 2019, 18:42:14 (UTC), Domain Policy

ICANN this evening said that it will continue to open up gTLD registry contract amendments for public comment periods, despite posting information yesterday suggesting that it would stop doing so.
The organization recently formalized what it calls “internal guidelines” on when public comment periods are required, and provided a summary in a blog post yesterday.
It was very easy to infer from the wording of the post that ICANN, in the wake of the controversy over the renegotiation of Public Interest Registry’s .org contract, had decided to no longer ask for public comments on future legacy gTLD contract amendments.
I inferred as much, as did another domain news blogger and a few other interested parties I pinged today.
I asked ICANN if that was a correct inference and Cyrus Namazi, head of ICANN’s Global Domains Division, replied:

No, that is not correct. All Registry contract amendments will continue to be posted for public comment same as before.

He went on to say that contract changes that come about as a result of Registry Service Evaluation Process requests or stuff like change of ownership will continue to not be subject to full public comment periods (though RSEP does have its own, less-publicized comment system).
The ICANN blog post lists several scenarios in which ICANN is required to open a public comment period. On the list is this:

ICANN org base agreements with registry operators and registrars.

The word “base” raised at least eight eyebrows of people who read the post, including my two.
The “base” agreements ICANN has with registries and registrars are the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement and the 2012/2017 Registry Agreement.
The RAA applies to all accredited registrars and the base RA applies to all new gTLD registries that applied in the 2012 round.
Registries that applied for, or were already running, gTLDs prior to 2012 all have bespoke contracts that have been gradually brought more — but not necessarily fully — into line with the 2012/17 RA in renewal renegotiations over the last several years.
In all cases, the renegotiated legacy contracts have been subject to public comment, but in no cases have the comments had any meaningful impact on their ultimate approval by ICANN.
The most recent such renewal was Public Interest Registry’s .org contract.
Among the changes were the introduction of the Uniform Rapid Suspension anti-cybersquatting policy, and the removal of price caps that had limited PIR to a 10% increase per year.
The comment period on this contract attracted over 3,200 comments, almost all of which objected to the price regulation changes or the URS.
But the contract was signed regardless, unaffected by the comments, which caused one registrar, NameCheap, to describe the process as a “sham”.
With this apparently specific reference to “base” agreements coming so soon thereafter, it’s easy to see how we could have assumed ICANN had decided to cut off public comment on these contentious issues altogether, but that appears to not be the case.
What this seems to mean is that when .com next comes up for renewal, it will be open for comment.

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Comments (4)

  1. Hey John you are welcome to check if any of the 3,200 real people with name and email address are bots.
    If not then you can shut the fuck up.

  2. Xavier says:

    ICANN is nothing more than a Trade Association acting in the narrow interest of its largest ratepayers (the registries.) ICANN makes most of its money from registries – and in turn enables those registries for its own financial gain. A good analogy is a cartel that awards no-bid monopoly contracts which will never be subject to competitive tender and only makes decisions that benefit those monopolies.
    ICANN is supposed to be the global steward of the Internet and act for the public trust. But it does not do this.
    How does removing pricing caps on a legacy TLD – where registrants face significant switching costs and are held hostage to their domain name – benefit the public at large? ICANN’s decision only benefits one single company at the detriment of 10+ million worldwide registrants. Its shocking ICANN is so incompetent and directly facilitates supracompetitive pricing on registrants.
    Most troubling – ICANN has no reasonable justification for its actions.
    Public comment process has always been a sham and despite what ICANN wants everyone to believe – ICANN is not a consensus based, bottom-up or even multistakeholder model.
    Its time to start calling ICANN what it really is: Registry Trade Association that gives zero thought about promoting competition in the DNS. Rather its actions are designed to funnel as much money into its contracted registries.

    • Rubens Kuhl says:

      Domainers believe ICANN is in the pockets of registries, registries believe ICANN is in the pockets of IP interests, and so on… ICANN has only one side: its survival, regardless of fulfilling or not its mission.

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