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ICANN’s .org decision was NOT unanimous, and it was made in secret

Kevin Murphy, May 13, 2020, 16:16:29 (UTC), Domain Registries

When ICANN announced its decision to deny Public Interest Registry’s request to be acquired by Ethos Capital at the end of April, I felt a little foolish.

I’d confidently predicted just days earlier that the decision by the board would not be unanimous, but ICANN, in announcing the decision, said “the entire Board stands by this decision”.

But it turns out I was right after all. Three directors voted against the consensus and one abstained.

The dissenting votes were cast by industry policy consultant Avri Doria, Serbian internet pioneer Danko Jevtović, and former Sudanese ccTLD operator Ihab Osman.

Doria and Jevtović voted against the first resolved clause, which rejected PIR’s request. All three voted against the second resolved clause, which would have allowed PIR to file a second request.

Sarah Deutsch, a private practice lawyer, abstained from both votes, presumably because she also sits on the board of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the civil liberties group that can, via California’s attorney general, probably be credited most with getting the transaction killed.

All three dissenters and Deutsch are Nominating Committee appointees.

According to the preliminary report of the April 30 meeting, “Doria indicated that she would be voting against the resolution and explained her views about how the public interest would be better served by ICANN granting its consent to PIR’s request.”

What her reasons were are not reflected in the record.

It also seems likely that any substantive minuting of ICANN’s decision is likely to be limited, as it appears to have been made at a different, off-the-books session at an unspecified earlier date.

The preliminary report notes the “the Board discussed and considered alternative draft resolutions for potential Board action as part of an earlier briefing”.

No such earlier meeting is listed on ICANN’s web site. The board’s previous formal meeting, two weeks earlier, had PIR’s request removed from the agenda at the last minute.

So it appears that ICANN’s board decided to reject the deal basically in secret at some point between April 17 and April 29, during a meeting of which ICANN has no obligation to publicly release the minutes.

Nice transparency loophole!

There’s always the Documentary Information Disclosure Policy, I suppose.

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Comments (8)

  1. Mogreen says:

    Hmmm – wonder why Avri Doria voted in favor of the sale

    Avri Doria is a research consultant. Her professional activities include several part-time activities, including: – as secretariat for PIR’s advisory council, and technical research for Donuts Inc.

    • Avri Doria says:

      I have not worked for either PIR or Donuts, or any other contracted party, since before I joined the Board. This was a promise I made to the Nomcom that selected me.

      My voting statement:

      And now that the decision of the Board has been made, following extensive diligence and full process, by a majority of my Board colleagues, I do indeed stand behind it.

      • gpmgroup says:

        Every one in ICANN knows (or should know) that domains are not substitutable the cost to move i.e. design, stationery, signs, re-advertising, loss of business, etc outweigh any price rise the registries could ever dream of.

        What benefits or innovation have we seen? It would nice to hear from those that support ICANN awarding what are effectively non-competing contracts in perpetuity why they personally feel these chosen contracted parties should have the freedom to raise prices at will? ( suggests up to 3000% increases.)

        Do you really think this is an acceptable form of governance? If so do you really expect people will invest and build a business on an ICANN gTLD when they realise this can happen on a whim and at any time?

        When it was just new gTLDs not many really cared, but ICANN has recently rolled it out to legacy gTLDs .info, biz and org. No one in those gTLDs asked for that historic mistake, ICANN ignored public comment [again] and the board rubber stamped it.

        But these cosy contract freedoms don’t only apply to prices. For example I see in your rationale you support PICs…. PICs seem to be a potentially very dangerous backdoor, which purposely bypass work and oversight from the multistakeholder community. Remind me how were PICs developed?

        ePDP same game, diminishes the multistakeholder model by excluding different view points. How was ePDP developed – staff and WG chair who was former staff?

        I understand for example this disgraceful new format for comments came out of ePDP How can anyone analyse public comment? It’s locked – No download, horrendous scrolling, no relationship to questions, no copying and pasting etc. Never mind the lost perspective because people didn’t comment because of the dozens of pages of Google forms that needed to be completed just to comment.

        The multistakeholder model is an incredible achievement where some of the brightest and most experienced come together at virtually no cost to ICANN and willingly giving up hundreds of hours of their time. The combined professional billing costs for each WG meeting members is prohibitive. It’s a valuable resource and its there for a purpose not just to rubber stamp predetermined internal ICANN decisions.

      • John says:

        Excluding all forms of competition is a violation of US competition laws.
        ICANN’s agreement with the registry operators is anticompetitive.

        There is no market force in place to discipline pricing.

        They are monopolies.

        Yet, ICANN is plowing full steam forward – not willing to conduct economic studies or analyze any competition issues — allowing PIR and Verisign to increase its prices on its captive base of users.

        ICANN actions resemble a cartel – one that hands out no-bid monopoly licenses and continues to extract monies out of those licenses.

        .com has 145 million registrants with a 74% renewal rate
        .org has 10 million registrants with a 78% renewal rate

        In June of 2019 – ICANN removed all pricing caps in .Org

        In March of 2020 – ICANN handed Verisign the ability to increase prices by 31% over the next four years (despite the fact ICANN had Verisign contractually obligated to maintain pricing at $7.85 through 2024 for consumer protection.)

        And the worst part – this is all playing out in plain sight – ICANN uses all of Verisign’s talking points to justify its actions – that there is increased competition in the DNS due to the new gTLD program. But any entry-level economist will tell you otherwise – the legacy TLD’s have no competition because domains do not act as substitutes for one another.

        Here is what a professional economist recently said:

        If ICANN is not willing to put the contracts out for competitive tender – than it has every obligation in the world to make sure price hikes are justified.

        If ICANN does not want to be a price regulator anymore – than it has to put the contracts out for competitive tender.

        One way or the other.

        But under no circumstance should ICANN have no-bid, monopoly contacts – and allow those monopolist to continue raising prices without any justification……

      • Kevin Murphy says:

        Thanks for the comment Avri.

        What do you mean by your statement that you “stand behind” the majority vote of the board?

        Do you mean that you have changed your mind about the way you voted? Do you now believe that the acquisition should have been approved?

        Or are you just saying that you respect the fact that you lost the vote?

  2. DomainBoss says:

    I am just glad that this Anti-Public deal was finally rejected.

    ICANN has done first good thing in their entire existence even though under pressure but still I appreciate it.

    Now let’s move on to get the Veri(bad)Sign barred from managing the dot-COM registry.
    This monopoly must end and dot-COM contract must be put on comepetitive bidding.

    dot-COM price needs to be $1, not $10 which is just a huge fraud. When is the anti-trust case coming against ….?

  3. John says:

    Where are the statements from the other ICANN board members?

    Who attended these secret meetings? Jones Day and JJ likely advised the board on what to do.

    Why does ICANN need to have secret meetings? How is this in the spirit of full transparency?

  4. Mark Thorpe says:

    ICANN never walks a straight line and tells the whole truth, so them saying the entire Board stands by this decision, but really didn’t, does not surprise me.

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