[NA-Discuss] Cities, Citizens, and Internet Governance - A submission to NETmundial

Thomas Lowenhaupt toml at communisphere.com
Tue Mar 11 04:09:32 UTC 2014


I submitted the below to NETmundial. Your thoughts appreciated.


Tom Lowenhaupt


Cities, Citizens, and Internet Governance

Submitted to NetMundial by Thomas Lowenhaupt on behalf of Connecting.nyc 

March 8, 2014


Most of us live in cities that are only now beginning to take advantage 
of that critical Internet infrastructure, the Top Level Domain. While 
our lives are increasingly affected by digital developments enabled by 
the Internet, city residents have scant access to the governance 
structures that establish the policies, standards, and practices that 
guide the Net's operation. This submission suggests ways cities and 
their residents can better participate in Internet governance at the 
local and global levels.


When ICANN earnestly activated its new TLD issuance responsibilities in 
2005, its initial inclination was to view cities as outside the scope of 
entities eligible for Top Level Domains. After a persuasive campaign by 
representatives from Berlin, Barcelona, New York, Paris, Tokyo and other 
global cities, that viewpoint changed and cities were included within 
ICANN's 2008 resolution authorizing a new TLD program.

As the ICANN community struggled through the long process of developing 
an Applicant Guidebook, many in the city-TLD community noted that the 
needs of cities and their probable use of TLDs differed in significant 
ways from those of generic and business TLDs. And they urged that a 
different set of requisites for city-TLDs be established. Additionally, 
these proponents urged that cities be forewarned about the implications 
of a TLD, enabling cities to better prepare for the responsibilities 
entailed in their planning and operation.

However, the challenges surrounding the completion of an Applicant 
Guidebook and pressure from eager applicants did not allow for applicant 
categories. And the only significant interventions  were those proffered 
by ICANN's Government Advisory Committee (GAC) on behalf of the 
integrity of geographic names.

As of March 2014 it seems likely that approximately 35 cities will 
receive TLDs in the coming year.

This submission advances two topics for consideration by NETmundial. The 
first involves changes to the city-TLD issuance and development process 
and for the inclusion of cities in Internet governance processes. The 
second suggests a means for cities and individual Internet users to 
better participate in Internet governance processes.

Cities and Top Level Domains

Cities are amongst the oldest and most complex entities we encounter in 
our daily lives. They house more than half our planet's population, with 
U.N. estimates projecting that will rise to 75% by mid-century. Cities 
are the places from which a preponderance of ideas and economic 
development emerge. And there's growing acceptance that a sustainable 
planet is likely to arise from the efficiencies of urban areas.

To date, the digital needs of cities have been given short shrift by 
Internet technologists and the Net's governance ecology. As remedy, we 
offer the following suggestions.


    The Roadmap should recommend a more robust process for issuing
    city-TLDs. This should include a recommendation that the TLD issuing
    entity provide an informative and enlightening application process
    for cities considering TLD acquisition. While the "letter of
    non-objection'" required of the 2012 city-TLD applicants held the
    spirit of informed consent, the inclusion of a detailed scoping of a
    city-TLDs utility to residents, local businesses, quality of life,
    government operation, and global identity would better contribute to
    their efficacious planning and development.


    Cities do not have a formal place in the Internet governance
    ecology. While a City-TLD Governance and Best Practices workshop was
    held at the 2010 IGF in Vilnius, follow-up has been scant. At ICANN,
    there's a move to include city-TLDs within the Registry Constituency
    of the GNSO, but only as part of a broader geographic
    representation. However, considering their size, their unique needs,
    and their importance to the global economy and a sustainable planet,
    we urge that cities be considered a full stakeholder within any
    multistakeholder regime.

A Message From The Bottom

Our lives are increasingly affected by digital activities enabled by the 
Internet. Yet Internet users have modest access to the "bottom-up" 
governance structures that establish the policies, standards, and 
practices that guide the Net's operation.

Here in New York City we've experienced a small inkling of the potential 
of bottom-up participation in Internet oversight and management through 
two At-Large Structures. One is operated by the New York Internet 
Society, a chapter of the global Internet Society, and another by 
Connecting.nyc Inc., an advocacy and education organization focused on 
the development of the .nyc TLD. For those not familiar with the role of 
the At-Large Structures within ICANN, here's a brief history.

In its early days ICANN provided for strong representation of individual 
Internet users in its decision making processes. It did so by allocating 
5 seats on its board of directors to be filled by Internet users, with 
each of ICANN's regions selecting one member via a direct election. One 
such election was held and, for a time, 5 ICANN board members were 
selected by individual Internet users.

The corporation found fault with the selection process and replaced the 
user-selected members with an appointed At-Large Advisory Committee and 
a Nominating Committee charged with selecting several board members.

In recent years the At-Large was reconstituted and now participates in 
selecting one (1) voting member to ICANN's board of directors. This 
member is selected via a multi-staged process that provides for each 
At-Large Structure (organizations with membership and other structures) 
casting a vote for its preferred board member.

While one board member is better than none, by any measure, under 
today's governance formation, the world's 2+ billion individual Internet 
users and the At-Large Structure's impact on ICANN's governance 
decisions remains tenuous.

In our role as an At-Large Structure Connecting.nyc Inc. has observed a 
significant improvement of the At-Large's operation over the past 
several years. As one example, this past year the At-Large made 
significant contributions more than a dozen ICANN policy considerations.

But far more can be achieved by expanding and enhancing user engagement 
the through the following actions.


    The number of seats selected by individual Internet users on ICANN's
    board of directors should be increased. Reverting to the original 5
    seats seems a reasonable short term target.


    The new board seats should be allocated as of old, one per ICANN region.


    The new seats should be selected by direct vote of each region's
    At-Large Structures. (There are currently 180 At-Large Structures in
    the 5 regions.)


    The number of At-Large Structures should to be increased with
    additional resources provided to facilitate their operation.


    Care should be taken to assure that participation by the poor and
    the marginalized is facilitated.


    Concomitant with this resource allocation there needs to be improved
    transparency and accountability measures for the At-Large.


    In those instances where At-Large Structures exist in cities with
    TLDs, city government should be provided with ex officio participation.

For those interested in learning more about the At-Large, an At-Large 
Summit is to be held during ICANN's June 2014 London meeting, with a 
representative from each of the At-Large Structures in attendance.

If is our belief that engaging cities as stakeholders and expanding the 
At-Large will democratize and enhance the ICANN's operation.


Connecting.nyc Inc. is a New York State not-for-profit formed in 2006 to 
advocate and facilitate the development of the .nyc TLD as a public 
interest resource. In 2012 it was recognized as an At-Large Structure by 

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