[At-Large] - Price caps - was: The Case for Regulatory Capture at ICANN | Review Signal Blog

Evan Leibovitch evan at telly.org
Thu Jun 27 03:13:51 UTC 2019

On Wed, 26 Jun 2019 at 16:44, Karl Auerbach <karl at cavebear.com> wrote:

> I've changed the subject line to reflect the forking of the conversation.
> There seem to be several points in this conversation:

>    2. That some people want the end (registry+registrar) pricing of
> domains to be so high as to discourage either speculation or rapid
> changes (i.e. to help scammers hide.)

That PoV is deeper than you suggest. At least to me, underpriced domain
names not only encourage speculation, they starve ICANN from resources
needed to do adequate research into the consequences of its actions, or
have adequete anti-abuse activities. As we're seeing with government
backlash against GAFA, tech entitles are deliberately oblovious to the
aftermath of what they do and expect the rest of society to clean up their
mess. ICANN is a minor player compared to the tech giants but no less
guilty of their arrogance and cluelessness writ small.

   3. That domain name registrants are a distinct class of people (to a
> degree an overlapping class) with internet users and that thus one must
> not let the former "stakeholders'" interests replace the latter
> "stakeholders'" interests.

Heh. This point takes very little time to be confirmed, by your own words.
See below.

1. Many of us (myself included) are effectively trapped into the legacy
> TLDs. The cost of changing to a new TLD is high, and ICANN's arbitrary
> ten year limit on registrations, coupled with weak limits on price
> increases, means that even if we change we would remain unprotected
> against predatory pricing.

This goes to the whole ICANN-created concept of domains as a rental good
rather than property. There could easily be a regime through which the
ownership of the domain, and the contracting of the service to enable it,
are two separate transactions.

This would be similar to the current way mobile phones work almost
everywhere in the world except the US, where the purchase of ones phone is
once and stable, and once procured you shop for the best provider. Over my
lifetime my phones have seen SIM cards from many different providers and I
am free to change them without penalty or fear of losing my phone.
Similarly, the one-time aquisition of a domain name could (and IMO should)
be a fully separate transaction from the provision of the technical service
to resolve it. ICANN *could* have this model -- but that would force RSPs
to compete at a consumer level. Of course they don't want that, and since
they (and the rest of the cartel that likes the status quo) have no
interest in change, neither does ICANN.

> To start this conversation, ICANN ought to initiate a review of the actual
> costs incurred by legacy TLDs [...]

This just extends the status quo monopoly, while steering into the "R" word
that ICANN dreads. Transition from monopoly to regulated monopoly. Might
work as a half-measure, but ICANN has spent decades telling the world that
it's not a credible regulator and I accept that admission.

 2. Speculators get a bad name - but we all do it.

NO WE DON'T. Please don't tar me with your ethics. Every single domain I
have chosen not to use I let expire and send back to the pool. I just sent
another one back this week.

And thank you for addressing your own issue of "distinct classes of people"
head-on. Who is this "we" of which you speak? To me, it's the <1% of the
world that knows how to play the ICANN game, while everyone else gets
played. You've just helped demonstrate the point, that your interests are
out-of-sync with the general public that bears the cost of speculation
through confusion and susceptibility to abuse and fraud. Your "we" is a
bubble far removed from the realities of people who use the Internet and
have no idea what "DNS" means.

My own company has learned to never relinquish a no-longer needed name
> because of the risk of those names falling into the hands of those who
> find it useful to tarnish our corporate reputation.  So we bear a cost -
> probably for the life of the company - to retain those names.)

The issue of defensive registrations -- which could partially be reduced
through higher domain fees -- is important, but beyond the scope of this
discussion and well beyond ICANN's ability to fix. (Aside: If abuse of a
name can tarnish your reputation, then it's hardly "no longer needed")

The ill consequences of speculation are many, not the least of which is the
artificial scarcity that enabled the domain industry to push for more
otherwise-unneeded TLDs, and more poor choices for name owners trying to
prevent use of domains to tarnish their reputation.

If we are worried about scammers (and I count myself among those who are
> concerned) who use and then abandon names rapidly and bear little cost
> for doing so, let me suggest that we begin with an easier proposition:
> Change the five minute name server update time that came into existence
> under ICANN to something more like the prior 24 hours, or something in the
> middle, like 6 hours.

You really think this will solve anything?

3. As I've made clear over the years, I find the "stakeholder" model
> to be quite contrary to the notion of bottom-up governance. And here is
> a case in point.  If a particular person is to be pre-designated as a
> "domain name registrant" or "user" or "small business" or "intellectual
> property user" then that pre-designation distorts the distillation of
> views and, thus, outcomes.  In political terms here in the US we use the
> term "Gerrymandering" for that kind of shaping of the interests.
It's not that complex. Are you saying that there is not point in making a
distinction between consumers and suppliers? And that there is never a need
to protect comsumers as a "distinct" group?

> I've long said that the atomic unit of interest is the individual human
> being.  By allowing only individual humans to be recognized, or rather,
> to be counted, when measuring a proposal we push the resolution of
> conflicts into each person as he/she resolves his/her own various interests.

Funny how so few societies today have such direct democracy. There's a
reason for that.

In a society that thrives on the division of labour, people can't and
shouldn't be expected to know all the little details of everything that
affects their lives. Supposedly that's the role of a democratic
representative government, which enables the public to outsource
policymaking except in those few areas in which they have specific interest
and/or expertise.

If ICANN really wants to do real, credible surveys of the public to
determine its priorities and direction, count me in. If I had my way most
of ALAC's budget would be redirected to research and public education. But
from what I've seen, though, when the power is taken only by individuals
who are financially or otherwise motivated to assert that power, we get the
traditional set of talking heads at ICANN Public Forums, limited to those
who can afford (or most usually, have patrons who can afford) their
presence. No thank you. If that's the option on offer, I'll take my chances
with governments.

When I think of my personal role in ALAC I am not defending the interests
of myself, but rather of my family members, friends and colleagues who can
barely boot up their laptops and for whom I'm usually tech support -- how
does ICANN's work affect them? At my peak of ALAC involvement I had a
challenge keeping up with all the moving parts, most of which has been made
overly complex so to deter the amateurs. Little has changed. We talk a good
game about outreach but it takes a special kind of masochism for someone to
be sufficiently capable in ICANN processes who does not have a financial
interest in its decisions. Its also expensive, even for those who are

So I'll happily push back on the wish for a direct-democracy utopia at
ICANN unless you're prepared to let the domain industry and the technical
community be outvoted by Paul Foody.

 (I would go so far as to deny corporations to have countable opinions - if
> a corporate entity can't prevail upon its employees or owners to express
> support for the corporate interest then why should we undertake to do so?
> Of course, a corporate interest, as should any, interest, be allowed to
> provide information and express its point of view.  But that should be
> merely information that gains weight only as it is accepted by individual
> humans.)

Nice theory. But in the ICANN travelling roadshow, the only humans that can
keep up are the ones that are paid to do it full-time. And everyone else is
at a loss.

First eliminate all ICANN F2F meetings except for minimal AGMs. Make
everything virtual so that money isn't a barrier to participating on an
equal footing, and then we can treat further moves seriously. That's a
necessary first step,


- Evan
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