[NA-Discuss] Request to have a Fast Track PDP initiated

Danny Younger dannyyounger at yahoo.com
Wed Dec 1 06:15:13 UTC 2010

If you'll bear with me, I'd like to continue this discussion just a bit more before I reply individually to the comments and questions that have been put forth so far on this topic.

I was fortunate enough to have been a participant in the Washington DC GNSO session that first gave rise to the principles governing the new gTLD process, and as high-level principles should be guiding all of our actions in this matter allow me to call your attention to the very first principle that was articulated by the GNSO:

"New generic top-level domains (gTLDs) must be introduced in an orderly, timely and predictable way."

An orderly introduction is vital because admittedly ICANN has had serious problems in the past with earlier gTLD rollouts... and if major problems emerged in what amounted to a very limited rollout, then just imagine what could well happen in a rollout of 200 to 500 TLDs.

A brief bit of history: 

As Miriam Sapiro of Summit Strategies noted in her report on the earlier proof-of-concept-TLDs, "the lack of any screening or verification in the .info Sunrise period led to serious abuses, including an unusually high number (43%) of registrations that had to be cancelled or transferred."  In that earlier episode a total of 15,172 cases needed to be acted upon by WIPO between December 26, 2001 and August 26, 2002 -- this due to the fact that insufficient scrutiny allowed for an ICANN-Afilias Registry Agreement to be drafted that did not require Afilias to examine the validity of Sunrise registrations.

Insufficient scrutiny, the failure to examine all possible loopholes that might be amenable to gaming, is that which allows disaster to happen.  If an opportunity can be exploited, we have learned that it most assuredly will be exploited.

So, now we need to ask ourselves if the first policy principle articulated by the GNSO is sufficient to deal with the potential host of problems that might emerge... or if that first principle needs to be bolstered with additional policy constructs (so that ICANN staff can have a better set of tools with which to implement/actualize the principle).

Can we, in fact, have an orderly and predictable rollout in an environment where no policy on domain name speculation by registrars exists and wherein new cross-ownership circumstances might indeed occasion misbehaviors?  Perhaps... 

If Staff (in its role as the organization's policy-implementor) pays heed to the recent Board call for "additional enforcement mechanisms", and actually produces mechanisms designed to stave off the type of abuses that we have recently seen, then maybe the GNSO's first principle will be sufficient without the need for additional policy guidance.

Unfortunately, however, no such additional mechanisms nor graduated sanctions (also called for by the Board) have appeared in the latest version of the DAG -- so we can't be certain that we can actually trust the ICANN Staff to do the right thing for the community.  The at-large might want to have further conversations with ICANN Staff on this point in Cartagena (as policy implementation is supposed to be their baliwick).

What we do know for a certainty is the current philosophy of the ICANN Board on this topic.  In their latest resolution they stated:  "ICANN will have the ability to address possible abuses that may arise out of registry-registrar cross-ownership through the consensus policy process."

... and therein lies our best solution.

Rather than crafting a policy on the topic of registrar domain name speculation in the form of an "amendment" to the RAA or as part of a "revised" RAA (which might not be adopted by many registrars until their next renewal cycle some four-to-five years hence), we need to think in terms of drafting the policy as a "consensus policy" initiative which upon adoption by the Board necessarily goes into immediate effect.

I understand that some might wonder if it's even possible to arrive at a consensus policy formulation in the face of probable opposition by the registrar community.  By way of reminder, consensus is not the same as unanimity.  If the remainder of the community agrees that a policy is warranted, then such a policy may indeed go into effect over the objections of a self-interested party.  

With that said, we are facing a future in which ICANN has publicly committed through its Affirmation "that as it contemplates expanding the top-level domain space, the various issues that are involved will be adequately addressed prior to implementation".  We have together recognized an issue that has impacted a ccTLD launch and which could equally impact future gTLD launches, and now we have a duty as members of the ICANN community to see to it that it is "adequately addressed".  

While several options may be put forth ranging from enhanced Staff implementation efforts to participation in the GNSO's RAA amendment/revision process, we are likely best served by utilizing the tools at our disposal that allow us to place an "issue" in the hands of the GNSO:

"An Advisory Committee may raise an issue for policy development by action of such committee to commence the PDP, and transmission of that request to the GNSO Council."

If we can narrowly frame the issue and provide short and succinct policy guidance in our request, then I believe that the Policy Development Process can move forward on an expedited or fast-track basis.

I look forward to seeing the ALAC once again standing up to defend the user interest, and I look forward to just a bit more discussion to better scope the way forward.  


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