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Comments on Registrar Guidelines
“We are looking for a globally and functionally representative
organization, operated on the basis of sound and transparent processes
that protect against capture by self-interested factions, and that
provides robust, professional management. The new entity’s processes
need to be fair, open, and pro-competitive. And the new entity needs to
have a mechanism for evolving to reflect changes in the constituency of
Becky Burr on the White Paper,
Comments on ICANN’s Guidelines for
After years of debate, after three proposals from Dr. Jon Postel, after
the IAHC proposal for the gTLD-MoU, and after the U.S. Government
intervened with the Green and White Paper processes, ICANN was given
conditional approval to assume the responsibilities of the so-called
NewCo. The conditions surrounding this approval were laid out in the MoU
between ICANN and the Commerce Department, a document designed to ensure
that ICANN lived up to the letter and the spirit of the White
Accreditation of Internet Domain Name Registrars
This author believes that this process has gone seriously astray, as
ICANN has ignored the vision as laid out by the White Paper, and in the
process, ignored the MoU with Commerce and the wishes of the Internet
As evidence of these comments, I hereby submit this analysis of these
Draft Guidelines for the Accreditation of Internet Domain Name
The Issue of Control
When all is said and done, the fight over the
Domain Name System is really a fight over the control of Internet
resources. And no-where is this more apparent than in these draft
Today, whenever a domain name is issued, a delegation of authority occurs
-- a delegation of authority that occurs at every level of the domain
name system. When the IANA delegates a Top Level Domain (TLD) to a
registry, that registry gains control over that zone file. In turn, when
a registry delegates a Second Level Domain (SLD) to a registrant, that
registrant gains control over that zone file. For example, the French
registry has control over all sub-delegations of domain names under .fr,
and America Online has control over all sub-delegations of domain names
These draft guidelines would drastically change these relationships. By
circumventing the registry-registrar-registrant relationship, ICANN is in
effect, claiming control over the entire name space. And
this control is not to be confused with benevolent or legitimate control,
for these guidelines allow ICANN to establish the following unilateral
and excessive precedents without any due process or community
- Establish a
tax for all netizens worldwide.
for all netizens worldwide.
- Establish a trademark policy
for all netizens worldwide.
- Establish ICANN as the
ultimate owner of all Intellectual Property in the Domain Name
- Establish an entirely new
channel for issuing domain names, one that is not yet formed, and
consequently, not in a position to offer any organized resistance to any
inappropriate policies as proposed under these draft guidelines.
The biggest shortcoming of these draft guidelines is not
inherent in any of the policies -- the biggest shortcoming has to do with
First, these guidelines have been developed by an interim
board, unelected and unaccountable to anyone. This in fact was one of
the major objections to selecting ICANN as NewCo from the members of the
Boston Working Group and the members of Open Root Server Confederation.
This in fact was one of the major reasons that the Commerce Department
required an MoU with ICANN, to ensure that this interim board lived up to
the letter and the spirit of the White Paper.
Second, these guidelines have been developed behind closed doors, without
any opportunity to comment on their formation. And even though we now
have a small window of opportunity to comment before the next ICANN board
meeting, we do not know what rules will be used to address concerns such
as these. Again, no process has been defined for moving forward.
Third, these guidelines far exceed their stated purpose. The most
distasteful aspects of this draft are the precedents it sets with regard
to business models, taxation, limitations on diversity, ownership of
intellectual property, etc. The appropriate vehicle to address these
questions, according to the White Paper, is the DNSO.
Free Markets and Cultural Diversity
When we look at the existing policies these draft
guidelines will impact, we find much diversity. Today, we have hundreds
of resellers who act just like registrars, without any formal licensing
process, and without any formal approval process. All of these resellers
have unique policies, and the market decides which ones will be
Similarly, we have many different policies with regard to trademarks.
Some ccTLDs have a formal review process, others require that a company
must be duly licensed in their jurisdiction before a domain name will be
issued. A similar level of diversity can be found with regard to
Whenever we attempt to create rules that apply to the entire Internet,
the result will be to limit diversity in the market place. In turn,
consumers will have less options, and more decisions will be made from on
high. The more restrictive the policies, the greater this impact on
diversity. Since these guidelines are very restrictive, they will result
in a large decrease in diversity.
In my opinion, this would be one of the worst decisions of our time.
After all, the Internet is the Internet because of its
diversity, not in spite of it.
Concerns over Capture
In many ways, these draft guidelines are a
reflection of the debate that has been raging over Internet governance.
On one side, we have the large, established organizations who want to
control this newest frontier. On the other, we have those who prefer
using free markets to drive innovation, service, diversity and
When we frame the debate in these terms, we find that the ICANN board is
actively pursuing a strategy consistent with the goal of the large,
established organizations. Presumably, they want to control this new
frontier to protect their current position. The implications of this are
that this board is already captured by these interests.
We are seeing a very similar pattern emerge in the DNSO formation
process, as well. The large, established organizations are refusing to
acknowledge that a domain name holder is a legitimate stakeholder in
domain name issues. They are not negotiating in good faith, and in fact,
appear to be using every trick in the book in an attempt to capture
control over the DNSO.
Finally, in an effort to resolve loose ends quickly, the Commerce
Department is prematurely plowing ahead with their plans to transfer
assets and authority to ICANN. Specifically, I’m referring to the
recently revised NIST Solicitation to award a sole source contract to
ICANN for the existing IANA functions. While the administration of the
root zone is specifically excluded from this offering, it says nothing
about the allocation of IP address blocks, which are at least an order of
magnitude more valuable than domain names.
The stated purpose of these draft guidelines is
to qualify prospective registrars who will bring competition to the
existing Network Solutions monopoly in .com, .net, and .org. These draft
guidelines go well beyond their stated purpose.
They establish ICANN as the owner of the entire name space in the Domain
Name System. They define a business model that features strict control
over the distribution of domain names, one that gives ICANN the arbitrary
authority to assess taxes without any due process. They define a new
channel of distribution that would circumvent many of the relationships
that exist today. Finally, they establish global standards that severely
limit the choice and diversity available to netizens worldwide.
These policies are simply not appropriate, and should not even be
considered until a duly formed DNSO is operational.
President, Iperdome, Inc.
I support a process whereby cultural values can coexist and compete. Over
time, this will likely lead to better relations between all countries of
the world, as we each learn to appreciate the cultural differences
between our connected societies.
Jay Fenello on Cultural Diversity,