Subject: Request of the Pitcairn Island Council for Redelegation of .pn Top-Level Domain
Date: February 11, 2000
The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (the IANA), as part of the administrative functions associated with management of the domain-name system root, is responsible for receiving requests for delegation and redelegation of top-level domains, investigating the circumstances pertinent to those requests, and reporting on the requests. In September 1997, the IANA received a request for redelegation of the .pn (Pitcairn Island) top-level domain. This report gives the findings and conclusions of the IANA on its investigation of that request.
Factual and Procedural Background
On July 10, 1997, the IANA approved a request for initial delegation of the top-level domain .pn. At that time and today, that two-letter code was and is set forth on the ISO 3166-1 maintained by the ISO 3166 Maintenance Agency (ISO 3166/MA) <http://www.din.de/gremien/nas/nabd/iso3166ma/index.html> as the approved Alpha-2 code for Pitcairn Island.
Pitcairn Island is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom. (The territory is formally known as Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie, and Oeno Islands, due to the inclusion of some outlying islets.) The territory, located in the South Pacific at 25º 04' S, 130º 06' W, has a total population consisting of approximately 50 descendants of the Bounty mutineers and their Tahitian wives. Local government of Pitcairn Island consists of an Island Council elected mostly by the inhabitants of the island (with a few appointed members) and an elected Island Magistrate and Chairman of the Island Council. The UK Government appoints a Governor of the territory and a Commissioner responsible for liaison between the Governor and the Island Council.
Pitcairn Island's telephone service consists of a local party-line telephone system. International telephone service is limited to Inmarsat service within a daily window. The local system is not presently capable of transmitting e-mail. The island has no airstrip. The economy consists of subsistence farming, fishing, and handicrafts made for sale to passing ships.
The original delegation of the .pn top-level domain was made in the name of Tom Christian as administrative contact and Nigel Roberts as technical contact. The listed organization was Pitcairn Names (Orichalk Ltd). Mr Christian (the great-great-great grandson of Fletcher Christian) is resident on Pitcairn. Mr Roberts is a private computer consultant with an address in the Channel Islands and is associated with Orichalk Ltd. The .pn top-level domain has been used predominantly for registration of domain names to entities not affiliated with the territory, in exchange for a fee collected by Orichalk.
Shortly after the initial delegation was made, on September 8, 1997 Leon Salt, Commissioner for Pitcairn Island, wrote to the IANA stating that:
The Government of Pitcairn Island has concluded, after due process of examination and consultation, that the persons who have assumed the management of the PN top-level domain, currently registered at IANA, do not adequately serve the interests os [sic] the country and community of Pitcairn Island.
The letter requested revocation of the delegation to Messrs Christian and Roberts and a redelegation to the Office of the Governor of Pitcairn Island, with nameservice to be provided by a consultant in New Zealand.
On October 16, 1997, the IANA requested that Commissioner Salt contact Mr Roberts to discuss and seek to resolve the situation by agreement.
On October 24, 1997, the Pitcairn Island Council met on the island and requested the Commissioner, Leon Salt, who was then visiting, to seek transfer of the .pn top-level domain to the Pitcairn Island Administration (located in New Zealand). In a letter dated November 3, 1997, the Chairman of the Island Council and Chief Island Magistrate, Jay Warren, conveyed the sentiments of the Council to Commissioner Salt:
At our meeting held on the 24th of October 1997, the island council has requested me to convey to you that we would like the Pitcairn Island administration to obtain the domain name "pn" for exclusive use in reference to Pitcairn Island. The Island Council feels it is important to ensure the name "Pitcairn Island" and its abbreviated form "pn" should serve the interest of Pitcairn Island and the islanders rather than the interest of any individual or organisation not connected with the island.
Commissioner Salt forwarded this letter to the IANA and requested a redelegation of the .pn domain naming the Commissioner as administrative contact.
In an e-mail to the IANA dated November 18, 1997, Commissioner Salt stated that the original delegates were not providing any service for the community and noted plans, under the requested redelegation, to pr ovide Internet access to the Island by implementing a functioning e-mail system.
By e-mail to the IANA, Mr Roberts expressed his objection, and conveyed Mr Christian's objection, to the redelegation. There ensued, at Mr Roberts' behest, a series of discussions in the UK Government, and Mr Roberts reported to the IANA in a November 23, 1997 e-mail that "the very highest level in London" was considering whether to recommend a course contrary to the request of the Pitcairn Island Council. A meeting was held on January 23, 1998 among Mr Roberts and various UK Government officials, but the UK Government continued to support the Pitcairn Island Council's request and no resolution was achieved.
On July 21, 1998, Baroness Simons, the UK Government Minister with responsibility for UK Overseas Territories, including Pitcairn Island, wrote to the IANA requesting redelegation consistent with the wishes of the Pitcairn Island Council. On July 28, 1998, Commissioner Salt reiterated the Pitcairn Island Administration's request for redelegation. On August 3, 1998, Mr Roberts sent the IANA another e-mail objecting to redelegation as requested by the Pitcairn Island Council. On August 14, 1998, Dr Postel (then Director of the IANA) wrote to Baroness Simons expressing concern that Mr Roberts had not cooperated with the transfer that had been requested and suggesting that she contact Mr Roberts to seek to achieve a cooperative resolution.
On September 8, 1998, Baroness Simons wrote to the IANA expressing regret over Mr Roberts' lack of cooperation and stating that the original delegation violated the guidelines of RFC 1591 in that the administrative contact (Mr Christian) did not have a direct link to the Internet. She also noted that the Island Council should have been consulted when the delegation was made.
On September 22, 1998, the IANA advised Mr Roberts of its belief that the redelegation would be appropriate. On September 23, 1998, Mr Roberts replied again, once again objecting. After receipt of this letter, the redelegation was delayed. No activity occurred at the IANA on this matter for some time, due to Dr. Postel's death on October 16, 1998, and the transition of responsibility for performing the IANA function from the University of Southern California to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.
On September 2, 1999, Commissioner Salt forwarded to the IANA a petition signed by Pitcairn residents requesting the redelegation:
We, the undersigned, being residents of Pitcairn Island, do hereby request and require that the management of our nation's Internet Top-Level Domain (.pn.) be reassigned forthwith to the Pitcairn Island Administration in Auckland, New Zealand, in accordance with the Island Council's instructions of 24th October 1997 and the letter from the Government of Pitcairn Island to IANA of September 1997.
In his accompanying e-mail, Commissioner Salt noted that the petition had been "signed by the entire resident adult population of Pitcairn Island (excluding other nationals), with the exception of two members of the community. Those two are Tom Christian, who is the present designated administrative contact, and his wife."
On September 3, 1999, Mr Roberts sent the IANA a message, once again objecting to the redelegation that had been requested by the Pitcairn Island Council and by the petition of the Pitcairn residents.
By a letter dated October 27, 1999, Tom Christian, the administrative contact for the .pn top-level domain, announced his support for the redelegation:
Following discussions with the resident community, Island Council, Information Technology advisers, and Government of the island, I now wish to change the delegation of the management of the tld as detailed below.
At this time, our island does not have the telecommunications infrastructure required for affordable Internet access for island residents. I am satisfied, however, that under the new tld management, we will have the best opportunity for the introduction of such infrastructure, bringing the benefits of the Internet to the whole community here.
* * *
Please make the change to the new management with immediate effect.
Mr Christian accompanied his letter with a modification template requesting redelegation as sought by the Island Council and the petition.
On December 1, 1999, Mr Roberts sent the IANA an e-mail that mentioned a possible compromise based on restructuring of the .pn domain. Mr Roberts also agreed to voluntarily suspend accepting registrations for the .pn domain.
On December 17, 1999, the IANA sent Mr Roberts an e-mail notifying him that the IANA was investigating the request for redelegation of the .pn top-level domain and summarizing the principal correspondence the IANA had received on the matter. Mr Roberts was invited to submit any additional comments he might have on the matter by December 31, 1999. The IANA's e-mail also suggested that Mr Roberts convey his compromise proposal directly to Commissioner Salt.
On December 27, 1999, Mr Roberts requested additional time to respond to the December 17 e-mail. On December 30, 1999, the IANA extended its invitation for responses until January 10, 2000, and indicated that no further delays should be expected. On January 4, 2000, Ron Collins, who is also affiliated with Orichalk, indicated that Mr Roberts would no longer be involved with the .pn top-level domain at Orichalk. Mr Collins also requested an additional extension of time (until January 31, 2000) to respond to the December 17 IANA e-mail. No substantive response has been received since then; instead, on January 31, 2000 Mr Collins requested yet another extension, for thirty more days.
On January 19, 2000, the Head of the Overseas Territories Department of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office wrote the IANA to advise that he had received a compromise proposal from Mr Collins, but that, after fully considering the proposal in good faith and with the interests of the Internet community in mind, the Pitcairn Island Administration (PIA) did not find the proposal acceptable. He also noted that "[t]he PIA and the UK Government are also agreed that the Pitcairn community, as the appropriate party, should be allowed to determine the management and administration of .pn."
This report is being provided under the contract for performance of the IANA function between the United States Government and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. Under that contract, the IANA function that ICANN is responsible for performing includes:
- Administrative functions associated with root management. This function involves facilitation and coordination of the root zone of the domain name system. It includes . . . receiving delegation and redelegation requests, investigating the circumstances pertinent to those requests, and reporting on the requests. This function, however, does not include authorizing modifications, additions, or deletions to the root zone file or associated information that constitute delegation or redelegation of top-level domains. The [IANA contract does] not alter root system responsibilities defined in Amendment 11 of the Cooperative Agreement.
An important component of Internet stability is adherence to past practices in delegation and redelegation matters. Those practices are summarized in "Internet Domain Name System Structure and Delegation" (ICP-1), which was issued in May 1999 to reflect "the current policies being followed by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) in administering delegations of Top Level Domain Names of the Internet Domain Names System (DNS)." ICP-1 represents an update of the portions of RFC 1591 (which was issued in March 1994) dealing with ccTLDs, to reflect evolution of the policies followed by the IANA through May 1999. Although there is ongoing consideration within the ICANN process of proposals for changes in policies concerning ccTLDs, no significant policies have yet been adopted that are at variance with ICP-1.
A fundamental principle reflected in ICP-1 is that ccTLDs are intended to be operated for the benefit of the Internet community in the nation or other territory with which the country-code is associated. As Dr Postel wrote in RFC 1591 (and as repeated in ICP-1):
The designated manager is the trustee of the TLD for both the nation, in the case of ccTLDs, and the global Internet community. Concerns about "rights" and "ownership" of domains are inappropriate. It is appropriate, however, to be concerned about "responsibilities" and "service" to the community.
Thus, in matters of delegation and redelegation of a ccTLD, the IANA seeks input from persons concerned or affected by the transfer, particularly those within the nation or territory which the ccTLD has been established to benefit. As Dr Postel observed in ccTLD News Memo #1 and as reiterated in ICP-1, the views of the government of the affected nation or territory are taken very seriously in this regard. Governmental views are particularly pertinent when the government is fulfilling its role of promoting management of the ccTLD in the public interest.
ccTLDs have been established to facilitate and promote the dispersion of the Internet globally. They allow the designated manager to adapt operations of the ccTLD to best meet the economic, cultural, and linguistic circumstances of the nation or territory involved.
In the case of a remote or developing nation or territory that has not yet attained affordable Internet access, such as Pitcairn Island, "proxy" DNS service outside of the nation or territory may be appropriate "as a temporary form of assistance to the creation of Internet connectivity in new areas." (ICP-1, section (a))
A key theme in the IANA's evaluation of redelegation matters is that the contending parties should seek to achieve a consensual solution to any disputes. As noted in ICP-1:
On a few occasions, the parties involved in proposed delegations or transfers have not been able to reach an agreement and the IANA has been required to resolve the matter. This is usually a long drawn out process, leaving at least one party unhappy, so it is far better when the parties can reach an agreement among themselves. [ICP-1, section (e)]
In this matter, for over two years the contending parties have discussed possible resolutions, but no consensual solution has been achieved. It is apparent that this is one of those circumstances in which non-consensual resolution is necessary.
Section (f) of ICP-1 discusses how redelegation requests are to be handled:
(f) Revocation of TLD Delegation. In cases where there is misconduct, or violation of the policies set forth in this document and RFC 1591, or persistent, recurring problems with the proper operation of a domain, the IANA reserves the right to revoke and to redelegate a Top Level Domain to another manager.
Several factors appear to make the present case particularly appropriate for redelgation:
1. All residents of Pitcairn Island, other than the administrative contact and his wife, have signed a petition requesting redelegation.
2. The administrative contact, Tom Christian, has separately endorsed and requested the redelegation.
3. The Pitcairn Island Council, which is the duly constituted local government, has formally requested the redelegation on behalf of the residents of the island.
4. The UK Government, which administers the territory's affairs, has given its support to the request of the Pitcairn residents and their local government.
5. The existing delegation, which has been in place for over two years, has not resulted in the introduction of reliable Internet connectivity on Pitcairn or in any other benefit to the relevant community.
6. The proposed new contacts (technical and administrative) have the technical qualifications to operate the ccTLD, have recognized their duty to operate the ccTLD for the benefit of the relevant community, and have put forward plans that would advance both the development of the Internet on Pitcairn and the interests of the Pitcairn community. These plans include (a) implementation of reliable e-mail connectivity on the island; (b) establishment of an official website at a .pn address to provide information to prospective tourists, and (c) creation of a .gov.pn subdomain to support the activities of the Pitcairn Island Administration. The operation of the .pn domain by nonresident commercial interests in this case appears to have thwarted these plans and is interfering with introduction of the Internet to the Pitcairn Island community.
It is the IANA's conclusion that the .pn top-level domain should be redelegated as requested by the Pitcairn Island Council and the petition of Pitcairn residents.