COOPERATIVE LEAGUE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A. General Description of the Application
- TLD String(s) Requested.
The Cooperative League of the United States of America, d/b/a the National Cooperative Business Association (“NCBA”) requests the .coop TLD to support cooperative enterprises on the Internet. NCBA targets a restricted registrant base, large end user group with a majority of it’s focus on non-commercial uses. Accordingly, NCBA qualifies in the special purpose category.
- Sponsor, Registry Operator and Subcontractor.
The NCBA was established in 1916 and has members across all industries. It claims to be the only cross industry co-operative organization in the US. Moreover, the International Co-operative Alliance ("ICA") is an independent, non-governmental association purporting to have over 230 member organizations from over 100 countries representing more than 750,000 co-operatives and 725 million individuals worldwide. The ICA has endorsed the NCBA's application and has pledged its support to the NCBA. The ICA is also one of the first non-governmental organizations accorded United Nations Consultative Status and today holds Category 1 Consultative Status with the UN Economic and Social Counsel. An applicant for the .co-op and/or .coop TLD must comply with certain principles outlined in Article 1.3 the of the NCBA's bylaws and constitution or they must represent a group of organizations/businesses that comply with these principles.
b. Registry Operator.
Poptel Limited ("Poptel") is a co-operative and describes itself as the only employee owned Internet service provider ("ISP"). Poptel was formed on October 20, 1999 for the transfer of assets and business operations from Soft Solution Limited, the predecessor company. Soft Solution Limited continues in existence as the major shareholder of Poptel on behalf of the employees of the company. A minority stake in Poptel is owned by Poptel Worldwide Ltd., a holding company between Soft Solution Limited and Poptel's venture capital partners, Sun International. Poptel claims to be one of the first ISPs in the U.K., offering online services since 1986. Poptel currently offering: (1) Technical Services, which include a comprehensive range of Internet access solutions, (2) Poptel's Content Services, which include designing and maintaining web sites for organizations with a social purpose in the public, voluntary, community and membership sectors, and (3) Organizational Services, which include providing Internet and application services to charities, membership organizations, campaigning and policy based groups and co-operatives.
Poptel has specified no subcontractor with which it currently intends to work.
- Registry-Registrar Model.
For the first 13 months of operations (the initial start-up period), Poptel will be the sole registrar. After the initial start-up period, other organizations will be allowed to apply to become registrars with no limitation as to the number which will be accepted. New registrars must, however, be ICANN accredited and must ascribe to the ICANN principals, maintain ethical business practices and be socially responsible.
B. Technical Review
- Summary Description of Proposal.
NCBA and Poptel propose a sponsored TLD dedicated to cooperative enterprises. They estimate that 750,000 enterprises worldwide would qualify, with over half being in Asia. Technically, the proposal breaks no new ground, utilizing standard DNS administration tools. The technical proposal appears to be identical to the ICFTU .union proposal.
- Support of the Business Plan by the Technical Plan.
a. Total Capacity.
The proposal relies on standard clustered server techniques to provide for scalability. The initial systems proposed are modest, but are easily replaced using standard methodologies with more powerful systems should demand require it.
b. Projected Growth Rate.
Estimated to be slow, so the proposed hardware meets the business plan requirements.
c. Startup Period.
Projected to be slow. The systems appear to be adequate to handle the land rush period (if one occurs).
d. Fault Tolerance.
Every component is fully redundant, with systems at NOCs in London, UK and Manchester, UK.
The system relies on standard security models, essentially cloning the existing NSI registry/registrar system.
- Summary of Relevant Experience.
Poptel has 14 years of experience providing a variety of online services to “charities, membership organizations, campaigning and policy based groups and co-operatives”, giving them knowledge of both the projected market for their services and the technical underpinnings of the Internet. Although Poptel provides registration services for its clients, it does not have direct experience as a registrar.
- Apparent Implementation Risks.
Poptel does not have in hand software to manage the registry function. They are evaluating software from third parties, but consider custom software to be the most likely solution. In the latter case, the software may suffer from the delays and errors common in immature code.
Capacity planning for the Name Servers and other systems appears to have been developed based on the estimated number of names to be registered. Poptel should be encouraged to consider whether some loading could be a consequence of the number of nameservers in the Internet and independent of the number of names under registration. For example, the frequency of robot driven Whois lookups might be independent of the number of registered names.
- Available of Human, Operational and Technical Resources to Cope with Unexpected Events.
Poptel is a small organization, with relatively modest technical and financial resources. Poptel alludes to a close association with Nominet, which may provide some depth in the event of emergencies.
- Advancing the State of the Art.
The technical plan is substantially similar to existing methods of handling registries.
- Other Comments.
C. Business Review
- Applicant’s Representations.
The NCBA, with the full endorsement of the ICA, submitted an application to sponsor a new TLD to more clearly delineate in the marketplace those enterprises and organizations that operate according to co-operative principles. The NCBA receives revenues from membership dues, fees and various contracts. Its year-end 1999 revenue and unrestricted net assets figures were approximately $16,585,000 and $1,004,000.
Poptel is an Internet service provider focused primarily to the social enterprise sector including but not limited to trade unions, co-operatives, volunteer organizations, development agencies. Its services include (i) full Internet services, and (ii) web-site and database development and hosting, and (iii) domain name registrations. Poptel currently has 55 employees.
The revenue model for the registry is subscription based with proposed registry charges of $20 and a recommended registrar fee of $75 with Poptel serving as the initial registrar. It is anticipated at the 50 percent confidence level that this will be opened up to other registrars after six months. The target market for this proposed top level domain is the 750,000 co-operative enterprises around the world.
- ICANN’s Evaluation.
The strengths of this application lie in its thorough assessment of the market and its outline of business processes and the critical objectives to perform these processes. The potential weakness is the limitation of sharing employees between the traditional services of Poptel and the new registry/registrar services. Poptel may be forced to increase its workforce. This should not be a huge impediment considering the size of operation sought. Overall, this is a solid application given the limited objectives of this application.
D. Summary of Public Comments
- Number of Comments.
- Support for the Application.
Approximately 50 of the positive comments are form letters from various cooperatives.
The rest of the positive comments came from people who identified themselves as either members or directors of coops or unaffiliated individuals.
- Opposition to Application.
“Whilst not objecting to the concept I think the idea of a 5 character tld with a dash in it is horrible. Besides being rejected by many systems that expect 2 or 3 character letter tlds, the beauty of the Internet addressing is that currently they are easily recognizable by their short alpha endings.”
- Substantive Comments and/or Questions.
“Coops are a legitimate form of enterprise…however, I question having a specific extension. Where does it stop? .LTD, .inc., .corp, .llc.”
“How will the Sponsor ensure that only legitimate coops are registered.”
[The people who asked this question were directed to the TLD policies in the Application.]
“Will only US co-ops be allowed to register?”
[Again these people were directed to the TLD policies. Additionally this question was answered by a representative from the National Cooperative Business Association. Who also offered to answer any other questions via email.]