International Confederation of Free Trade Unions
A. General Description of the Application
- TLD String(s) Requested.
The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (“ICFTU”) requests the .union TLD to support trade unions on a global basis. ICFTU targets a restricted registrant base and a large end user group with a majority of its focus on non-commercial uses. Accordingly, ICFTU qualifies for the special purpose category.
- Sponsor, Registry Operator and Subcontractor.
ICFTU is an "Association de fait" under Belgium Law and is a non-profit organization. The ICFTU has General Consultative Status with the Economic and the Social Counsel of the United Nations. Pursuant to its Constitution, the ICFTU represents "the free and democratic trade unions of the world." The ICFTU has 216 affiliated organizations in 145 countries and territories and represents 123 million workers. The ICFTU claims to represent, either directly or indirectly through its constitutional organs, all the different existing categories of trade unions. Application for the .union TLD will only be accepted from organizations (not from individuals) that are bona fide trade unions or their ancillary organizations.
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, its 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 partner, Sun International. Poptel claims to be one of the first ISPs in the U.K. to offering online services since 1986. Poptel currently offers: (1) Technical Services, which include a comprehensive range of Internet access solutions, (2) Content Services, which includes 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.
The ICFTU proposes to limit registrars only on basis of their “ability to deliver, their knowledge of the market and needs of trade unions, and based on their respect for worker self-organization.”
B. Technical Review
- Summary Description of Proposal.
ICFTU and Poptel propose a sponsored TLD dedicated to trade unions. They estimate that 200,000 unions worldwide potentially would register. Technically the proposal breaks no new ground, utilizing standard DNS administration tools. The technical proposal appears to be identical to the NCBA .coop 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 it 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.
The Name Servers are located in Poptel NOCs in Manchester, UK and London, UK. For improved resistance to external problems it might be appropriate to host one or more Name Servers in other countries or other continents. The London NOC is not yet operational.
Capacity planning for the Name Servers and other systems appears to have been developed based on the estimated number of names to be registered. The Registry Operator 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 provides few contributions to the state of the art.
- Other Comments.
There was little that was innovative about the technical proposal.
C. Business Review
- Applicant’s Representations.
The goal of the ICFTU is to advance the interests of the international community of trade union organizations through its existing constitutional organs. The activities of the ICFTU are financed by the fees paid by its affiliated organizations. Its year-end 1999 revenue and net current assets were approximately $11.7 million and $5.4 million.
Poptel is an Internet service provider primarily to the social enterprise sector, such as trade unions and co-operatives. Its services include: (i) full Internet services, (ii) web-site and database development and hosting and (iii) domain have registrations. Poptel currently has 55 employees.
The pricing model is subscription-based and variable, depending on the per capita GNP of the organization's country; $53 annual registry fee for the richest 50 countries and $17 for the poorest 70 countries (recommended registrar fee is $88 and $28, respectively). Poptel will serve as the initial registrar, then opening up to other registrars. The target market for the .union TLD is the 200,000 worldwide trade unions as defined by the ICFTU.
- ICANN’s Evaluation.
The strengths of this application lie in (1) its thorough assessment of the market, (2) its outline of business processes and (3) 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. Overall, this is could lead to a successful new TLD given the limited expected demand and targeted market.
D. Summary of Public Comments
- Number of Comments.
- Support for the Application.
.union will give unions “a clearer and stronger voice on the internet” and “increase worker voices and support democracy on the Internet”.
.union TLD will work to counter “the ways in which information is increasingly getting monopolized by a domain name.”
.union would further increase the already important role of the internet in international trade union activity.
.union will prevent non-unions from registering domain names that can be confused with the names of trade union.
Currently unions do not have a natural home within the constraints of .com/.org/.net. .union will solve this.
- Opposition to Application.
.union is too narrow and there is no principled reason for granting a TLD to unions and not to other groups.
There is no international consensus on how trade unions should be set up and how they should operate. Not all ICFTU are democratic or controlled by their members.
ICFTU will have too much power to decide who is and is not a bona fide union.