GAC – ICANN Meeting: First-Day Recap

Josh Bourne ⬥ 28 February

The first day of the GAC-ICANN Board meeting was very encouraging. Governments appear to be aware of the difficulties that businesses and consumers would face should the new TLD launch move forward, and are pressing ICANN on these issues.

It’s great to see that governments are going to bat for their constituencies. Since ICANN is largely driven by the policy desires of contracted parties, the voice of non-contracted parties is often stifled, and for these non-contracted parties to finally have their issues taken up by the GAC is a triumph for the multistakeholder model that ICANN claims to hold to.

Some of the chatter around the meeting balked at the GAC’s attempt to exercise its authority. Some dismissed the concerns of non-contracted party stakeholders, stating that they shouldn’t complain just because things aren’t going their way. But the fact of the matter is, governments and their constituencies – the consumers of the product that ICANN regulates – have legitimate complaints about how that product is being managed. The GAC meeting is a great step towards the proper acknowledgement of those complaints, but now ICANN must prove its dedication to its multistakeholder model and work with the GAC to resolve those complaints.

Here are some specific concerns raised by countries:

The United States
– Governments are the voice of businesses and consumers and, as a result, they need answers to the questions that “management” typically asks. GAC representatives are also the servants of their respective administrations rather than the voice of their administrations.
– For the sake of businesses and consumers, there need to be strong provisions that keep bad actors from being awarded new TLDs; for example, what if a criminal enterprise gets .BANK?
– ICANN should be aware of what law enforcement must contend with online. Thus, the ICANN Board should meet with law enforcement so that ICANN can be briefed on all the issues occurring in the domain name space.
– There is concern about how ICANN’s limited resources will allow the organization to properly exercise diligence in evaluating new TLD applications.

The United Kingdom
– Registries should know who the right point of contact is in every country; the U.S. agrees, stating that criminal and civil agencies should have a “point of contact” with registries.

– What is ICANN going to do with all that money should subscription be as high as they expect?

– A country should be able to decide which level of its government is able to file a letter of support or non-objection.

– Developing counties lack resources, and need greater support for running their own TLDs

– Agreed that developing countries are at a disadvantage in the new TLD process, given the high-cost barrier to entry. Something should be done to address this.

– ICANN should be obliged to follow court decisions that occur in a particular country. This issue will be revisited during tomorrow’s sessions.

The general tone of the meeting was to raise questions about the new TLD process, and it’s clear that governments are skeptical about ICANN’s proposed TLD approval process and its ability to maintain a newly expanded space. What remains to be seen, however, is what solutions (if any) will be discussed by the ICANN Board. 

Tags: businesses, consumers, contracted parties, developing countries, France, GAC, Germany, ICANN, Kenya, law enforcement, multistakeholder model, non-contracted parties, Norway, Senegal, The United Kingdom, TLDs, United States

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