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ICANN and the principle of subsidiarity: Governance of Community-based TLDs

  • To: 3gtld-guide@xxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: ICANN and the principle of subsidiarity: Governance of Community-based TLDs
  • From: Werner Staub <werner@xxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 22 Nov 2009 22:56:43 +0100

The current score-based description of community-based TLDs has been
improved by including the concept of community purpose. But it still
misses the essential difference between a community-based TLD and a
standard TLD.

A community-based TLD is one that has a credible and functioning
governance process on community level. This includes a transparent
accountability framework with a policy oversight body. The
community-based TLD must be designed to guarantee its ongoing
accountability to the underlying community.

A standard TLD is one where the governance and policy oversight process
is entrusted to ICANN.

The closer a TLD governance process is bound to the specific community,
the stronger are its policies and enforcement capabilities.

The more it is centralized in ICANN, the weaker are its policies and
enforcement capabilities. Widespread abusive or malicious conduct in
the current "unsponsored" gTLDs already demonstrates this.

Even more importantly, the higher the number the TLDs with ICANN as the
sole governance body, the less ICANN is able to fulfill its mandate.
ICANN gets stuck in a governance bottleneck.

This is precisely why the concept of sponsored TLDs was introduced in
2000 and also applied in 2004. It involves a delegation of governance
tasks and policy-making authority. The same concept must be used for
community-based TLDs.

This concept is called the principle of subsidiarity: the "higher"
(more central) organization (ICANN) only handles governance tasks that
cannot be handled on the "lower" (more decentralized) level. Without
the principle of subsidiarity, ICANN ends up bloating its mandate and
prescribing nonsensical requirements.

For instance, a specialized .bank TLD cannot be managed with service
level metrics designed for .com, .biz or .info . A high-security,
strong-policy TLD must not be forced into the mould of a weak-policy
TLD. A low-volume TLD becomes too costly if it is forced to run a at
the provisioning service level of a high-volume TLD. By prescribing and
measuring things like EPP response times for community TLDs, ICANN not
only loses its time, it also wastes the resources of the Community TLD

The proposed registry agreement currently includes language that
obliges a community TLD organization to honor with the
community-related commitments in the application. That is not enough.
Two specificities must be added for community-based TLDs:

(1) The Community TLD Organization must demonstrate its ongoing
accountability to the community;

(2) The Community TLD Organization must be granted its own
policy-making authority. This involves, among other things, charter
eligibility and technical performance standards that do not affect the
general Internet.

This means for instance that TLD server and Whois service performance
are in the realm of ICANN’s governance mandate, while the EPP server
performance and DNS update intervals are up to the Community TLD
organization. It also means that a community TLD may be re-delegated if
the Community TLD organization ceases to be accountable to its

Werner Staub

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