Comments on PF-AG
RNA Partners thanks ICANN for the hard work of staff and their best efforts to strike the balance between establishing an Applicant Guidebook that works and meets the wishes of the community. While a good deal of effort has been made, we must also say that more needs to be done. We have three comments that we are reiterating once again, which we have continuously made throughout the new gTLD application development process and which have been echoed by many members of the community - both institutions and individuals alike - for the past three years in every public comment period. As the first principle of ICANN is 'consensus' - and it is quite clear that the community is in consensus regarding these issues - we are frustrated that staff ignores these contributions, particularly without any explanation of their actions. We remain hopeful that the final AG will, in fact, be amended to include the community's wishes as noted below. (1) The first issue of serious concern is community evaluation scoring given the extreme level of subjectivity that is inherent in that part of the application process. As has been well-noted, if one objector opposes a community-based application that opposition puts the applicant in jeopardy of losing the right to manage its community TLD. Stacking the deck in favor of an objector is anticompetitive, moreover antithetical to what the ICANN community is trying to achieve. Returning the scoring to 13 of 16 points creates a more fair process for this subjective review. We submit that unless and until staff clearly explains to the community why 14 of 16 points is necessary, an allowance for the loss of one additional point must be made to offset the subjectivity of this process. (2) The second issue is a request to lower the cost for communities to apply for IDN equivalents along with their ASCII string. Some 64% of Internet users today do not read or write in English. If ICANN is considering allowing lower pricing for applicants from less developed nations or reduced pricing for 'bundling' ASCII and IDN scripts by those applicants, yet continues to ignore those who do not read or write English, it is setting a double standard. In not allowing IDN equivalents on a cost recovery basis, ICANN will simply be delaying the addition of IDNs to meet those communities' needs by more than 2 years and longer due to the protracted new gTLD process timelines. Again, unless and until staff clearly explains to the ICANN community its logic as to why it continues to deny community-based applicants the ability to provide IDNs to their affected communities, ICANN must reduce the cost for IDN equivalents to a cost-recovery amount only and allow for their inclusion for application with their ASCII equivalent. (3) The third issue, market differentiation - or put differently, working towards a more semantic DNS - must be the way forward to an orderly expansion of the domain name system. Anything less will lead to duplicative registrations and user confusion over the longer term. It is a red herring to say that market differentiation is too difficult to measure, particularly when staff told the community at the Cartagena meeting that 'market differentiation' will be one of the metrics to measure the success/failure of the new gTLD process. Like the saying goes, I can't define pornography but I know it when I see it. In this case, the community will make the determination as to whether an applicant meets the standard of being a differentiated domain from all others in the DNS through the lengthy public comment periods. Following that, the independent evaluator will make a final decision. In conclusion, we urge the Board to go back and review all of the comments on these issues themselves. You will see that there has been no, or insignificant, push back on these proposed amendments; rather, to the contrary, there is strong support and consensus within the community. This must be respected. Respectfully submitted, Ron Andruff RNA Partners, Inc. Disclosure: RNA Partners is anticipating being an applicant for a new gTLD.