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Toward a DNS-enabled Internet for Cities

  • To: <auction-consultation@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Subject: Toward a DNS-enabled Internet for Cities
  • From: "Thomas Lowenhaupt" <toml@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 7 Sep 2008 12:57:26 -0400

Comments by Thomas Lowenhaupt, Connecting.nyc Inc.

I sent an Update to Connecting.nyc Inc.'s supporters on August 6 highlighting 
the ICANN Paris meeting and its adoption of a New TLD Policy. I reported that 
we were 95% of the way toward the institutionalization of a clear and fair 
process for issuing city-TLDs. And that the remaining 5% was fine tuning of the 

Later that day I received an email from ICANN entitled "Updates to New gTLD 
Program Implementation" that led me to think that last 5% might be harder to 
achieve than I'd expected. 

The ICANN's August 6 Update referenced Economic Case for Auctions in New gTLDs, 
a paper prepared by ICANN staff and its "auction design consultant" 
PowerAuctions LLC. The paper purports to discuss the auction, lottery, and 
comparative evaluation options for selecting TLD developers in situations where 
there's more than one interested party. The paper was written by an auction 
company and came to the obvious conclusion. It's as believable as "Coca-Cola 
Research Labs Final Report: Coke better than Pepsi!"

Thinking this preposterous, and curious as to how a paper by an auction company 
could be presented in a leading role in a decision making process of such 
import, I posted a Point of Information request to the designated ICANN list 
requesting clarification and context with regard to the document. (See 
http://forum.icann.org/lists/auction-consultation/msg00001.html.) But I've not 
received a response to my Point of Information, nor to my follow up emails and 
phone calls. And I'm still scratching my head; this can't be "the paper" to 
start an informed conversation on the question of auction vs. comparative 
evaluation. However, having not been provided with the requested context, 
prudence demands that I assume there's more to this Auction paper than seems 
logical, and so an explanation as to our concerns about an "auction" process 

My concern is absolutely fundamental. For if the recipient of the .nyc TLD is 
to be decided by auction, we will loose. And our hope of finally having the 
opportunity to put the full capabilities of the Internet - and that includes 
the DNS - to address the cities current needs and future growth opportunities, 
will be lost. 

The reasons for this seem obvious and have been covered in many of the other 
postings responding to this ICANN Update. But perhaps I should retell from a 
New York City perspective.

One of the things New York City needs is a multitude of "connections" to fill 
cracks in its communications infrastructure. Some of these are recent and still 
mostly invisible, a scoliosis of sorts, that result from the Internet's lack of 
DNS resources for cities. (See "Towards City-TLDs in the Public Interest - A 
White Paper" at 
 for more on this.) But most of these "cracks" arose because of an industrial 
era information infrastructure that catered to, and thrived on, a 90-mile 
radius broadcast "market," where local needs were addressed only when 
catastrophe identified them. It's just the way the world was.

We see the DNS-enabled Internet providing the .nyc TLD as a public interest 
resource that's central to the city's growth on a variety of fronts for the 
foreseeable future: to benefit neighbor to neighbor communication, to foster 
neighborhood stability, the detailing of cultural history and facilitating its 
evolution, for initiating city-wide education efforts on the ways of the Net, 
for invigorating civic life, health outreach and delivery, and the multitude of 
activities that define city life. And to this list one must add such TLD 
fundamentals as good domain names for our huge small business and creative 

The "auction" problem arises because the imagination, creativity, invention, 
civic reorganization, and application of resources that will enable our 
applying the DNS-enabled Internet's healing powers to our local needs will only 
develop slowly. This will be a generational change. We've begun taking steps to 
reach into every corner of society to see how a city-TLD can bind and build an 
even greater New York. But these developments will take time to add diversity, 
scope, and value to the Internet and our city. 

And it's impossible for a civic-oriented, long range, slow build TLD of this 
sort to compete with the financial "value" other schema will provide -- "Hey 
buddy, want to buy Brooklyn-Bridge.nyc?" Our bid for .nyc would pale next to an 
operation designed around a quick sell-off of the global popularity and panache 
our city today possesses.  

And if the ICANN announces that the primary criteria for a successful .nyc bid 
is financial "value," it will attract a cadre of applicants to which 
"community" means a clever "community benefits package" that in reality turns 
out to be payoffs to a select few. 

What the ICANN needs to do is acknowledge that there are entities called 
cities. That the DNS's historic neglect of these environmentally efficient 
locals, where more than ½ the earth's population now live, must end. The ICANN 
needs to recognize that cities have special needs that can be addressed by 
TLDs. And the ICANN needs to establish criteria and processes for judging the 
best application for this important civic resource.

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