Comments on Expressions of Interest
Reference: Comments on Expressions of Interest November 13, 2009 RNA Partners fully supports the concept of opening a queue for Expressions of Interest in new TLDs. The EOI is a viable way forward, serving ICANN and the greater community by providing much needed data that will assist in developing reasonable root scaling scenarios; identifying contention sets for possible resolution prior to opening the application process; allow for economic studies, and, equally important, allow ICANN consultants who have been chosen to do the application review work an opportunity to see what lays before them. For applicants, starting the process (albeit a limited form) with the EOI, demonstrates forward movement to show investors, their respective communities, and other interested parties that progress is being made. Our response to the eight questions is as follows: 1. How do we ensure that participation in the EOI accurately represents the level of interest? It is impossible to ensure that the list of EOI participants will represent a specific level of interest, and so we should not position it as capable of doing so. What we will find out is how many serious applicants are ready to go now, and we will observe the pace at which applicants ?register themselves? as EOI participants over the course of the ?registration window?. If ICANN can then extrapolate from that some reasonable data that suggests potential levels of interest, fine. But without doubt, simply having initiated the EOI exercise we will be significantly further ahead as a result of the information that comes out from it, than we are now. Staff will no longer have to respond to the question of how much interest with the statement: ?Anywhere from a hundred to a thousand??. We will have some evidence of level of interest, which is better than not having any knowledge of that, as it is now. 2. Should only those who participate in the EOI be eligible to participate in the first round when the program officially launches? Yes. EOI registrants only in the first round. Those applicants who are ready to go forward now should register their EOI. Any applicant that is trying to keep their intended string secret to ?not awaken the market? is sleeping. One must understand that the ICANN process is completely open, public and long. Thus, expecting to ?sneak up? on ? and go through ? the ICANN new gTLD process, where information moves at the speed of light is a fool?s errand. Those applicants that choose to hold back and not register their EOI, should gain no (real or imagined) benefit from withholding their information. Beginning with this first EOI process, every potential applicant thereafter should start also with the EOI as the entry point to their application. This is particularly important if demand is such that a phased approach is deemed more orderly and manageable, i.e., ?rounds? to manage the volume of applications as well as their ultimate delegation into the root. 3. Should a deposit be required for participation in the EOI? Yes. USD 55,000. This fee is not just a deposit, but rather part of the full application fee and should be drawn down when, and if, any part of the evaluation is undertaken. (See question #4 below for further explanation on the recommended fee of USD 55,000.) 4. If there is a fee, under what circumstances should there be refund? Refund only if the applicant withdraws their application before the ?EOI registration window? closes. It must be understood that this fee is part of the total application fee of USD 185,000. The refunds section (DAG v3, 1-34) notes that 70% of total application fee is returned after posting of applications until posting of initial evaluation results. In keeping with that statement, USD 55,000 (30% kept by ICANN) is deemed the ?fee? for the initial evaluation work. As such, the EOI deposit is, in effect, the 30% noted herein. 5. What information should be collected from EOI participants? * 5.1 What subset of applicant questions found in the Applicant Guidebook at <http://www.icann.org/en/topics/new-gtlds/draft-evaluation-criteria-clean-04 oct09-en.pdf> http://www.icann.org/en/topics/new-gtlds/draft-evaluation-criteria-clean-04o ct09-en.pdf should be answered? Review of questions: 1-9, 13, 14, 18 and 20. * 5.2 Including applied-for strings? Yes, posting the names of the applied-for strings, including their IDN-equivalents where and when applicable, will provide all manner of information that can be acted on by both ICANN as well as applicants. * 5.3 Should information be made public? Yes. The only info that should be ?xxxxx? is contact data, as is done for public forum postings. 6. Must the responder commit to go live within a certain time of delegation? Yes. But a reasonable amount of time must be given, e.g., 6-12 months. On the one hand, an applicant may be ready to go with a ?straight-out-of-the-box? TLD offering; on the other hand, a new gTLD operator may have to run all of their activities in serial, i.e., invest in its start up plan only after it has secured the right to manage the TLD in order to manage investor risk. 7. What are the implications for potential changes to the Applicant Guidebook after the EOI participation period closes? EOI participants must understand that the purpose of this exercise, in the first instance ? is for ICANN to gain some sense of scope and scale of the new TLD rollout process, NOT to get a pass to unfairly advance or game the process. The ICANN community clearly recognizes that the new TLD rollout will not happen unless and until the process has been refined to a point where consensus has been found on all issues and the Board is ready to sign off on it. It should be clear to all following this process that a large percentage of the text (of what will become the final AG) has already been vetted by the community in DAGsv1-3. As such, every EOI participant must understand that they are taking their place in the queue to participate in the new TLD rollout, full stop. BEFORE they pay their EOI participant fee, each applicant needs to check the box that says they understand that they are signing up to whatever the final Applicant Guidebook turns out to be. 8. What are the potential risks associated with the EOI? Risk is inherent in everything, so with some thought I am sure that a number of risks associated with the EOI process could be found. The bigger question is: What is the cost/benefit analysis? There are so many positive aspects vis-à-vis how much information can come to light through this exercise (as detailed here and by others who have posted) that taking this interim step far outweighs the negative. This entire new TLD process ? as it has been from the start ? remains open and transparent. Including the EOI, as part of the process, greatly serves ICANN and applicants alike. Ronald N. Andruff RNA Partners, Inc.