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Response from dotSCO in the ICANN draft applicant guidebook on new gTLDs

  • To: <gtld-guide@xxxxxxxxx>, <gtld-intro@xxxxxxxxx>, <gtld-evaluation@xxxxxxxxx>, <gtld-dispute@xxxxxxxxx>, <gtld-string@xxxxxxxxx>, <gtld-transition@xxxxxxxxx>, <gtld-terms@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Subject: Response from dotSCO in the ICANN draft applicant guidebook on new gTLDs
  • From: David Hutchison <davie@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 15 Dec 2008 21:39:24 +0000

Dear Sir/Madam,
Firstly, we would like to thank ICANN’s staff for all the work that they have 
carried out in supporting the new TLD process and, in particular, in compiling 
the draft applicants guidebook. Secondly, the dotSCO campaign welcomes the 
opportunity to comments on that draft.
The dotSCO campaign was established in November 2005 and has been working since 
to promote the creation of a new community generic top-level domain (gTLD) for 
the ‘Scots community of interest online, Scottish culture and Scotland’s 
languages’. We would like to raise a number of issues with the draft guidebook; 
which we set out below. It should be noted that these issues are considered to 
be of equal concern.
Opinions on the New gTLD Process:
a)      **Timeline
dotSCO is slightly concerned that even now we do not have a clearer idea of the 
final timeline for making our application. Since the process was announced 
there has been consistent slippage in the new gTLD timeline. In the next draft 
of the guidebook we would welcome clarity on this issue.
b)      **Application and Operation Fees
The draft guidebook states that the estimated application fee for a new gTLD 
will be (US)$185,000. We continue to work to ensure that a Scots community will 
be able to adequately meet this cost – but we are extremely concerned that this 
fee is very high for bidders for community/city TLDs.
In short, a community TLD will operate on a model which is considerably more 
restrictive than any open TLD and will have the overriding aim of serving their 
respective communities interest – not necessarily sell huge volumes of domains. 
 We would propose that the application fee should be reduced (or at very least 
be reduced significantly for applications for community TLDs) in order to 
recognise their purpose as servants of their communities. To reflect this, an 
application fee for community applications that was closer to (US) $50,000 
would be welcome. 
dotSCO contends that application fee reduction is necessary if ICANN is to meet 
its aspirations for online communities to have a more democratic, global, 
multicultural and multilingual Internet.
The annual Registry ICANN fee of (US)$75,000 is a huge cost to a not-for-profit 
community registry that dotSCO is seeking to establish. A variable registry 
operation fee may be a more equitable way to operate the annual ICANN fee. Our 
proposal would be that community TLDs pay a small percentage of their annual 
surplus/profit to ICANN – up to a maximum ceiling of (US) $10,000 per year. 
Should a community TLD be taken up in large volumes (on a par with strings such 
as BIZ) then there may be a case for a revision of the annual fee beyond the 
(US) $10,000.
c)       **‘Community’ TLDS
The draft guidebook says that applicants for a gTLD "operated for the benefit 
of a defined community consisting of a restricted population ...[this sort of 
applicant]...will be asked to substantiate its status as a representative of 
the community it names in the application, and additional information may be 
requested in the event of a comparative evaluation".
These criteria for community-based gTLDs have strictly defined characteristics. 
They are intended to serve a concrete, specific community, and their aim is to 
represent this community on the Internet, and be assigned a specific place on 
the Internet for this community.
The stricter criteria that should make the evaluation process for community 
TLDs clearer to evaluate than open TLDs. As such we would propose that ICANN 
open the round for community gTLDs before open TLDs to highlight the clear 
distinctions between the processes  and the operational natures of community 
and open TLDs.
d)      **Universal Contract Change
We have a strong reservation that ICANN desire that there be a universal 
contract for registries and that they can alter the contract at any time and in 
any manner they wish. We can think of no other area of life where this happens. 
While we appreciate that with an expectation of many new TLDs that ICANN may 
wish to avoid having to re-negotiate lots of individual contracts – but ICANN 
must surely respect the various legal systems, in our case Scots law, that the 
different registries will be operating under. 
Given that there is the, already mentioned above, call from ICANN for $75,000 
in annual fees surely individual negotiation would be the least a registry 
should expect.
e)      **Geography?
dotSCO has been very clear since we began our campaign over three years ago 
that we are seeking a community TLD for the worldwide family of Scots, and not 
for Scotland as a geography.
We are concerned that section of the draft guidebooks states that “An 
applied-for gTLD string that falls into the above categories is considered to 
represent a geographical name. It is the applicant’s responsibility to identify 
whether its applied-for gTLD string falls into the above categories and to 
determine the relevant government or governments, or the relevant public 
authority or authorities.”
Among the categories listed is “Applications for any string that represents a 
subnational place name, such as a county, province, or state, listed in the ISO 
3166-2 standard.”
Would a bid for the string of SCO for the Scots community of interest online be 
a geographic one? At dotSCO we believe that it is not as it is for Scots 
everywhere. Additionally, the string of SCO does not appear directly as a three 
letter code in ISO 3166-2. Neither does any country name listed in ISO 3166-1 
clash with either SCO (or SCOT).
The difficulty for us, and indeed all other applicants, is that the criteria of 
a string which could ‘represent a subnational place name’ in ISO 3166-2 could 
potentially catch any string that anyone could think of. For instance, SCO 
could be said to be representative of ‘Scotland’ (UK), or ‘Scottish Borders’ 
(UK), or ‘Nova Scotia’ (Canada) or even Ascoli Piceno (Italy). This is if we 
only stick to the rigid combination of SCO within the place names listed in 
3166-2. Since the term used is ‘represent’ it is possible that other places 
listed within 3166-2 where the letter S-C-O could be interpreted as 
‘representing’, such as Bel Ombre (Seychelles), or South Carolina (USA).
dotSCO believes that it is both the intention behind the new TLD and the 
criteria that it sets down to define its community and not that it may or may 
not be seen by some to ‘represent’ a geography listed in ISO 3166-2.
Clarity on this issue is required – our community is cultural in character and 
Global in scope, it is not restricted to the geography of Scotland (or Nova 
Scotia for that matter).
Once again thank you for the opportunity to comment on the draft guidebook.
Best regards
Davie Hutchison
dotSCO – Policy Director
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