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VeriSign Comment
  • To: "'org-eval@xxxxxxxxx'" <org-eval@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Subject: VeriSign Comment
  • From: "Boggess, Jennifer" <jboggess@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 8 Oct 2002 19:02:29 -0400
  • Cc: "Cochetti, Roger" <RCochetti@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Return-receipt-to: "Boggess, Jennifer" <jboggess@verisign.com>

I am submitting the attached comments on behalf of Roger Cochetti and

To the Members of the ICANN Board of Directors: <?xml:namespace prefix = o
ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Having participated in and closely monitored ICANN's process for selecting a
registry operator for the .org top-level domain, we wanted to take this
opportunity to voice our concerns about ICANN's handling of that process.
As discussed more fully below, the design and administration of the proposal
process were fundamentally flawed, resulting in widespread criticism both
from the participants in the process, all of whom invested significant time
and resources in preparing their bids, and by the greater Internet
community.  ICANN's conduct not only has been, and continues to be,
inconsistent with the letter and spirit of its Memorandum of Understanding
with the U.S. Department of Commerce, but also amounts to a breach of its
obligations under its Registry Agreements with VeriSign, Inc.   Perhaps more
important, the absence of meaningful safeguards to ensure a fair, open,
competitive process is a disservice to the Internet community.

The .org Registry Agreement section dealing with the general obligations of
ICANN require it, among other things, to exercise its responsibilities in
"an open and transparent manner," and to not apply "standards, policies,
procedures or practices arbitrarily, unjustifiably, or inequitably..." 

We are not alone in these views. The various .org bidders have submitted
more than 200 pages of questions, concerns and issues they have raised
associated with the flawed .org process. 

While there are a series of examples of ICANN's failure to meet its
commitments, two in particular are illustrative. 

1. Disqualification of UIA after the fact 

VeriSign acted as a subcontractor to the Union of International Associations
in their .org bid. Both UIA and VeriSign invested substantial resources in
preparing the bid and in all the myriad follow up questions and requirements
associated with the bidding process, a period that has lasted more than 5

The ICANN staff final report, issued at the very end of the .org bid
process, says that: 

The UIA proposal employs VeriSign as its registry operations provider, at
least for the first three years of operation. As such, as detailed in the
General Counsel's report, it is the only proposal that ranks low on
Criterion 3: Enhancement of Competition for Registration Services. Since
this is the overarching goal for the entire undertaking of re-assignment of
the .org registry, we believe that UIA/VeriSign should not be favorably
considered, unless there was no satisfactory proposal of sufficient merit -
which is clearly not the case. 

Criterion 3 is one of the 11 criteria laid out by ICANN. There was no
information in the bidding process that any bidder would be disqualified if
they employed VeriSign as a subcontractor. In fact, ICANN actually
contradicted itself in the final staff report, arguing that: 

The weights being given to the criteria were derived from the words of the
criteria themselves. The Usage Evaluation Team weighted them equally because
there was nothing in the words to suggest otherwise. The Gartner team gave
70% of the weight to Criteria 1 and 9 because the words clearly stated that
primacy of consideration had to be given to stability of operation and
transition. No weights were indicated in the draft RFP that was posted, and
neither UIA nor any of its partners commented that this was a deficiency. 

A reasonable reading of this statement indicates that all of the criteria
were weighted equally, with the exception of Criteria 1 and 9. If criterion
3 were weighted the same as the other criteria (with the exception of 1 and
9), then ICANN should not be arguing after the fact that UIA's bid "should
not be favorably considered." 

Both UIA and VeriSign have incurred the cost of a significant financial
investment in the bid which ICANN is now telling us - after the fact --
never had a chance. 

2. Weighting of criteria 

Contrary to ICANN's assertion that UIA or its partner VeriSign did not
comment that the lack of weighting of criteria was a deficiency in the bid
process, VeriSign sent a clearly-worded 9 page letter on May 13, 2002 laying
out detailed and specific concerns associated with such an arbitrary
approach. The letter is attached. ICANN refused to respond to the questions
and concerns, arguing that VeriSign was not a bidder on .org. However, ICANN
did respond to questions raised by other prospective bidders and their
partners. At the time the letter was written - prior to the application
deadline - there were no official bidders or partners. ICANN had no basis
for disregarding the legitimate concerns about the process expressed by

As it turns out, the lack of weighting of criteria has caused the majority
of bidders to believe the process was arbitrary and unfair. We have attached
quotations from many of the bidders illustrating their views. 

The non commercial domain name holders evaluation team was highly
subjective, and in many cases just plain inaccurate. They decided how to
weight the criteria after the application deadline, during their review of
the applications. In their report, they state: 

We considered positioning, lack of restriction, innovation, and relations to
registrars to be the most important evaluation criteria in the
differentiation realm; these criteria were weighted at one. 'Defensive
registration' and 'market research' were weighted at one half. 

In addition, the non commercial team decided to weight the support letters
into "A" and "B" categories. None of this was made clear before the
application deadline. 

Further, it was never made clear whether or not letters of support arriving
after the application deadline would be counted, and if so, how much weight
would be given to such expressions of support. It is ironic that the
organization with one of the highest scores on this criterion did not appear
to have a single letter of support prior to the application deadline. 

The staff report indicates that the Gartner technical evaluation also
decided how to weight the criteria after the application deadline: "Gartner
also combined the criteria into a single overall assessment, using its own
judgment as to what weight to assign the results of each individual
criterion based on Gartner's reading of the RFP." 

Many bidding organizations also expressed concern that the Gartner team may
not have had the required technical expertise to do such an evaluation.
While Gartner has argued that their team had expertise in certain areas, UIA
has not received a specific answer to its questions on this front, and we
would like to see the names of the individuals involved in the evaluation,
as well as information on their technical background. 

These are just a few examples of the arbitrary nature of ICANN's handling of
the .org bid process. We have attached a table providing more detail, as
well as a list of some essential steps ICANN must take to prevent an
arbitrary approach during their next RFP process. We believe that if ICANN
embraces these steps, it will go a long way towards a more fair, open and
transparent process. 


Roger Cochetti

Senior Vice President and Chief Policy Officer  


Analysis of RFP

Bidders Comments

Attachment: vrsn-1.pdf
Description: Adobe PDF document

Attachment: vrsn-2.pdf
Description: Adobe PDF document

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