Strong support for EOI and moving TLDs forward
To ICANN Board and Staff: Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed EOI process.It is unfortunate that the International Trademark Association (INTA) has used the public comment venue to make a mockery of the consensus building process by mass-mailing their members and telling them to submit anti-new TLD comments. As this comment forum is for the proposed EOI process, please note that comments such as "we don't like new TLDs" and "we have yet to see any real benefits of the introduction of new gTLD’s" are outside of the scope of the proposed EOI Process, and must be thrown out. This is not the question. The decision to launch TLDs was made through a PDP process and was announced to the world by ICANN in June of 2008 from Paris.
The GAC letter calling for the board to delay a vote on the EOI Process must be considered against the following points. Three months ago the EOI process was introduced in a public session at the ICANN Seoul meeting. There was a proposal put forward at the beginning of December (with the input of a GAC member, BLC), allowing the GAC a significant amount of time to consider the effects of the proposal. This is the second comment round on the EOI. Does the GAC not feel led to participate in the process in the same way the rest of the stakeholders must? The GAC waited until the day before the comments closed to express their concerns. They have had the same time, information, and access as the entire ICANN community. By submitting a request for delay at the very last minute they are introducing delay for delay's sake. This cannot be allowed. Their concerns cannot be taken seriously because of this last minute move. One of their complaints is that "no request has been made for the GAC's opinion". Is not a public comment forum a request for opinion? The fact that they are willing to wield their new found AoC review power in such an irresponsible way makes one question if the allocation of oversight to the GAC is a good idea.
We must remember the reasons for the EoI, why the EoI was conceived, and proposed. At the Seoul meeting ICANN staff announced they would not commit to a timeline because of some unresolved overarching issues such as root scaling, demand, and public order issues. The community responded with a proposal, the EOI, which would answer these questions and allow forward movement of new TLDs. The EOI is meant to be tool ICANN staff may use to resolve some of the issues standing in the way of the completion of the Applicant Guidebook. ( On this note, those parts of the DAG where we have reached consensus should be frozen.)
The uncertainty created by a lack of firm commitment by the ICANN staff and board has wreaked havoc with project planning, securing investment from financial backers, and resource allocation for new TLDs. Perhaps the Board and staff need to be reminded of the cost of further delay: a. Loss of faith in the system: ICANN staff announced at Domain Fest in Los Angeles on January 26 that the DAG 4 would be out before the June meeting in Brussells, and the final version of Applicant Guidebook would be published before the end of 2010. Is this a timeline we can now believe in? Parties interested in funding and applying for new TLDs (such as the City of New York) are holding their breath waiting for a date, but one is hesitant to rely on these dates as past experience has proven there is no reason to trust such announcements. b. Alternate roots springing up to deal with demand (YES there is demand for new TLDs). c. Serious attrition of knowledgeable and committed professionals that volunteer a huge amount of personal time to support ICANN efforts. Consider an ICANN where the incumbents, IP, BC and GAC are the only folks left in the game. The extreme conservatism shown by this crowd will prevail and the concept of a single open internet, with choices and competition, will be lost forever. Finally, The EOI is meant to remove the guesswork staff is facing. If the community had not been sidelined by the statements "no timeline, no dates because of the remaining unknown factors" in Korea, the EOI would not exist. The EOI is not necessary if ICANN truly commits to a deadline for resolution of outstanding issues and a time line for application.
Nevertheless, I support the Expressions of Interest proposal. The EoI is an outcome from ICANN's request to the community to solve the issues causing the new TLD roadblocks.
A high fee must be charged for submitting an EoI. This topic was thoroughly debated during the EOI proposal discussion and $55k is not a random number. A lower fee of $10k allows for a speculator to bid on 5x the number of TLDs as a potential applicant. The higher fee is to keep speculators from clogging the system. Only parties that are serious about running a new gTLD should be considered, not parties that can bet $10k on the opportunity that a legitimate applicant will pay them off to go away. As to the opinion that the high fee marginalizes parties interested in applying for a new TLD, this number is only a percentage of the cost of applying overall. "A high fee will give weight to the process and the submissions."
Mandatory submission provides that the results of the process will "state with certainty" the number of gTLDs that will be applied for. If the EOI is not mandatory, the root scaling question, the staff and resource allocation, and the public order questions are not answered. "A mandatory EOI will lend greater certainty to the process and reliability to the information received." And "Full transparency of the process will mitigate litigation risk".
Refunds should be allowed under VERY limited circumstances. If ICANN fails to launch the application program by a set date for instance. Yes, that means ICANN staff must perform by a certain date or the money is returned. This allows for some certainty on behalf of the applicants, which is SORELY needed!
The communications period should be the GNSO recommended 4 month period. There is no doubt from the (256 and counting) number and variety of comments submitted on this EOI proposal that Many Many people already know about new gTLDs, and Many of those are actually ICANN "outsiders", whatever that is... as anyone is invited to participate and attend, and all have equal access to information via the ICANN website.
ICANN should openly publish EOI results. This allows for previously unknown issues to surface early; and, much to the chagrin of an incumbent registry operator, the time for folks with a legitimate objection to allocate the resources and gather the necessary support for objection when the application process opens!
The only argument I've heard against a pre-application is "what if I see your idea and find it compelling, so then I want to apply for the same string?" The overall cost to the process of not making EOI a pre- application far outweighs the marginal benefit of opportunity to those not so creative. The EOI is not meant to be an avenue for secondary market level TLD trading, we must avoid encouraging a high level of gaming.
Some comments submitted claim that the EOI is a distraction from the new TLD process and unproven, yet the very proposal the commentators are writing to review states: -Staff has not paused or slowed ongoing work on the new gTLD program for the consideration of the EOI process (they are diligently working on resolving the TM issues). -There is precedent for an EOI process with the launch of the IDN ccTLD Fast Track (how was the GAC involved in that process?)
Two words to the IP crowd that would hold the process hostage with claims the ICANN Board must not make a decision in Nairobi because they will not be in attendance due to safety and security concern: REMOTE PARTICIPATION.
ICANN Board and Staff, please, consider the costs of allowing the incumbents (who benefit from NO NEW competition) to continue to delay this process. The community has worked together to hash out numerous issues and concerns of the TM holders, the clearing house, the URS, etc. We are facing a breakdown in the system and instead of consensus building we are caught in a stranglehold. YOU can move things forward.
With very best regards and sincere appreciation for the difficult work you do everyday.