Afilias' Comments on the Proposed Expression of Interest
Afilias supports the proposed Expression of Interest (EoI) since it will provide useful data to ICANN and the community that will facilitate fact-based decision making as ICANN attempts to resolve outstanding issues in the newTLD process. A mandatory EoI with a fee set at a reasonably high, but not prohibitive level, is appropriate to ensure useful data about the number of applicants and the proposed strings. A well conceived and executed four month communications exercise is also critical to ensuring the validity of the EoI. Afilias maintains that the EoI should not be structured to promote gaming or to create a market for ³slots² held by respondents. The proposed mandatory nature of the EoI provides certainty and a hedge against skewed data with regard to the ultimate number of applicants in the newTLD round. A ³voluntary² EoI could provide an incentive to refrain from responding to the EoI in order to gain knowledge about actual demand for specific strings and knowledge about strings for which no EoI occurred. Afilias appreciates concerns that have been raised about process issues regarding the proposed EoI. With ICANN operating in a new post-Joint Project Agreement era, and under the terms of the Affirmation of Commitments, all members of the ICANN community should recommit themselves to respecting and ensuring that ICANN policy-making and decision-making follow transparent and predictable procedures. This is the surest guarantor of ICANN¹s continued credibility on the global stage. At the same time, should the ICANN Board decide to defer a decision on the EoI to the Nairobi meeting to address process concerns (a short one month delay), Afilias urges the Board to make a definitive decision on the EoI in Nairobi. Any additional delay would push the EoI closer in time to the intended launch date of the newTLD round in 4Q 2010. Such delay would put off the collection of useful data by ICANN and would call into question the very utility of the EoI should it occur too close in time to the actual launch date of the newTLD round. Such a scenario would risk further delay that could unnecessarily degrade confidence in ICANN.