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The Next Steps Before Dot-XXX Goes Live

There has been plenty of speculation since a decision by the ICANN Board to move forward with our application for dot-xxx was taken on Friday. This post is an effort to give some facts about what was decided and what the next steps are before dot-xxx domains finally become available.

On Friday 25 June, the ICANN Board made a series of five resolutions regarding dot-xxx. A few hours later ICANN held a press conference where it talked further about our application.

In brief (you can read the full resolutions below), the Board decided that:

  • It would accept the finding of the IRP Panel that the Board (in 2005) determined that dot-xxx had met its sponsorship criteria and the Board's reconsideration of this point had gone against the organization's own rules
  • There would be a fast review of the application to make sure there hadn't been any big changes to ICM Registry in the last few years, and following that, contract negotiations
  • Once contract negotiations are complete the Board will compare the resulting registry contract with what governments had advised through its GAC constituency to ensure they weren't in conflict, and to communicate with the GAC about issues - if any - that its advice was not followed.

At the press conference afterwards, when pressed on what these decisions meant in reality, ICANN's Chairman and its General Counsel provided additional information.

Chairman Peter Dengate Thrush stressed that the issue of whether ICM Registry had sufficient support from its community was closed and the Board would not re-open it.

He explained the initial check ("expedited due diligence") on ICM Registry as "just to check that things are in order" before being moved through the application granting process. He also said: "We are not going back to re-visit the sponsorship. We are going back to ask them are you still there, are you still in place and is the same structure that you proposed for rule making etc. Is all that still in place. We are not revisiting the decision that the Panel told us we were wrong to re-visit last time."

General Counsel John Jeffrey added: "The original application came in in 2004. It is now 2010. So it is a requirement for us to enter into an agreement with them, that we go back to make sure that they are still who they said they were and that they can still do what they said they could do both technically and financially."

Asked about the role of the GAC in the process, Dengate Thrush explained that ICANN felt since the GAC had made comments about the dot-xxx application and since the Board was obliged under its bylaws to take into account its "advice", it had included a step in the process to ensure it had done so.

He said: "We have a very important committee in ICANN called the Government Advisory Committee where the governments of the world collect and consider issues relating to our role that impact on public policy issues. The GAC was watching the application for this particular TLD and raised a number of questions… At some stage we may go and discuss with the GAC where the contract negotiation is and, if we can, we will answer how the contract deals with the issues that the GAC has raised.

"That is an obligation we have under the bylaws to consult with the GAC that once the GAC has given us advice in a particular area, particularly if we are about to do something that is in contravention of their advice. We are obliged to go through a kind of mediation process to see if we can't bring our position and their advice together a bit more closely."

So what are the concrete next steps for dot-xxx?

1) ICANN will perform expedited due diligence on ICM for financial and technical matters *only*. This should be very quick because:

a) The application remains exactly the same
b) Our registry service provider (Afilias) remains the same, and
c) ICM still has sufficient funding to run the registry

2) ICANN and ICM will enter into contract negotiations. ICM proposes to begin by reviewing the most recent draft registry contract to make sure all is in order and that it complies with the GAC advice received in 2006 and 2007. We believe that it does.

Once ICANN and ICM agree on the contract , if, in ICANN's opinion, it does not meet the GAC advice, then "mediation" (as described by Dengate Thrush) with the GAC will begin. Again though, ICM is confident this will not be necessary as the GAC advice on dot-xxx (contained in its communique from the ICANN meeting in Wellington in 2006) has already been integrated into the draft contract.

3) The final agreed draft contract will be published for public comment for 30 days.

4) The ICANN Board then resolves to sign the contract.

5) ICANN's CEO signs the contract

6) The dot-xxx top-level domain is added to the root zone file through the IANA function

We can't give a precise timetable on how long these steps will take, but we are prepared to promptly provide any due diligence materials ICANN reasonably requires and to enter into immediate contract negotiations. We see no reason that any remaining issues cannot be been ironed out and approved in time for ICANN's meeting in Cartagena in December this year.

Between then and now ICM Registry will be putting in place all of the different systems needed to open a registry with the hope of going live with dot-xxx domains as soon as possible after the registry is added to the Internet's "root".

For those interested, we will keep you up-to-date on progress with regular posts.

* * *

Below are the full Board resolutions regarding dot-xxx:

Resolved (2010.06.25.19), the Board accepts and shall act in accordance with the following findings of the Independent Review Process Majority: (i) "the Board of ICANN in adopting its resolutions of June 1, 2005, found that the application of ICM Registry for the .XXX sTLD met the required sponsorship criteria;" and (ii) "the Board's reconsideration of that finding was not consistent with the application of neutral, objective and fair documented policy."

Resolved (2010.06.25.20), the Board directs staff to conduct expedited due diligence to ensure that: (1) the ICM Application is still current; and (2) there have been no changes in ICM's qualifications.

Resolved (2010.06.25.21), if the expedited due diligence results are successful, then the Board directs ICANN staff to proceed into draft contract negotiations with ICM, taking into account the GAC advice received to date.

Resolved (2010.06.25.22), upon staff's finalizing of a draft contract with ICM, the Board will determine whether the proposed contract is consistent with GAC advice, and if not, will enter into GAC consultation in accordance with the Bylaws.

Resolved (2010.06.25.23), after the GAC consultation is completed, the Board will decide whether to approve the contract, and will declare whether its action is in accordance with GAC advice or not.

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