"If I would have a voting right, I would vote like this" said Janis Karklins, chair of the Government Advisory Committee (GAC) as he empathically raised two arms in the air. He was showing his, and the GAC's, overwhelming support for the ICANN Board unanimously (barring one abstention) passing the resolution that ratified the IDN ccTLD Fast Track process, propelling it toward an imminent release.
A standing ovation was given from a grateful and exuberant audience and everyone seemed pleased with this momentous decision. Even Rod Beckstrom, president and CEO of ICANN has since stated that the decision is a "historic move toward the internationalization of the internet. We just made the internet much more accessible to millions of people in regions such as Asia, the Middle East and Russia."
So, kudos to those that have pursued and supported this process, including the ccNSO, GAC and ICANN Board.
What is indeed interesting however, is the precedent that this vote has set, particularly in light of the new generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD) process and the continued issues and perceived problems that have marred its timely release.
Currently there are five unresolved issues that the GAC, and others, have openly commented on and demonstrated their concern to the point of attempting to block progress and the release of new gTLDs at all.
My point is not to discuss the validity of these concerns, although it is my belief that there is merit in discussing these items further. My concern is that there now seems to be a precedent introduced with respect to their review and relevance.
The issues above are certainly not unique to gTLDs, yet, in the ICANN Board's eyes at least, they seem to be.
With the acceptance of the IDN ccTLD Fast Track process we are setting up a very similar set of circumstances that are surrounding the introduction of new gTLDs.
The question is then; why haven't these rules been applied to both processes?
To look at a few specific examples:
Put overly simply there have been a number of concerns over the impact of the introduction of new gTLDs into the root. Yet, the amount of ccTLD Operators that could apply for the IDN ccTLD Fast Track process is limited only to the 3166 — 1 list (a significant number in itself). Also, the issue of variants has the potential to increase the number of TLD's to be entered into the root. In addition, due to the encoding scheme used by IDNs, which produces much larger ASCII TLD strings than previously seen, the issue of DNS response packet size that also plague DNSSEC and IPv6 rollout in the root seems also to have gone by the wayside.
Why wouldn't these potential impacts to the root, which given ICANNs actions seemingly only extend to the new gTLD Process, be raised with respect to the IDN ccTLD Fast Track process?
This is centred on the evidence of demonstrated demand for new gTLDs. The voices of potential applicants and entrepreneurs seem to be muted unless a credible economic study has been produced. However, where does such a study or studies exist for the IDN ccTLD Fast Track process? Let's be clear, I am not arguing that there isn't demand but where has it been documented just as has been required in the new gTLD process?
To me, the issue of Trademark Protections is somewhat being fought at the second level as ICANN staff seem to have built in decent and clearly identifiable protections for Trademark holders at the top level. If this is true then where are all the trademark lobby groups with respect to IDN ccTLDs? In fact, the issue is made worse by the minimalist approach to the Contracts that are signed between IDN ccTLD Registry Operators and ICANN. Essentially each IDN ccTLD Registry Operator is free to operate their domain name space as they see fit. Where is the trademark protection for trademark holders in this process? Why is this a non-issue for the GAC and ICANN Board in the IDN ccTLD Process, yet a significant issue worthy of retarding the new gTLD Process? Staggering!
There are a number of other issues that seem to have been simply ignored while we all got caught up in the romantic plight of a non-ASCII internet using public. Let's remember each IDN ccTLD is free to allocate geographic second level names yet the GAC has now requested a veto right for second level registrations in gTLDs. I am not sure I understand the difference.
Once again, let's be clear. I totally support the IDN ccTLD Fast Track and I, too, am enthused by the opportunities it affords the 'non ASCII' internet using public. However, I am gravely concerned by the outrageous double standard that has been applied by the GAC and ICANN Board to these parallel processes with undeniably identical issues and impacts.
If they aren't important enough to be required at the loosely (if at all) ICANN regulated ccTLD level then let's clear the way and get on with the opening up of applications for new gTLDs. Let's hope a standing ovation and an exuberant GAC chair awaits an ICANN Meeting soon when the gTLD Application process is finally ratified by the ICANN Board.
By Adrian Kinderis, Vice President Corporate Development at Neustar
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