At-Large-Summit-II.pngJackson Hts., New York, June 8, 2014 - Beginning on June 21 and for 5 days thereafter, Connecting.nyc Inc.’s (CnI) director Thomas Lowenhaupt will be participating in the At-Large Summit II in London. Held in conjunction with the ICANN’s 50th meeting, the Summit brings together representatives from 160 At-Large Structures from around the globe. Like CnI, these ALSes seek to engage and represent individual Internet users in the ICANN’s governance process. The Summit’s theme is “Global Internet: The User Perspective.” (The first Summit was held in Mexico City in 2009.)

The Summit has three goals:

  • Strengthening the At-Large Community
  • Increasing Knowledge and Understanding of ICANN
  • Showcasing the Multistakeholder Model

In furtherance of these goals participants will seek consensus on 5 issues:

With the conclusion of .nyc’s roll-out later this year, CnI will refocus its efforts. While continuing to facilitate the education of New Yorkers about the role of a TLD, we will work to enhance the capacity of New York and other cities to participate within the ICANN and the broader Internet governance ecology. Much of this will be undertaken through our position as an At-Large Structure. So at the summit, in addition to working toward the Summit’s general goals, CnI will look for ways to expand the channels for participation by cities (and their residents) in Internet governance processes. Our long term goals in this regard include:

  • seeing that a “city-TLD path” is established for the 300+ cities with a million or more population that will soon be considering the acquisition of their TLDs;
  • that this path presents the sum of experiences of the initial batch of city-TLD recipients;
  • that review processes are established to assure that applicant cities have received a comprehensive understanding of the ways a TLD can influence the breadth of their social and economic life;
  • and that cities have an effective means of communicating their common and disparate needs to one another and the Internet governance ecology.

 You will be able to follow those efforts here.

Learn more about the opportunities provided by the .nyc TLD on our wiki pages.

Filed June 8th, 2014 under At Large, City-TLDs, ICANN, Governance

de-Blasio-Porgress.pngJackson Hts., New York, May 10, 2014 - Since the idea of a public interest city-Top Level Domain emerged from a local Community Board in 2001, we’ve been exploring the meaning of the “public interest” as it relates to cities and TLDs. A key component of our work has been to detail ways a TLD can best serve the social and economic needs of our city’s residents and organizations.

When we published the Towards City TLDs In The Public Interest white paper in 2007, we set out some general principles about the meaning of the public interest. And last Fall, when Bill de Blasio was selected mayor in what’s been called a “progressive” landslide, we began to think about how a city-TLD might be developed by a “progressive” city hall.

As a reference point, our research first looked at the Progressive Caucus’ Statement of Principles which begins:

"The Progressive Caucus of the New York City Council is dedicated
to creating a more just and equal New York City, combating all
forms of discrimination, and advancing public policies that offer
genuine opportunity to all New Yorkers, especially those who have
been left out of our society’s prosperity."

and we began to think about ways the Caucus’ principles might be reflected in .nyc’s development.

But it was only this past Monday, with the start of the Sunrise registrations - an early opportunity for trademark owners to pick their desired .nyc domain names - that our thinking coalesced around several development policies that could provide more fairness and include the “left outs” in our TLD’s development.

The spark for our progressive enlightenment was the regressive nature of the Sunrise registrations. For example, the city will charge Google $15 to register Google.nyc but our local coffee shop, Ricky’s Cafe, will need to pay $30 for RickysCafe.nyc (if it can get the name at all - see the Landrush discussion below). While of minor financial significance, this realization spun the propeller on our thinking caps, and today we’re proposing several ideas that add a “progressive flavor” to four areas of our TLD’s roll-out: the Founders Program, Premium Name sales, the Landrush, and Name Retailing. 

  • Founders Programs - The Founders Program is a marketing effort that looks to attract prominent or innovative entities to say, in essence, “We’ve joined the .nyc bandwagon, why don’t you.” The Founders Program began recruiting participants this past Monday and will last 40 days. (Founders Program details are available here.)
Progressive Founders Program - A progressive program would provide
the opportunity for existing institutions - schools, hospitals,
museums… - to participate. This will require education efforts
that show these sectors how our new digital infrastructure
supports their existing plans and how it will facilitate their
future development.

The traditional targets for a Founders Program, a Macy’s or a
New York Post, are part of giant corporations with digital
staffs and advertising budgets accustomed to flowing with the
newest technology developments. In developing their Founders
Program, the developers of .paris dedicated 120 days for
education of specialized groups, 3 times what is planned here.

Following the .paris example will provide more opportunities
for those typically left out. More time and focused meetings
are required, and perhaps forums and a hackathon to facilitate
collaboration. (Download more on the Paris program here.)
  • Premium Names - These are valuable names such as news.nyc, sports.nyc, and tours.nyc. The plan calls for high-bid auctions, beginning in August to decide who gets what name. Deep pockets will be required. When we think, for example, about the news.nyc domain name, it’s clear there are a dozens of media moguls capable of bidding a million dollars for it with nary a second thought. It’s hard to see opportunity for the “left out” in the current plan. There’s nothing progressive about this policy.
Progressive Premium Names Policy - Imagine providing an on-ramp
to those typically “left out” to organize their thoughts about
innovative uses for a name such as news.nyc. And imagine the city
sponsoring some hackathons to enable innovators to exchange ideas,
form teams, and gain access to capital - as it does with BigApps.
Here too additional time is needed to imagine new enterprises
constructed of innovation and social capital. (More here.)
  • Landrush - On August 8 all the names not selected during Sunrise or set aside for Founders, for Premium auctions, or for government use will become available through 30 or so resellers (registrars) that have been selected by the city’s contractor. During this 60 day period New Yorkers can bid on any of the available domain names - without regard to whether it might currently be the name of an existing business. At the conclusion of Landrush those names with a single bidder become active. Those names with more than one bidder go into a high-bid, winner-take-all auction.
Progressive Landrush - We have two concerns with Landrush. The
first involves the ability of existing firms to claim their .nyc
domain name. Under the current plan, Ricky’s Cafe has no right
to claim the name it’s been using for 20 years. In contrast,
London established Priority Period Rules that enable existing
entities to upload papers that establish their priority for a
.london name. Why mom and pop here should be treated with
disregard while those with an International Trademark get
a priority selection period seems like an affront to the
“left outs” and regressive. Fairness says we must learn from
the London approach. (Download London Priority Rules.)

The second Landrush concern involves a high-bider auction that
comes into play when more than one application is received for
a domain name. Let’s imagine that there are two bidders for a
domain name, say TonysPizza.nyc, with neither having a priority.
The winner & loser outcome of a high-bidder auction seems less
than progressive.

ICANN encouraged collaboration amongst competing TLD bidders in
the hope of avoiding auctions. I suspect we can do something
progressively similar here. How about facilitating bidders’
ability to connect with one another in the hope or reaching
an accommodation, with an auction only if needed.
  • Domain Name Retail Sales - As currently envisioned, domain names will be sold by 30 or so accredited resellers, all with their headquarters outside the city. So every domain name sold will have money flowing out of our city, creating jobs and wealth elsewhere.
Progressive Domain Name Retail Sales - This is a new and growing
business area that should be providing local jobs. The city should
encourage and facilitate the licensing and training of local
resellers.

Local resellers will make domain name registration accessible to
end users: think specialized resellers focused on Brooklyn, on
sports, civics, or mom & pops. Competition and choice of this
sort is good for end users.

Lots of small businesses should be popping that sell names or
package them with hosting and other services creating jobs
for those “left out.”

There are positive signs from city hall that more thoughtful policies might be forthcoming. Monthly meetings are now held by a .NYC Community Advisory Board. And more civic names, such as the neighborhood names, are being considered for distribution using thoughtful processes.

But the administration’s progress toward a more reasoned approach (let’s say progressive) must confront a 5 year contract the Bloomberg Administration signed with Neustar, a Virginia firm, to market and operate the .nyc TLD. Entitled to 60% of the Premium Name auction and other name sales revenue, Neustar has an opportunity to fill it’s pockets this Summer.

Real progress depends on persuading Neustar that the long term view is where its interest lies. Perhaps an extension of the contract term to 10 years will enable them to look toward a long term relationship (we’re already 2+ years into that 5 year contract). Or perhaps Neustar can be convinced that with a successful .nyc under its belt - demonstrated by metrics showing how the TLD contributed to a more livable and prosperous environment -  it will be positioned to sell its services to the 300+ cities with 1 million+ population that have yet to apply for their TLDs.

Looking at the  Progressive Caucus’ Statement of Principles presents other possibilities for imaging the operation of a TLD under a progressive city administration, particularly in the areas of transparency, accountability, and enhancing democratic participation. These will be the focus of a future post.

Learn more about the opportunities provided by the .nyc TLD on our wiki pages.

sunrise-nyc.pngJackson Hts., New York, May 4, 2014 - Starting at noon tomorrow those owning an international trademark will be eligible to select its equivalent .nyc domain name. This “Sunrise Phase” will last for 45 days.

So if you have a globally recognized trademark - one issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office counts, but one issued by NYS doesn’t - you’ll be eligible to register it.

But you’ll need to prove ownership by registering it with the Trademark Clearing House. (You’ll have to pay a $150 fee and receive a SMD File as proof of ownership). For the official details on process and whether you qualify, see http://www.nic.nyc/sunrise-policies.html. To register a name, start here.

While we’re delighted to see the .nyc issuance process move ahead, we have two concerns:

  • Our main concern is that trademarks issued by New York State don’t count. And it’s too late for those with a NYS trademark to get a U.S. Trademark within Sunrise. Those with NYS trademarks and desiring a .nyc domain name will need to submit their applications in August, during the Landrush Phase. And at that point their NYS trademark will provide no special right to use their existing business name. When existing businesses experience the loss of their traditional names we expect an outcry or two.
  • We’re also concerned about the quality of the nexus policy - which seeks to limit .nyc names to city entities. The current policy allows an entity from anywhere to use a mailing service as proof of city nexus. But it only takes 5 minutes to acquire a 5th Avenue address using one of hundreds of re-mailing businesses that operate in the city. Nexus needs strengthening.

But after all these years, things are finally moving ahead. And we’re pleased to see city hall (and its contractor) focused on making the most of this opportunity.

Those planning on registering a trademark within .nyc can access a list of 30 or so registrars at http://nic.nyc/registrars. For those not in the Sunrise category, details on the City Government, Landrush, and General Availability phases are available here, with the latest timeline as follows:  

Registration Periods For the .nyc TLD

Phase

Duration
 Start Date Start Time UTC      End Date     End Time UTC
Sunrise 45 days            
May 5, 2014       15:00:01 
   June 20, 2014
     15:00:00
City Government    
36 days June 25, 2014       15:00:01    July 31, 2014      15:00:00
Landrush Period 60 days August 4, 2014       15:00:01    October 3, 2014      15:00:00
General Availability n/a October 8, 2014 15:00:00     n/a       n/a

 (Creative Commons image courtesy of Bob Jagendorf.)

Learn more about the opportunities provided by the .nyc TLD on our wiki pages.

Filed May 4th, 2014 under Domain Names, Oversight

Jackson Hts., New York, May 1, 2014 - As currently envisioned, the name distribution plan for the .nyc TLD does not provide any rights to current business owners to select a domain name that matches their existing business - with the exception of those holding a trademark listing in the Trademark Clearing House. As it stands, small business owners will have to hope their desired name is available during the Landrush period which begins on August 8.

By contrast the .london TLD provides existing businesses with a priority in selecting domain names. Here we explain elements of .london’s Landrush pricing policy and how priority is determined when more than one entity selects a domain name.

1. Pricing - As of today there are 5 registrars signed up to sell .london domain names. We tested the availability of the “ThisIs.london” domain name on the GoDaddy site via a pre-registration request and received the following purchase options:

2. Who gets first pick? Fasthosts (another of the 5 registrars) provides insight into London’s effort to give existing entities a first priority during Landrush.

There are four categories of priority for applications:

  1. Trademark holders that are verified with ICANN’s TMCH database
  2. Londoners (those with a physical address in the City of London or its 32 boroughs) with rights to a name such as proof of business or trading name
  3. Londoners (those with a physical address in the City of London or its 32 boroughs)
  4. Non-Londoners

The following situations are determined by an applicant’s position within these four categories.

  • “If you are the sole applicant for a specific .London domain, this will be registered to you during late August/early September when registrations are confirmed by the Registry.”
  • “If two or more applications are received for the same .London domain name, you will be asked to provide proof of business/trading name and address. Once this has been submitted, the rules above in relation to priority will apply.”
  • “In the event that a domain is applied for by two or more applicants with the same level of priority, these will go to auction after the close of priority applications on the 31st July. The auction process will be managed by the Registry.”
  • “By applying for a .London domain you agree to the terms and conditions regarding categories of priority as set out above.”

Perhaps New York could institute a similar policy. And when two or more entities apply for a .nyc name, priority is given to the one actively using the name. (Image courtesy of Wiki Commons.)

Learn more about the opportunities provided by the .nyc TLD on our wiki pages.

Filed April 30th, 2014 under Nexus, .london, Competition, Domain Names

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Jackson Hts., New York, April 30 2014 - The below excerpt from a commentary in today’s Huffington Post identifies “enabling innovation” as the key component of a successful Net Neutrality policy. While important, we see facilitating public engagement in governance (that process the First Amendment seeks to foster) as the key element of successful Net Neutrality policy. And we see a parallel with city-TLDs: their key benefit arises through facilitating improved governance and a concomitant enhancement to quality of life. Here’s part of the Post’s post:

THE PERFECT AND THE GOOD ON NETWORK NEUTRALITY [SOURCE: Huffington Post, AUTHORS: Kevin Werbach, Phil Weiser]

Network neutrality is in jeopardy — just not in the way you might have heard. In implementing network neutrality, some differentiation of traffic must be allowed on the Internet, even encouraged. The real question is whether Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposed rule is so much worse than what came before. Under what we understand the FCC proposal to be, access providers can’t block, can’t degrade, can’t arbitrarily favor certain applications, and can’t favor their own traffic. The major change in the new proposal concerns so-called paid prioritization agreements. In other words, the new rules appear to allow a broadband provider to offer content providers the option of faster or more reliable delivery for a supplemental fee. Under the old rules, the FCC didn’t prohibit such deals, but said it was skeptical they would meet its discrimination test. In the new proposal, the FCC appears to mandate that paid prioritization offerings be “commercially reasonable.” Calling paid prioritization “discrimination” is a matter of semantics. Indeed, the traditional “Title II common carrier” model (which some network neutrality advocates favor) has allowed different levels of service — paid prioritization in other words — as long as the prioritized service level was available to all comers. As for the FCC’s apparent proposal, it does not encourage or require paid prioritization. At most, the proposal would allow some commercial offerings — subject to negotiation between the two firms — to allow for a higher level of service. How to defend and implement network neutrality is not as simple as banning all forms of paid prioritization. What really matters is ensuring that the broadband environment continues to provide space for tomorrow’s innovators to develop new, disruptive offerings. When the FCC releases the proposed rules for comment, we should all focus on that criterion to evaluate whether they are sufficient and effective. [Werbach is Wharton Professor and founder of Supernova Group; Weiser is Dean and Thomson Professor at the University of Colorado Law School]

Learn more about the opportunities provided by the .nyc TLD on our wiki pages.

search.JPGJackson Heights, New York, April 12, 2014 - Vital to the operation of a livable city are its public spaces: parks, plazas, streets, schools, libraries, etc. Over the centuries we’ve established standards for such spaces, including where they are best located and how they are used and governed. 

Today we’re faced with identifying public spaces within the .nyc TLD. According to .nyc’s Launch Program, we’ve only until 11 AM on August 4th to identify and set aside our digital public spaces. At that moment the Landrush period begins and within a few minutes all names of public spaces that have not been set aside will be purchased for private purposes. Thereafter their public use will be through condemnation and eviction procedures.

Why is this important? Some background will help.

38 cities applied for their TLDs in 2012, including 4 from the U.S. - New York, Boston, Miami and Vegas. In 2018, when the next window of opportunity to acquire a city-TLD will arise, we expect several hundred to apply for the capacity to develop this digital infrastructure. 

New York City has been a leader is development this resource. And just last month, after a 13 year gestation, it was delegated the .nyc TLD by ICANN a global licensing entity. The city is now in the process of deciding who gets what name for what purpose and when. (See http://nic.nyc for highlights on .nyc’s rollout or Launch Policies for a detailed look.)

One of the challenges the city faces is looking over the horizon and discerning digital spaces (domain names) that should be reserved for public use. There’s little guidance on this as traditional TLDs (think .com and .org) don’t have public spaces.

The last time the city faced such a challenge was in the early 1800’s when it set about carving up Manhattan into real estate parcels. What became known as “The Commissioners’ Plan of 1811″ created our street grid that has served our city well. But one of the “over the horizon” needs we missed back then was parks. And in the 1840s, when the need for public recreation spaces became apparent, the city was forced to evict several thousand people who were living in what is now Central Park. (According to Wikipedia “The earliest purpose built public park, although financed privately, was Princes Park in the Liverpool suburb of Toxteth” in 1842. So prior to that humanity lived in a world without public parks!)

Today’s challenge is identifying public spaces within the .nyc TLD, be they for public assembly, discourse, recreation, or some new “digital” purpose. Hopefully we’ll avoid the need to resort to eviction to create a more livable city.

In addition to acquiring the digital property, one of the advantages that will arise from this exercise is the development of a descriptive vocabulary. So today, if I visit any U.S. city and feel the need for a moment of restful meditation, I can ask anyone “Where’s the nearest park?” with my need being easily understood.

So my question dear reader is, What needs and opportunities are there within a city, be it the digital or traditional, that a city-TLD can address? What are these public spaces called? And how are they funded, governed, and operated? This last question need not be answered immediately - we only figured out how to properly fund Central Park in the 1980, 140 years after setting it aside. 

So… what are our digital public spaces?

Learn more about the opportunities provided by the .nyc TLD on our wiki pages.

congratulations.pngJackson Hts., New York, March 25, 2014 - In the past couple of days a number of people have contacted me to offer their congratulations or thanks for my role in making the .nyc TLD a reality. With our city’s TLD having been entered into the root - see it here http://nic.nyc - they presumed that my goals for .nyc had been achieved.

But the Internet Empowerment Resolution that I’ve been shepherding for 12+ years had two key components.The first was acquiring the .nyc TLD. Done. But the Resolution sought the TLDs development as a public interest resource. That is not yet assured. So hold the good thoughts and join us in making sure that .nyc achieves a significant role in making a more livable and prosperous city.

When all New York’s businesses, civic organizations, institutions, artists, and residents have good .nyc domain names; when the city’s digital resources are a cinch to navigate online and off; when we can readily identify problems and opportunities and organize ourselves to address them; then it will be time to break out the bubbly. (Commons graphic courtesy of Mr. Groovysweet.)

Learn more about the opportunities provided by the .nyc TLD on our wiki pages.

Filed March 25th, 2014 under Rant

comments-icon.0.pngJackson Hts., New York, March 23, 2014 - My two primary areas of interest within ICANN’s scope of activities merged last week when the NTIA announced its plan to shift the IANA functions to ICANN. I’ll review that convergence here as it might be instructive to those considering the proposed Internet governance realignment.

My early interest in ICANN emerged from a curiosity about the process and form global governance of the Internet would take. But since 2001 my primarily ICANN focus has been on ways its activities might influence the capacity of the .nyc TLD to best serve to social and economic life of my city.

Last year I was appointed to the .NYC Community Advisory Board responsible for engaging the public about opportunities presented by the .nyc TLD. One task I took on was to explore the implications of section C.2.9.2.d the IANA Functions contract, an agreement between the U.S. Department of Commerce and ICANN that detailed requirements for approving a new TLD. It stated of ICANN that it

“must provide documentation verifying that ICANN followed its own policy framework including specific documentation demonstrating how the process provided the opportunity for input from relevant stakeholders and was supportive of the global public interest.”

To smooth the way for the .nyc application I inquired about the process New York City should follow to demonstrate that it had received the required “input from relevant stakeholders.” In that task lies a lessons in accountability.

Step one was to write the NTIA about the steps it required of ICANN to demonstrate it had “input from relevant stakeholders” as required by the IANA functions contract. After some delay NTIA informed me that they didn’t set the standard, that I should contact ICANN. So I made an inquiry of the Director of Technical Services at ICANN’s IANA division who responded:

“The [IANA Functions] contract speaks of the obligations ICANN has to the US Department of Commerce, not of documentation that a requester needs to provide ICANN as part of an IANA delegation request.”

The director advised,

For questions about how new gTLD applications are evaluated, our colleagues in the new gTLD team should be able to answer those. Their contact address is csc@icann.org.

Anxious about the seemingly clear and reasonable requirement that stakeholder engagement be part of the review process, I followed IANA’s suggestion. And on March 18 I received the following response from ICANN:

“Please note that while ICANN cannot comment on any applicant’s business operations, if there is any additional information that ICANN needs from any applicant in order to fulfill ICANN’s requirements under its contract with NTIA, ICANN will reach out to the relevant applicant.” 

So, no guidelines for the city. No transparency of process. No guidelines on inclusiveness of relevant stakeholders. Thereby leaving ICANN free, on a whim apparently, to “reach out” to any applicant.

Is this how ICANN implements the IANA functions? Where will accountability lie under an “ICANN only” governance structure? And where in the process is the NTIA?

NOTE: As the .nyc TLD was delegated on March 20, see http://www.nic.nyc/, apparently the city needn’t worry about stakeholder engagement. Fodder for those considering new levels of engagement between cities and ICANN. See Cities, Citizens, and Internet Governance for more on this topic.

Learn more about the opportunities provided by the .nyc TLD on our wiki pages.

Jackson Hts., New York, March 8, 2014 - The below paper was submitted by Connecting.nyc Inc. to the NETmundial Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance to be held April 23-24 in Sao Paulo, Brazil. We recommend reading our submission below as some formatting was removed in the version posted at NETmundial.

————      ————      ————      ————      ————      ————      ————

Summary

Most of netmundial.1.pngus live in cities that are only now beginning to take advantage of that critical Internet infrastructure, the Top Level Domain. While our lives are increasingly affected by digital developments enabled by the Internet, city residents have scant access to the governance structures that establish the policies, standards, and practices that guide the Net’s operation. This submission suggests ways cities and their residents can better participate in Internet governance at the local and global levels.

Background

When ICANN earnestly activated its new TLD issuance responsibilities in 2005, its initial inclination was to view cities as outside the scope of entities eligible for Top Level Domains. After a persuasive campaign by representatives from Berlin, Barcelona, New York, Paris, Tokyo and other global cities, that viewpoint changed and cities were included within ICANN’s 2008 resolution authorizing a new TLD program.

As the ICANN community struggled through the long process of developing an Applicant Guidebook, many in the city-TLD community noted that the needs of cities and their probable use of TLDs differed in significant ways from those of generic and business TLDs. And they urged that a different set of requisites for city-TLDs be established. Additionally, these proponents urged that cities be forewarned about the implications of a TLD, enabling cities to better prepare for the responsibilities entailed in their planning and operation.

However, the challenges surrounding the completion of an Applicant Guidebook and pressure from eager applicants did not allow for applicant categories. And the only significant interventions  were those proffered by ICANN’s Government Advisory Committee (GAC) on behalf of the integrity of geographic names.

As of March 2014 it seems likely that approximately 35 cities will receive TLDs in the coming year.

This submission advances two topics for consideration by NETmundial. The first involves changes to the city-TLD issuance and development process and for the inclusion of cities in Internet governance processes. The second suggests a means for cities and individual Internet users to better participate in Internet governance processes.

Cities and Top Level Domains

Cities are amongst the oldest and most complex entities we encounter in our daily lives. They house more than half our planet’s population, with U.N. estimates projecting that will rise to 75% by mid-century. Cities are the places from which a preponderance of ideas and economic development emerge. And there’s growing acceptance that a sustainable planet is likely to arise from the efficiencies of urban areas.

To date, the digital needs of cities have been given short shrift by Internet technologists and the Net’s governance ecology. As remedy, we offer the following suggestions.

  • The Roadmap should recommend a more robust process for issuing city-TLDs. This should include a recommendation that the TLD issuing entity provide an informative and enlightening application process for cities considering TLD acquisition. While the “letter of non-objection’” required of the 2012 city-TLD applicants held the spirit of informed consent, the inclusion of a detailed scoping of a city-TLDs utility to residents, local businesses, quality of life, government operation, and global identity would better contribute to their efficacious planning and development.

  • Cities do not have a formal place in the Internet governance ecology. While a City-TLD Governance and Best Practices workshop was held at the 2010 IGF in Vilnius, follow-up has been scant. At ICANN, there’s a move to include city-TLDs within the Registry Constituency of the GNSO, but only as part of a broader geographic representation. However, considering their size, their unique needs, and their importance to the global economy and a sustainable planet, we urge that cities be considered a full stakeholder within any multistakeholder regime.

A Message From The Bottom

Our lives are increasingly affected by digital activities enabled by the Internet. Yet Internet users have modest access to the “bottom-up” governance structures that establish the policies, standards, and practices that guide the Net’s operation.

Here in New York City we’ve experienced a small inkling of the potential of bottom-up participation in Internet oversight and management through two At-Large Structures. One is operated by the New York Internet Society, a chapter of the global Internet Society, and another by Connecting.nyc Inc., an advocacy and education organization focused on the development of the .nyc TLD. For those not familiar with the role of the At-Large Structures within ICANN, here’s a brief history.

In its early days ICANN provided for strong representation of individual Internet users in its decision making processes. It did so by allocating 5 seats on its board of directors to be filled by Internet users, with each of ICANN’s regions selecting one member via a direct election. One such election was held and, for a time, 5 ICANN board members were selected by individual Internet users.

The corporation found fault with the selection process and replaced the user-selected members with an appointed At-Large Advisory Committee and a Nominating Committee charged with selecting several board members.

In recent years the At-Large was reconstituted and now participates in selecting one (1) voting member to ICANN’s board of directors. This member is selected via a multi-staged process that provides for each At-Large Structure (organizations with membership and other structures) casting a vote for its preferred board member.

While one board member is better than none, by any measure, under today’s governance formation, the world’s 2+ billion individual Internet users and the At-Large Structure’s impact on ICANN’s governance decisions remains tenuous.

In our role as an At-Large Structure Connecting.nyc Inc. has observed a significant improvement of the At-Large’s operation over the past several years. As one example, this past year the At-Large made significant contributions more than a dozen ICANN policy considerations.

But far more can be achieved by expanding and enhancing user engagement the through the following actions.

  • The number of seats selected by individual Internet users on ICANN’s board of directors should be increased. Reverting to the original 5 seats seems a reasonable short term target.

  • The new board seats should be allocated as of old, one per ICANN region.

  • The new seats should be selected by direct vote of each region’s At-Large Structures. (There are currently 180 At-Large Structures in the 5 regions.)

  • The number of At-Large Structures should to be increased with additional resources provided to facilitate their operation.

  • Care should be taken to assure that participation by the poor and the marginalized is facilitated.

  • Concomitant with this resource allocation there needs to be improved transparency and accountability measures for the At-Large.

  • In those instances where At-Large Structures exist in cities with TLDs, city government should be provided with ex officio participation.

For those interested in learning more about the At-Large, an At-Large Summit is to be held during ICANN’s June 2014 London meeting, with a representative from each of the At-Large Structures in attendance.

It is our belief that engaging cities as stakeholders and expanding the At-Large will democratize and enhance the ICANN’s operation.

—–

Connecting.nyc Inc. is a New York State not-for-profit formed in 2006 to advocate and facilitate the development of the .nyc TLD as a public interest resource. In 2012 it was recognized as an At-Large Structure by ICANN. 

Learn more about the opportunities provided by the .nyc TLD on our wiki pages.

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Jackson Hts., New York, February 22, 2014 - When AOL bought Time-Warner in 2000, New York City recognized that a fundamental basis for the city’s awarding the franchise to Time-Warner Cable was being violated: Local ownership was being stripped away, with the city’s cable services  henceforth to be controlled by corporate interests in Virginia.

Luckily the city franchise agreement required city hall’s approval for an ownership transfer, and DoITT’s Commissioner Allan Dobrin negotiated for the provision of a competitive Internet Service Provider (ISP) in exchange for the city’s OK. And thanks to the Commissioner’s eagle eye New Yorkers using Time-Warner Cable now can choose from two ISPs, Time-Warner’s Roadrunner and service from Earthlink. 

Now, a decade later, a challenge to local ownership has arisen from Philadelphia based Comcast. But the 2010 franchise agreement the city negotiated with Time-Warner (long ago separated from AOL) allows for ownership transfer if consummated via the exchange of publicly traded shares (thank Mayor Bloomberg for this). New Yorkers with cable complaints can now take Amtrack to Philadelphia. (Image courtesy of Teamcoco.)

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Filed February 22nd, 2014 under Rant
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