Jackson Heights, New York, May 31, 2011 - Let me begin by saying that a digital road map is welcome. And, considering the 90 day deadline and staffing support, this Road Map’s author, Rachel Sterne, did an excellent job surveying the communication channels used and available to the city. (See Road Map.)
About the .nyc TLD, the Road Map says:
The City of New York is currently pursuing the introduction of the .nyc top-level domain, a global milestone that will enable innovation and digital services for residents, and economic advantages for businesses. New York City could be one of the world’s first cities to operate its own top-level domain, presenting enormous opportunities. The .nyc domain will be administered by a private vendor (emphasis ours) to be selected by doitt. The City is currently reviewing vendor candidates that responded to the City’s initial Request for Proposals (rfp), (emphasis ours) and plans to submit its application for the .nyc top-level domain when the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (icann) opens the application process. icann’s timeline is expected to be finalized after its official June 21, 2011 meeting, and the City of New York plans to apply when the application period opens. Only the vendor selected by New York City government will have the legal right to administer the .nyc domain. (See Report).
Where the Road Map says .nyc will be “administered by a private vendor” we have problems; but then it refers to “the City’s initial Request for Proposals” which left us with some hope, as explained below.
“The .nyc domain will be administered by a private vendor”
I can best explain the problem with this statement by relating a chat I had with a fellow city TLD advocate (let’s call him Joe) shortly after the December 2010 ICANN meeting in Cartagena, Colombia. I spotted him dining in an ornate Cuban restaurant and stopped to say hello. Joe spoke a simple sentence that exemplified the broad divide between the traditional DNS industry, which holds great sway at ICANN, and the vision we hold of .nyc as a public interest resource. Our chat focused on the meeting’s progress toward issuing the long sought Application Guidebook that would set the path for cities to apply for their TLDs, and after a bit Joe concluded with:
- “I can’t wait until they issue the Guidebook so we can start selling names.”
Our answer to the What’s to look forward to when city TLDs arrive question is an ocean apart:
- “When the .nyc TLD arrives we can more effectively use the Net to address the needs of our city.”
So when the Road Map says that “The .nyc domain will be administered by a private vendor,” without indicating the public interest or public input into the TLD’s design, development, and operation, we see the city taking Joe’s “name sales” approach and chucking the public interest. And with the contractor selection process a secret one, we’ve little reason for optimism about the outcome.
Our contacts with prospective contractors confirmed that they hold the standard “more-names-is-better” industry perspective. With our long involvement and advocacy for a public interest TLDs, we were contacted by a few of the prospective “private vendors” about being a community partner to their .nyc proposals. But when we indicated our commitment to the Internet Empowerment Resolution and our determination to see the public interest served, they lost interest, with one saying “We don’t see a community application being compatible with our sales plan.”
In short, from what we’ve been able to paste together from talks with city officials and likely vendors, those under consideration are firms such as NeuStar and Verisign that have their expertise and make their money by selling domain names, not building cities.
We advocate for the creation of a policy body that oversees the TLD’s sustainable operation and development as a public interest resource. This policy entity should foster a contract with a “private vendor” to oversee the plan’s technical requirements - not to maximize name sales. (Name sales will be a part of the plan, not its driving force.)
“the city’s initial Request for Proposals”
But we were pleased to see the Road Map refer to an “initial Request for Proposal” as we’ve advocated for a more expansive view of the planning process to include what we’ve nicknamed the CARPA Study, to be followed by ULURP-like public hearings. And in February, in a conversation with the Road Map’s author Rachel Sterne, she indicated she “absolutely hope(s) to engage the public as much as we can” in the review process - see here. We’ve got our fingers crossed.