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.

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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.

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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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