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

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.

nyc-Neustar-Phased-Launch-12-09-13.pngJackson Hts., New York, December 12, 2013 - On Monday evening I attended the city’s first public meeting on the .nyc TLD. The “.NYC Public Workshop”  provided New Yorkers with their first peek at the soon to arrive TLD. Fifty or so people showed for the event, held at Brooklyn Law School. A recording of the event by the New York Internet Society’s Joly MacFie is now available.

News from the workshop concerned the time frame for its arrival and a first look at pricing. If the the new administration follows the current path, and there are no surprises from ICANN or other fronts, .nyc domain names will become active in October 2014. More detail on timing is available on our Timeline page.

Wholesale prices are announced as $20 for Government Affiliated names; $15 per name for Trademark holders; $30 for names acquired during Landrush; and $20 during General Availability. 

During the workshop several people raised questions about plans for the allocation of neighborhood names. The city responded that, while not finalized, the neighborhood names (as well as the premier names such as news.nyc and sports.nyc) will likely be auctioned off. And that “fairness” precluded showing preference to parties offering to provide city focused values in the operation of these domain names.

Shaping .NYC’s Future

After the presentation and a brief Q&A, three breakout sessions were held. I was invited to moderate one entitled Shaping .NYC’s Future.

                                           “machines, once made, make men” Ralph Waldo Emerson

By way of introduction, I quoted Emerson and raised the specter of the Internet, the largest machine ever built, shaping us in unintended ways. And faced with a complex shaping assignment, I suggested we approach the TLD’s development by keeping our city’s values in mind. For Mayor Bloomberg, these were recently expressed as:

“Personal freedom, economic opportunity, technological innovation, artistic expression: for centuries, these four values defined our city – and for 12 years, they have guided our Administration. But they are not alone. A fifth core value is no less important: We invest in the future.”

Our new administration might want to add other values such as justice and opportunity.

Procedurally, after determining the values, we must assess how .nyc can be shaped to meet the needs of the young, the old, the rich, the poor, the handicapped, immigrants, etc. And how we might shape it to reduce crime and homelessness, improve education and health, and provide business and artistic opportunities.

Robert Pollard did the breakout session report. We were not able to make much progress in the 20 minutes allotted to the session. But if the .nyc TLD is to be shaped to meet the city’s values, these questions await the de Blasio Administration. (Graphic courtesy of Neustar Inc. For all presentation graphics and a video of the Workshop see Slideshare.)

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

Filed December 12th, 2013 under .NYC Advisory Board, At Large, Neighborhoods

founding-fathers-w-border.jpgJackson Hts., New York, June 2, 2013 - As we approach the conclusion of the long development process for the .nyc TLD, we’re faced with the typical question in allocating a scarce resource: Who gets what? At this point we’re calling it a contest between ‘We the people…’ and the Sooners and Boomers. With the ink dry on a city contract, the Sooners and Boomers are clearly ahead, with ‘We the people…’ struggling for an equitable distribution of the city’s digital land.

So who are the Sooners and Boomers? Historically the Sooners were the participants in the 1889 Oklahoma Land Run (a.k.a. Land Rush) that snuck into the “unassigned lands” before the official start of the Run. And the Boomers were those who claimed the 1862 Holmstead Act made the Oklahoma land available to the first settler, invalidating the need for an organized Run.

Take a look at the city’s official Launch Schedule for the .nyc TLD and you’ll see how the Sooners were written into a privileged position in the 2012 contract, with 10 groups are given first dibs on the .nyc domain names.

  1. Government (City, State and Federal offices providing services in the City);

  1. City-Based Non-Profits (entities that provide services within the City and that are registered with the State of New York as not-for-profit corporations);

  1. City Concessionaires (private entities using City-owned property under contract with a City agency)

  1. City Franchisees (private entities using inalienable City-owned property to provide a public service under contract with a City agency);

  1. Retail Service Licensees (private retail establishments licensed by a City agency to conduct such business);

  1. Food Service Licensees (private establishments licensed by the City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to provide food service);

  1. NYC & Co. Members (members of NYC & Company (a not-for-profit membership organization that serves as the City’s promotional arm and which operates under a concession agreement with the City));

  1. Business Improvement Districts (a/k/a BIDS) (entities formed by local property owners and tenants to promote business development and quality of life and which operate pursuant to the General Municipal Law and local laws authorizing private not-for-profit corporations to provide supplemental services to particular geographic areas of the City and which operate under contract with the City’s Department of Small Business Services for such purpose); 

  1. City Digital Startups (private entities satisfying the following criteria: (a) their primary business objective is to bring to market products or services that are built from or whose functionalities are fulfilled using digital technology; (b) they have a physical presence in the City; and (c) they have registered with NYC Digital as a New York City digital company); and

  2. City Vendors (private entities from whom the City procures goods and/or services and are registered with the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services).

We don’t disagree with all the Sooners choices. Indeed, we advocate for thoughtful and inclusive planning. But we know that the public has not yet had a say in selection process. And we question why, for example, “City Digital Startups” should have priority over businesses that have operated here for decades. 

The contemporary Boomers are another privileged class that will have priority access to premium domain names such as news.nyc, hotels.nyc, tours.nyc, sports.nyc, etc. Who the Boomers are and what domain names they’ll have access to remains cloaked in a bureaucratic haze. The selection process of the Boomer names lacks transparency and has also been diminished by a lack of public engagement.

At this point the best hope for ‘We the people…’ lies in a .NYC Advisory Board that had its first meeting in city hall last month. But the administration’s support for the Board is questionable according to one Board member. More on that soon.

Learn more about The Campaign for .nyc on our wiki pages.

metrics.pngJackson Hts., New York, March 16, 2013 - With the .nyc TLD on course to be activated in the next year, we are exploring ways to judge if it’s a success. The standard metric for TLDs is quite simple: number sold. Thus the more .com or .org names sold, the more revenue to the registry, and success. But with a city-TLD we need another metric.

We might adopt qualitative indicators such as “it improves access to city resources.” But if were to set goals, assess progress, and assure accountability some quantitative measures are required.

In our role as an At Large Structure we’ll soon begin working to identify these metrics as a member of an ICANN Consumer Metrics GNSO Working Group, now in formation. The Working Group is committed to creating metrics to address what some consider to be deficiencies in the initial GNSO new TLDs guidelines. While the Working Group will focus on a broad range of gTLDs, we’ll look to identify metrics that pertain especially to city-TLDs.  

The results of this ICANN effort will be of interest to the .NYC Advisory Board, a new entity created by the city administration to provide strategic guidance on the operation of the .nyc TLD. (Note: Our founding director is a member of the Board - stay tuned for details.) The exploration and outcome should also be of interest to the other 38 cities developing their TLDs. See the City-TLD Checklist wiki page for more. (Commons graphic courtesy of GrapeCity.)

 Learn more about The Campaign for .nyc on our wiki pages.

Jackson Hts., New York, January 16, 2013 - We today submitted an objection to ICANN concerning the city’s application for the .nyc TLD.

We’ve named the submission Hoboken.nyc as that domain name reflects a key fault that would result from the paucity of public engagement and planning that has gone into the city’s .nyc TLD application.

The comment concludes with:

The application for the .nyc TLD by the city of New York should be held in abeyance until the City of New York holds informed region-wide public hearings (if for .nyc) enabling the community to fully understand the consequence of the endeavor. This is a Critical Internet Resource that may well determine the effectiveness of the city’s digital infrastructure for decades to come. Residents and businesses should have a say in deciding its use

The ICANN’s New TLD Review Group will consider the objection following a process and timeline indicated on this document. See our submission and follow its review at ICANN from this wiki page.

Filed January 14th, 2013 under Cities, At Large, City-TLDs, City Agency

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Toronto, Canada, October 22, 2012 - The recently concluded ICANN meeting in Toronto provided several opportunities to advance the development of the .nyc TLD. Connecting.nyc Inc.’s Tom Lowenhaupt attended the meeting and reports that three CnI initiatives might have a positive impact on the New York and other city TLDs.

  • A project is afoot to engage with Internet Society chapters in 17 cities that have applied for TLDs - Aub Dhabi, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Budapest, Doha, Helsinki, London, Madrid, Melbourne, New York City, Paris, Rome, Stockholm, Taipei, and Tokyo - with two goals in mind. The first is to provide public engagement assistance and policy guidance to the applicant cities. The second is to provide a platform for the 17 cities to share best practices. Additionally, it is hoped that Internet Society chapter membership might expand.  

  • On Sunday, October 14, 2012, ICANN’s new president, Fadi Chehade, addressed the At-Large Advisory Committee and stated that its efforts to engage individual internet users in the ICANN governance process is enabled ICANN to be more than a trade association. On Tuesday, October 16, we presented to the At-Large Outreach Subcommittee a path to engage individual internet users from the TLD applicant cities in the ICANN’s governance processes. Our proposal focused on the 39 cities (17 with ISOC chapters, 21 without) that have applied for city TLDs. With a combined population of about 175,000,000, we advocated fora campaign to engage individual internet users in these cities through the development of the “AtLarge.city” domains, for example, AtLarge.AbuDhabi, AtLarge.paris, AtLarge.nyc, … These domains provide an opportunity to create common channels for engagement in the ICANN processes. Our proposal was well received and we have begun working with the Outreach Subcommittee. Note: there may be some cross pollination with this and the previously mentioned Internet Society endeavor. 

  • Finally, Connecting.nyc Inc. applied to be a formal part of the ICANN’s At-Large Structure. Our expectation is that with its approval, we will formalize the role we’ve played with ICANN for the past 6 years, providing a channel to facilitate New Yorkers’ engagement with the ICANN’s processes. See At-Large for developments.

Beyond our initiatives, it was a typical ICANN extravaganza: more than 100 meetings spread out over 10 days (see schedule here). The meeting was “officially” summarized in this 15 minute video with ICANN Chair Steve Crocker and President Fadi Chehade. One of the more interesting developments was the MyICANN.org site with a well designed filter. ICANN’s next meeting is in April in Beijing.

Learn more about The Campaign for .nyc on our wiki pages.

Filed October 22nd, 2012 under Internet Society, At Large, City-TLDs, ICANN

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