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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Jackson Hts., New York City, July 27, 2013 - The architectural design of the .nyc TLD will have a significant impact on its economic viability and its capacity to serve city residents, organizations, and visitors. To help explain that impact we’ve created a wiki page using a  “TLD is land” analogy to discuss the plus and minus of several TLD architectures.

Two elements of city-TLD architecture - name structure and useability - are discussed in detail. Name structure is presented as the TLD’s supporting steel and concrete. And useability the features that facilitate access: finding tools - index.nyc, contents.nyc, search.nyc, etc., Trust Buttons, and the consistency of the TLD’s look and feel. Building upon the experience with the United Kingdom’s .uk TLD, we’ve suggested a first draft of a generic second level name-set.

In discussing usability we note the advantages that arise with an intuitive city-TLD, enabling New Yorkers to cut through search engine clutter, using domain names such as:

  • search.french.restaurants.nyc
  • reviews.schools.nyc
  • map.hardware.stores.nyc

    Finally, we discuss the opportunities a vertical TLD provides to circumvent the exclusions necessitated by a strict nexus policy.

    See the TLD Architecture wiki page and let us know what you think. 

    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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