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.

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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.

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.

dozen-smile.pngJackson Hts., New York, February 21, 2014 - With the de Blasio Administration reviewing the city’s approach to the .nyc TLD, today we reviewed the Towards City-TLDs In The Public Interest White Paper prepared by Dr. Michael Gurstein and our founding director in 2007 and thought it worthwhile that we promote its findings once again. 

The White Paper detailed 12 advantages that would arise from a thoughtfully planned and executed TLD development plan. While the intervening 7 years revealed other benefits, the original advantages constitute the bulk of the advantages we might anticipate. Here they are:

NOTE: In the following GC-TLD refers to a Global City TLD.

  • Good Domain Names - If issued equitably and at affordable rates, a public interest GC-TLD will facilitate the fundamental benefit that derives from a new TLD, that is, good names, those that are short, descriptive, and memorable.
  • Equitable Distribution of Domain Names – A public interest GC-TLD can establish allocation policies that avoid pitfalls such as hoarding and typo-squatting. Policy decisions can be made on price and nexus requirements (a legal term indicating a required city connection such as a residency or operating a business), and can reserve domain names for unbiased public interest directories, government, civic, and issue usage.
  • Affordable Domain Names – By eliminating the profit requirement, public interest GC-TLDs can keep prices low and set rates that maximize community benefit. It can provide affordable names for the young entering the business world, for the community and civic worlds, for recent immigrants, small businesses, and for use in the public realm. Where appropriate and feasible, a GC-TLD operated in the public interest can provide free names to individuals, organizations, start-ups, etc.
  • Name Set-Asides - With an improved community a key part of its mission, a public interest GC-TLD can set aside second level names for neighborhoods or civic benefit activities and issues, e.g., “www.elections.nyc” or “www.sante.paris” Also, it can experiment with allocation plans that facilitate shared name usage for civic, community, and issues. e.g., developing a reusable public access name bank that facilitates a time-based allocation of names like “www.save-the-tree.nyc.”
  • The New Proximity – While the Internet excels by connecting on a global scale, a public interest GC-TLD can establish discussion, issue, geographic, and opportunity name spaces where residents can locate one another. Combining the Internet’s global reach and local face-to-face contacts will optimize the exchange of ideas and revivify the traditional role of cities.
  • Civic Tools for Collaboration – The New Proximity will be facilitated by making available public access civic tools such as calendars, maps, listserves, polling, and organizers. These may be adapted from those currently providing web widgets such as Google or custom developed if needed.
  • More Secure Experience – With a focus on a limited and fixed geographic area, a nexus requirement for acquiring a city domain name (i.e., a demonstrated residency or business interest in the city), and working in close cooperation with the extant institutions, public interest GC-TLD operators can approximate the expectation and experience found with TLDs such as .gov and .edu.
  • Unbiased Directories – A public interest TLD can create directories of selected second level domain names like www.hotels.nyc and www.schools.nyc, making city resources far more accessible. For example, a carefully designed and managed www.hotels.nyc directory would provide global access to a small directory page presenting the city’s hotels using alpha and geographic links to sites of the hotel’s choice. Or a directory might make a city’s schools accessible by organizing them by public vs. private, and primary, secondary, and university.
  • Intuitive Design - A well planned and organized TLD will be intuitive and provide confidence that “guesses” will be effective. For example, today one might imagine success by directly entering www.ibm.com or www.coke.com into a browsers address space. With a fresh GC-TLD name space residents might presume that the entry www.jacquescafe.paris would reach its target. Intuitive design will also play a role in encouraging directory searches of the likes of www.bookstores.london or www.restaurants.nyc.
  • Search Engine Transparency – Whether one is searching for a hotel or issues surrounding a local election, the trustworthiness of the responses is vital. Developers of GC-TLDs will find advantage by presenting search engines with transparent heuristics.
  • Identity – While any city-TLD will say for example, Made in Berlin or From Mumbai, a GC-TLD operated in the public interest will assure the long term preservation of the TLD as a symbol of a city’s character. And with public participation in its design and development, it will provide that point of civic pride around which a population will rally to protect its brand.
  • Shrink Digital Divide – A public interest GC-TLD could (and should be expected to) commit a portion of funds received from name sales and other sources to facilitate the provision of civic collaboration tools, education, training and eradicating digital divides.

 Read the White Paper here. Commons image courtesy of  J. Star.

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

Filed February 21st, 2014 under .NYC Advisory Board, Oversight, Governance

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Jackson Hts., New York, November 5, 2013 - The Bloomberg Administration’s .NYC Advisory Board held it’s third meeting on October 17th. Advisory Board member Thomas Lowenhaupt recently released a meeting report anticipating an uninspired future for the .nyc Top Level Domain (see report). The following comments on several key reports from the meeting.  

Nexus

If there was any good news it was a smidgen of progress on the nexus issue - the requirement that those using .nyc domain names be connected to the city in some meaningful way. Registrants of a .nyc domain name will now need to “authenticate” their nexus by including a city zip code in their domain name application. While this is an improvement, its deterrence effect on squatters and speculators might be minimal as applicants without a legitimate New York address (the nexus) will be able to do a simple Google search, e.g., zip nyc, copy one of the many zip codes into the application, and bingo, they own a part of New York City. 

But even here there was giveback by the city. The contractor argued that the zip code requirement will reduce the number of registrants - and its revenue - and thus alternative compensation was warranted. The city agreed and will compensate the contractor with additional premium names - high value names such as hotels.nyc, tours.nyc, news.nyc - that the contractor can auction off, keeping 60% of the revenue.

As to the Advisory Board’s suggestion that a valid street address also be required, the city said it is negotiating for this, but did not express a “nothing less” attitude. And even if it achieves success here, there’s still no acknowledgement that enforcement needs to be beefed up. As it stands, the contractor will not review any applications prior to registration, only doing a post registration audit of 50 or so registrations per week. With 25,000 names expected to be registered on the first day, this seems ineffective at best.

Traditional and Intuitive Names

There was only bad news when it came to maintaining access to our existing government, business, civic, and portal names. ICANN, ignorant still of the needs of cities, issued a new Rights Protection Mechanism providing the city with the ability to reserve 100 domain names “for the purposes of promoting the TLD.” So the city’s 352 neighborhood names will be made available to those with the swiftest Internet connection, not to responsible residents from neighborhoods around the city. Small businesses will face the prospect of having their treasured names ransomed back to them by sharp eyed speculators. And intuitive names such as arts.nyc, BeautyParlors.nyc, hardware.nyc, libraries.nyc and LittleLeague.nyc will go to insiders, with no concomitant need to provide local content, foster civic responsibility, or help build a city-friendly Internet.

Stumbling To Finish Line

While the Nexus and Names policies remain defective, and with a multitude of opportunities proffered by a city-TLD in need of evaluation and perhaps development, the administration is forging ahead seeking to chalk up another “success” before January 1. There’s to be something called a “Listening Session” that sounds more like promotion than 21st century public engagement. And the administration is producing a Public Service Announcement to be shown in taxis to hype the sale of .nyc domain names.

Asked about plans to move the nyc.gov website to the new TLD, the administration’s spokesperson responded, “That’s a decision for the new administration.” But if city government is not sold on moving to the new TLD, why would anyone else? What does .nyc offer that’s different from the 1,000 other new TLDs that will come online in the next year? Sadly the answer seems to be nothing. Rolled out as is, we’ll not have a guiding framework like the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811 which mapped Manhattan’s street grid. Instead of a thoughtfully organized digital grid, .nyc will bring a chaotic mean-streets, a digital reincarnation of the 1980’s Times Square.

Hope.nyc

As mayor-elect de Blasio takes the pulse of the city, we hope he looks afresh at the opportunities a thoughtfully planned and developed .nyc TLD offers both for government administration and the city’s businesses, organizations, residents and visitors. And that he engages the public in an inclusive planning process.

Filed November 4th, 2013 under .NYC Advisory Board, Civics, Governance

Larry-Strickling-CITI-2013.pngColumbia University, New York City, June 20, 2013 - At the Future of Internet Governance conference at Columbia University’s Institute for Tele-Information, Assistant Secretary of Commerce and NTIA Administrator Larry Strickling stated that applicants for city-TLDs should be prepared to demonstrate a willingness “to operate according to a true multistakeholder process” and that this should be a factor in evaluating their applications.

The statement was made in response to a question from Connecting.nyc Inc.’s Thomas Lowenhaupt, who, reflecting on his 16 year experience as a member of a multistakeholder governance entity in New York City, and on the U.S. government’s broad support for the governance model, asked Mr. Strickling if he thought the model should extend to city top level domains.

Administrator Strickling’s answer also spoke of the NTIA’s intent to require the entity managing the .us TLD to follow the model as it would “set a good example … that others might want to emulate.” Here is the Administrator’s statement in more detail:

I think certainly, as part of the application process … the demonstration of the willingness … to operate according to a true multistakeholder process should be an important factor. I do know that … we’ll be going out for the .us contract, and this issue has been squarely presented to us, in the sense that the current operator of that domain Neustar doesn’t operate as a true multistakeholder way, and that’s one of the requirements we’re going to put on this new round of people who want to come in and do this [We want to] … bring these ideas in and actually show that we can do them on a day to day basis. Beyond that I don’t have a suggestion today for how we expand that to the rest of the world and these other Top Level Domains but maybe we can set a good example … that others might want to emulate.

The full Q&A is available at the conference video. The image is courtesy of New York Internet Society.

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

Filed June 29th, 2013 under Internet Governance, City-TLDs, NTIA, Governance

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.

City-Hall.JPG

Jackson Hts., New York, May 10, 2013 - With the time fast approaching when the .nyc TLD will begin shaping our city, the Bloomberg Administration’s .NYC Advisory Board held it’s initial meeting in City Hall’s Brooklyn Room at 10 AM on May 2.

The Advisory Board’s members come from various sectors including technology, education, small business, non-profit, and community organizations. Connecting.nyc Inc.’s director, Thomas Lowenhaupt, is a member of the board and is assembling a wiki page with a meeting report and follow up materials. See that meeting report here.

Later that day Connecting.nyc Inc. hosted its weekly Open Board Meeting, Tea & City-TLDs, during which our director reported on the city hall meeting and heard opinions from civic activists and an industry expert on how a TLD can help or handicap our city. See a recording here.

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

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