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

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.

————      ————      ————      ————      ————      ————      ————

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.

General-Update-b.pngNovember 23, 2013

Hello All,

First, note that next week’s regular Thursday meeting falls on Thanksgiving and is cancelled. December 5th is our next Open Board Meeting.  (For those of you who’ve not been following closely, our weekly meetings are Google Hangouts.)

Good news arrived in author and activist David Bollier’s post The Silent Giveaway of New York City’s Internet Domain: Will De Blasio  Step Up? summarizing the many commons features of the .nyc TLD and urging Mayor-elect de Blasio to examine the possibilities. Here’s a sample:

It is unclear if Mayor De Blasio cares enough about this issue (or understands its implications sufficiently) to intervene.  Does he understand how this seemingly arcane technical matter will have enormous, far-reaching implications for the future of the city?  Does he and his staff appreciate how the .nyc TLD could be a rich tool for empowering the City’s 352 neighborhoods and helping people around the world to interact more intelligibly with the City’s people and resources?

Then, if you missed it, take a look at our Hope.nyc? post (below). It discusses the status of the .nyc TLD application before ICANN. It’s a somewhat bleak report. But several other recent developments might be of interest and cumulatively are good news (in an algebraic, two minuses equal a plus kind of way.)

  • Ken Hanson, the contractor’s lead employee for .nyc, has departed NeuStar for sunnier grounds. The .NYC Advisory Board heard from Ken at its second meeting. He is temporarily being replaced with his boss, Jeff Neuman. I’ve met Jeff on several occasions and he’s competent fellow. But he runs NeuStar’s Registry Team that is managing 300+ TLD applications - one of which is ours. It would be good if Ken’s replacement was a New Yorker, familiar with the needs of our city. (Maybe there’s a job there for a departing Bloomberger or one of our supporters. Contact Jeff Neuman if interested.)
  • At our second meeting Ken reported on a Collision Report about names that are used multiple times within the DNS (domain name system) and may not be used until cleared via an ICANN review. The report listed 17,539 .nyc domain names. While the vast majority of these are of little consequence, some are important to the effective operation of our city, for example, mayor.nyc, council.nyc, youth.nyc, and restaurants.nyc.
  • Because of the Rights Protection Mechanism - developed to protect the rights of Trademark holders - the city will need an “Approved Launch Program” prior to activating .nyc. This program will need to explain that our use of mayor.nyc is vital to our city’s operation, and that we will not use the domain name to sell cigars (the trademark holder for “mayor” is a cigar company). Same for the Corona neighborhood vs. Corona the beer. And on and on. Perhaps a hackathon and/or some social collaboration software might have a role here. Ideas welcome.
  • But there’s good news too. I’ve met with fellow .NYC Advisory Board member Seth Taylor and we’re working toward a “clean” list of domain names for the 100 or so businesses within the 82nd Street Partnership, the BID where Seth’s serves as Executive Director. We’ll look to address problems such as ineligible characters, e.g., spaces and &, and corporate vs. trade names. We hope to work this pilot list through the .nyc/ICANN review processes and spread the experience to the city’s other 80+ BIDs.

Have a great Thanksgiving and hope to see you at our December 5th Hangout. (Oh yes, and apologies for the Generally lame joke.)

Tom Lowenhaupt, Director

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

icann-logo.pngJackson Hts., New York, September 3, 2013 - Connecting.nyc Inc. filed comments with ICANN on its inquiry into trademark rights protection mechanisms and the new TLDs on August 27. The comments, “On TLDs & Building A Great City,” spoke of the role TLDs can play in creating great cities, and of the limitations expansive trademark rights can have of their realization. The comments began: 

Historically, cities were places where people gathered for safety and opportunity. Today cities are increasingly communication centers that facilitate and harness creativity for economic and social development.

Cities harbor the entire range of competing and collaborating cultural actors in tight proximity. To manage these congested spaces, complex administrative and social orders are agreed upon and enforced by residents in cooperation with their governments.

The Internet’s arrival in cities was unplanned. It grew organically to connect and advantage some, but disconnected others. Today it’s recognized that universal service and education are needed to effectively deliver city services. Here in New York those without access and training are increasingly outcasts, unable to find work or gain access to city services.

The first opportunity that cities will have to thoughtfully utilize the Net to address the plethora of issues they confront arrives with their TLDs. Here in New York City the Bloomberg Administration appointed an 11 member advisory board to sort through the opportunities presented… See the full comment here.

Thirty other comments were filed with ICANN on the “Rights Protection Mechanism” issue. (See them here.) Two used New York City domain names to make their point. CORE, the leading European registry and registrar, noted the impact a tobacco company’s trademark on “mayor” might have on the operation of city government if it acquired the mayor.nyc domain name. And Google made note of the rights to the subway.nyc domain name: sandwich shop or underground railroad?

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

    Filed September 3rd, 2013 under Infrastructure, City-TLDs, Domain Names, Oversight, ICANN

    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.

    ICANN-45-Toronto-logo.png

    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

    news-nyc-color.jpgJackson Hts., New York, April 28 2012 - One of the important domain names that will arrive with the activation of the .nyc TLD is NEWS.NYC. How is that name going to be assigned? Will it be auctioned off to the highest bidder or carefully assigned via a tender offer? Are there responsibilities that come with its assignment? How will its success be affected by the broader scope of the TLD’s operation? Will it be a traditional news operation or collaborative news? Will if offer just “news” or something more dynamic, e.g., news, reactions, and actions? What news will be presented and how will it be organized? What’s the decision making process in assigning priority to posted information? How will it be assembled and edited? What’s the business model? How is the information licensed?

    Answers to questions like these will clarify how NEWS.NYC and the .nyc TLD can best serve our city. We’ve begun a conversation about these questions at a variety of locations with background and responses consolidated on our “A Tale of Two Cities” wiki page. Join in. (Commons image courtesy of Patti.)

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

    rod-bergstoms-scream.jpgUPDATE: See details on the city’s application for the .nyc TLD as submitted to ICANN and its contract with vendor NeuStar here.

    Jackson Hts., New York, March 23, 2012 - Below are the rough notes from my visit to DoITT’s office yesterday, March 22, 2012. Apologies for the lack of detail, but I was not provided with a copy of the document and was forbidden by city officials from using any recording devices, e.g., taking a picture of the pages with my cell phone. See details on this here.

    The city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) held a “public hearing” on the proposed contract today. See my written statement here.

    [Note: The city’s “transparency period” ended on March 23 and City Hall’s door has slammed shut without any meaningful public engagement on the TLD development process. And the city’s application for the .nyc TLD will be submitted on April 12 without having received any meaningful public review. This sad situation is reflected in an imagined response of ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom upon learning of the lack of public review.]

    Editors Note: This report was originally made by CnI’s director, Thomas Lowenhaupt, based on  a brief viewing of city documents. With the arrival of a copy of some of the documents, we’ve provided this link to a more complete report on the .nyc TLD documents.

    (Image of  ICANN’s CEO Rod Beckstrom reacting to practices that enabled cities to enter the complex realm of the TLD sans guidance.)

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

    March-7-2012-City-Hall-Bill-signing-open-data.jpg

    Jackson Hts., New York, March 9, 2012 - I was at City Hall on Wednesday for Mayor Bloomberg’s signing of the Open Data Law. Having testified to the city council on a draft of the measure in 2010, I affirmed my support for the legislation. After concluding my remarks I passed on a copy of our award winning The Flushing Community poster to the mayor, saying I hoped it would help the city prepare for its next digital task - planning for the arrival of the .nyc TLD.

    After the signing, a prominent expert and practitioner of all things digital, Beth Noveck, a professor at New York Law School and former Deputy Chief Technology Officer for the Obama Administration, said “You’re next.” and I was doubly cheered.

    But then a conversation with Carole Post, commissioner of the city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunication (DoITT), darkened my day. With Connecting.nyc Inc. the first and primary advocate for the TLD’s acquisition, I’d hoped that our December 22 recommendation, that New York wait for ICANN’s second filing round, had provided the city with a basis and latitude for postponing the filing. (That statement’s essence said “no research, no outreach, no real deadline - let’s wait”.) But the Commissioner stated that they were on a path to submit an application to ICANN by the April 12 deadline.

    I then asked the commissioner about the missing research and public engagement and she said “We’ll do that afterward.” I tried again, reiterating that there’s no rush, our TLD has been, in essence (see comment below), reserved for when we’re ready, and that ICANN has announced that it’s preparing to reopen the filing window. “We’re on a path to file by April.” she again stated. I tried a third time, stating that the filing required serious commitments on the part of the city, but she was sticking to her path.

    I left city hall disappointed but thinking, “Afterward might not be that bad, at least they’re going to do it.” But I returned home to think about the situation, ponder her statements, and to look over the level of commitment required in the New TLD Guidebook. Beginning on page 99 it spells out 50 questions, many concluding with “A complete answer is expected to be no more than 10 pages.” And as one might imagine, there are many potential devils in the details that must be spelled out: Who qualifies to apply for a domain name, who gets what name, how is it decided, for how much, for how long, are there restrictions on name use, how are the needs of local businesses addressed, what about civic organizations, neighborhoods, schools, churches, how are our cultural resources preserved, what is the sustainability plan…

    I was left wondering how they were completing the application without public outreach or expert assistance. Maybe they were going to fill it in after filing as the Commissioner indicated? But the Guidebook seemed clear that changes were the exception not the rule, and that ICANN would base its decision on the April submission.

    Today I decided to prod DoITT and asked “What about the neighborhood names - JacksonHeights.nyc, Harlem.nyc, ParkSlope.nyc, etc. - what are the plans for their allocation.” I await an answer. 

    So here I am, one month shy of an 11 year effort to bring this important resource to the city, and I find myself arguing against doing so. A sad situation indeed. (Commons Photo of Thomas Lowenhaupt at City Hall - courtesy of CnI Library.) 

    Tom Lowenhaupt

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

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