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.

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

neighborhood-with-dollar-signs.0.JPGJackson Hts., New York, May 31, 2013 - New Yorkers select their neighborhoods with care. I chose mine based on its proximity to the big city, the cultural diversity of its residents, and housing prices. One gripe I have is the quality of local communication. For reasons that a include a lack of local TV, radio, and daily newspapers it’s difficult to find out what’s going on around here. I’ll grant that it’s a bit easier today than before the Net arrived, but checking 12 or so digital sites has its own drawbacks.

That’s the reason I’ve looked forward to activating the neighborhood name-set: Astoria.nyc, Harlem.nyc, ConeyIsland.nyc, SoHo.nyc… and my favorite, JacksonHeights.nyc. Imagine, one site that will connect me with my neighbors, local events, civic issues, and opportunities. That’s been a dream of mine since my first days on the local community board (1992).

Paving the road for this, a few years back we entered into a collaboration with Wikimedia-NY and the New York Internet Society to test out the idea, creating the NYCwiki.org. By checking community board registers we identified 352 city neighborhoods and began advocating for the reservation of these “dotNeighborhood” domain names (see our dotNeighborhoods home page).

One of our plan’s limits was financing the operation of all these dotNeighborhoods. While ‘hoods such as SoHo.nyc and GreenwichVillage.nyc have institutions and lots of retail that can generate huge advertising and sponsorship revenues (or so we hope), others are tiny, poor, or lacking sufficient revenue sources. We included some general thoughts in a Trust for dotNeighborhoods plan.

This past week Senator Daniel L. Squadron proposed in a New York Times Op-ed, Can a Tree Grow in the Bronx, a solution to financing maintenance of the city’s parks that seems apropos for the dotNeighborhoods. Here’s the way good senator put it:

How can we level the playing field and help ensure that every neighborhood gets the parks it so desperately needs?

One solution is to provide more financing for parks in the annual city and state budgets.

This can and should be done, but it should be supplemented by an ambitious new program: the creation of a Neighborhood Parks Alliance, which would form partnerships between a well-financed conservancy, a “contributing park” and “member parks” in need of more money and support.

A contributing park would commit 20 percent of its conservancy’s budget to member parks with which it is partnered. A park in need would become a member park by gathering signatures from local residents, establishing its own conservancy group and receiving a city commitment, from the Parks Department and local council members, to maintain current government financing levels.

In addition to money, the “contributing park” conservancies would provide continuing oversight, expertise and programmatic support.

As well, the need for the Alliances adds clarity to the intuitive name set for our city’s parks - trust.park.nyc.

Swapping ‘dotNeighborhood’ for ‘park’ makes this sound like a workable solution to me. Thank you Senator Squadron.

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

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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.

Jackson-Heights-balcanized.pngJackson Hts., New York, January 1, 2013 - What impact might our new digital infrastructure have upon our city’s neighborhoods? For the past few years we’ve cataloged some of the benefits that might arise from thoughtfully allocated and locally controlled neighborhood websites on our dotNeighborhoods wiki pages.

But over the past few months, with the city having submitted an application and begun moving toward the activation of the .nyc TLD, we’ve not received the assurances we expected about city hall’s plans for neighborhood networks, i.e., give residents the opportunity to self govern their neighborhoods as they have historically. Indeed, unofficially, we’ve been told that they will not be following our recommendations and the neighborhood domain names will be sold off with a bottom line perspective, not civic betterment.

So let’s explore the impact that action might have on my favorite neighborhood, Jackson Heights. Today there are a dozen or so sites that currently serve our neighborhood’s needs, have served them and are reorganizing, or are preparing to enter the fracas of local media.

The Many Jackson Heights’
 JacksonHeightsLife.com  JHBG.org
 JHGreen.org  jhdogs.ning.com/
 Queens7.com  JacksonHeights.NYDailyNews.com
 NYTimes.com/JacksonHeights  JacksonHeights.Patch.com
 JacksonHeights.Neighborly.com  Google.com/JacksonHeights
 JacksonHeights.EveryBlock.com  JacksonHeights.NewYork.craigslist.com
 YP.com/JacksonHeights  iwantmorefood.com/the-jackson-heights-food-group/

And under the current “unofficial” plan we could add JacksonHeights.nyc to that list, along with sites such as WesternJacksonHeights.nyc, NorthJacksonHeights.nyc, The BetterJacksonHeights.nyc, TouristJacksonHeights.nyc, MyJacksonHeights.nyc, DiversityPlaza.nyc, HistoricJacksonHeights.nyc, etc.

How do residents locate and communicate with one another in such a digitally balkanized neighborhood? Where is the center of our neighborhood when there’s an emergency, an opportunity, or a joyous event we want to share? How do we network over dozens of sites?

It’s long been my view that a central point of contact was critical to the existence of an inclusive and livable neighborhood. Especially in an ethnically and culturally diverse place like Jackson Heights, its vital that we avoid cubbyholes that fester about problems that “they” are causing. We need a central local, a town hall, a public square, a forum, a bulletin board where information is posted and important ideas exchanged.

This is not to imply that all these current sites should not continue as the .nyc TLD comes to life. Indeed, there’s no way to prevent a plethora of sites. And perhaps most importantly, it’s vital that we have a multiplicity of sites to serve our needs. One solution might be a simple blogroll on an “official” JacksonHeights.nyc.

So let me start 2013 with a plea to our officials in city hall: We’re reaching out to the 38 other global cities that have applied for their TLDs to determine how they are using their historic neighborhood names. We suspect our research will steer the city toward empowering our historic neighborhoods, making them a key building block of our new digital civic infrastructure. City hall should wait for our research results before adopting an allocation policy for our dotNeighborhoods.

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