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.

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

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

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

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

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

Shaping .NYC’s Future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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Jackson Hts., New York, August 23, 2013 - The Bloomberg Administration’s .NYC Advisory Board held it’s second meeting in City Hall’s Outer Ceremonial Room on August 14th. A meeting report was released today by board member Thomas Lowenhaupt - see it here.

The good news is that the Advisory Board has been expanded with 3 new members appointed to represent the city’s small businesses and Business Improvement Districts. Other good news is that an ICANN initiated a “Name Collision” study that might delay the implementation of the .nyc TLD for several months. You’re probably asking “Is a delay good news?”

With several problems remaining, it is. Consider this one. Trademark interests are pushing to the head of the line, demanding that they get first dibs on picking .nyc domain names. By some counts there are 25,000,000 trademarks globally, many of which collide with our civic interests. For example: police is a trademark for an insect repellant. Corona and Rugby are beer and clothes trademarks as well as neighborhood names. And mayor.nyc could go to the cigar manufacture holding the “mayor” trademark in the tobacco category. Some trademark proponents are even fighting a suggestion that a 100 domain names be set aside for civic purposes.

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But the most critical unresolved issue relates to establishing an effective Nexus Policy. Nexus defines who is a New Yorker and entitled to use .nyc names, and the current policy has an enforcement crack in it that might enable tens of thousands of squatters, spammers, phishers and other Internet undesirables to slip through.

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.

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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.

linked-open-data.pngJackson Hts., New York, March 17, 2013 - The city of New York took an historic step last year when it approved of an Open Data Law that will make the preponderance city government data available as a commons. The arrival of the city’s TLD provides an opportunity to further develop city digital resources and extend the data commons.

The range of possibilities is long with the low handing fruit the DNS Data Query Log, a database of inquiries made of the .nyc registry of domain names. Properly anonymized, the Data Query Log provides the potential for a ‘twitter-lite’ data resource providing a pulse of the city.

And perhaps most expansively, if we can educate New Yorkers about the cumulative value of our individual knowledge, train residents to curate and present this knowledge using linked open data and .nyc URIs, there’s an opportunity to thoughtfully organize the sum of city knowledge into a globally trusted TLD. Secondary values can arise from this such as a locally controlled search.nyc. And economic development advantage would follow via local jobs and keeping ad revenue in our city. 

The .NYC Advisory Board, a new entity created by the city administration to provide strategic guidance on the operation of the .nyc TLD, provides a channel for expressing the public will on this issue. Let us know what you think about the above and your ideas about using .nyc data and we’ll pass it through the city’s decision making process. NOTE: Our founding director is a member of the Advisory Board. (Commons graphic courtesy of Wikipedia.)

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

barcoded-NYC.0.JPGJackson Hts., New York, November 16, 2012 - On April 19, 2001 Queens Community Board 3, a local planning agency of the City of New York, passed an Internet Empowerment Resolution calling for the acquisition and development of the .nyc TLD as a public interest resource (it’s like .com, .org, .edu and .gov but just for New York City).

Last night, 11 years later, on the eve of that resolution’s fruition, and with 38 other global cities following the city’s lead - .paris, .london, .tokyo, .barcelona, etc., the board passed another resolution supportive of the original saying in essence: “Hey, we started this thing. Don’t forget us.”

The new resolution calls for City Hall to activate and fund a promised .nyc Community Advisory Board and assure that good domain names - those that are short, descriptive and memorable - are provided to the “city’s neighborhoods, community organizations, not-for-profit institutions, and local small businesses.” It also called for the city to coordinate the development of the.nyc TLD with the 38 other global cities, and it requested that a process be developed for recycling domain names that would assure their availability for future generations. The resolution:


A Resolution in Support of the .nyc Top Level Domain

- by Queens Community Board 3, the City of New York, November 15, 2012 -

Whereas, on April 19, 2001 Queens Community Board 3 passed an Internet Empowerment Resolution calling for the acquisition and development of the .nyc Top Level Domain (TLD) as a public interest resource, and

Whereas, the City of New York submitted an application to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for the .nyc TLD on June 12, 2012, and

Whereas, the City of New York plans to create a Community Advisory Board to “encourage meaningful input into the development of the .nyc strategy” and

Whereas, 38 other cities have followed New York City’s initiative and applied for their TLDs,

Queens Community Board 3 hereby endorses the following resolution:

We congratulate Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council for filing an application for the .nyc TLD.

To contribute to its success, Community Board 3 recommends:

  • that the .nyc TLD’s Community Advisory Board take a careful view of this most important resource, and that it be provided with adequate resources to assure its effective operation.
  • that Community Boards, civic organizations, not-for-profit entities, and local small businesses be represented on the Community Advisory Board.
  • that domain names that support civic life should be thoughtfully reserved for use by the city’s neighborhoods, community organizations, not-for-profit institutions, and local small businesses.
  • that civic not-for-profit organizations, and small businesses be provided with adequate notification of domain name selection periods, and the opportunity to select a good domain name.
  • that the city carefully coordinate the development of its Top Level Domain with the other cities that have applied for their TLDs, seeking opportunities for standardization and the sharing of good TLD governance practices.
  • that a plan be formulated to assure that the .nyc TLD is a sustainable resource: that domain names are recycled so they are available to New Yorkers today and tomorrow.

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.

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