• Council Hearing - Transcript

last modified November 19, 2008 by tomlowenhaupt

­­­­­­­­­From the New York City Council Hearing on the .nyc TLD - October 17, 2008


City Council Hearing on .nyc TLD – Resolution # 1495

Partial Transcript

Following introductory materials presented by council member and committee chair Gale Brewer, and the presentation by Connecting.nyc Inc.'s Founder Thomas Lowenhaupt, a Question & Answer session began. The below is a transcript of that session's discussion on governance issues.

(The time into the session and the speaker is indicated as 28:23 Palage. Read this as saying: At 28 minutes and 23 seconds into the session, Michael Palage said...Participants as identified in the following are: Brewer, Council Member Gale Brewer; De Blasio, Council Member William De Blasio; Sanders, Council Member James Sanders, Jr.; Palage, Michael Palage, Connecting.nyc Inc.'s ICANN Special Advisor; and Lowenhaupt, Thomas Lowenhaupt, Founder, Connecting.nyc Inc.)

...

28:23 Palage – I want to circle back and talk about some of Tom's comments on the governance structure. I bring a lot of expertise. I've worked with a number of registries over the years, .info, .coop, .mobi, .asia and .post. ...  What is important here is that a final governance structure has not been agreed upon, and the reason is because these consultations with the relevant community and relevant stakeholders need to continue. What has become clear is that the governance structure will include certain variables. Obviously the city council has a role is assuring that public policy is incorporated into the operation of this TLD which is going to represent the city's interes.

29:21 Palage - How that representation will be expressed, whether it's direct or indirect. These are some of the things we need to look at. Another variable will be NYC&Company, clearly they have a role promoting tourism and trade within the city and they need to have a role particularly with some of the more generic or commonly used identifiers – hotels, tourism, stuff like that. So putting all those things together is something that hopefully as a result of this hearing and continued outreach we'll be able to find out what the appropriate interlocking mechanisms will be. It is also important in doing this that one acknowledge that launching a TLD is not for the faint of heart. Over the years there has generally been litigation involved with certain aspects of expanding the name space. Either through processes of individual specific applications. So that's one if the reasons why in setting the proposal to be a non profit it was designed to insulate either city council or other non-profits such as NYC & Company from having their operational budgets negatively impacted. Because particularly in the current economic situations you want to make that the existing budgets are going toward achieving their primary goals and you do not want this potential asset to become a distraction so again from a liability standpoint American lawyers ways of complicating things I think, looking back at the launch of new TLDs that one must always factor in from a governance structure.

36:58 De Blasio –  Thank you chair Brewer. And I want you to put me on your list.  This fits with discussion we had before about wireless  and how to look at the interplay of democracy and technology. I lot of us in the council have been pouncing away at this issue  so   There is a fundamental democracy question as we go forward, what power people have in this process. I really appreciate that people are raising the question as to how do we allow people to let people get their message out their brand out their idea out more effectively.  I know everyone, myself included has been frustrated in trying to get a name that 's appropriate finding all avenues blocked and including names that you thought no way on earth could have been taken already. And then there's the dynamic of the unfortunate bidding war that already occurred by someone trying to get a name already entrepreneurially owned by someone already. We've certainly seen that a lot in business and in politics.

38:14 De Blasio - I want to key in on the question of who should take the lead, and you talk about who put this in their testimony about raising the money questions and the entity question I'm very intrigued by the notion of the city directly doing this. Again I see it keying into a lot of what Gale's been talking about in terms of wiring the city, using the Philadelphia example So I want to ask it this way. Why shouldn't the city of New York step in and control /nyc and create an equitable method for allocating ownership of each name?

38:55 Palage - I tried to raise this issue earlier…  litigation has   in creating the appropriate governance structure   insulate the TLD once it does certain constitutional challenges     constitutional challenges raised in the late 90's you have the opportunity to delegate a policy body So you have that safety net you are looking for but then not exposing the city council or the city in litigation involved with the day to day administration of the

40:15 De Blasio – I respect and would like you to comment   preface by saying that in this last month or two we've been given, certainly in my lifetime, the most profound lesson on why the government has to play a role, a mediating role, in public life and the economy and I'm at a point personally   and not apologetic about saying  I no longer have any doubt about government having   the arbiter because I don't trust the private sector to do it. And I think the stock market situation to me just make that point so clearly across the board. So you can say while you'd set up a non-profit, I understand it but I still fear that if it's outside the hands of government it will somehow get derailed or sent into a track where it won't be effective. Second of all. I feel like it's the same point about wiring the city and creating access Why on earth shouldn't be the appropriate role of government? I'm not saying that it might not be complicated, that there might not be costs, there might not be the distraction of having another front we have to act on, But on a philosophical level to me it sounds very similar to what we heard in the hearings about creating a wireless city   That a lot of people were urging us away from the government stepping  in and making sure there was equity And I fear those arguments I think in fact that the answer should be, until you can prove there is a better way, it should be government's responsibility to make sure there is equity in everything involving  technology and everything involving the Internet. So what do you say to that?  

42:00 Palage - As I said in the governance structure, the city has a definite role so , this is not a question of do they have a role, the city has a role. The question is what role do they play in the governance structure? So in looking at how things have been done before. Let's look at the example of .edu. With .edu we have a legacy TLD that many people are familiar with. It's a small TLD, only 7,000.  That TLD the United States delegated to a private entity called Educause, because they thought they'd be able to do a better job 

42:35 Brewer – Is it a non-profit? 

42:38 Palage – Yes.  

42:42 De Blasio – With a government imprimatur? So government authorized?

42:55 Palage – Yes, in that instance the government …

43:45 Palage - And getting back to your concern, a very legitimate concern regarding oversight. Connecting.nyc is a nonprofit, the city council always has the ability to pass legislation, as a city council, to control. So if you feel that the safeguard mechanisms and governance structure do not address your concerns are not adequate, you have the ability to pass legislation... 

44:15 Lowenhaupt - When we started this in 2003 we approached the city government, I tried my best to get into city hall, to encourage the city to submit an application. ...  In 2005 I found the same difficulty. I couldn't find organizations that were interested in this. I knew that Berlin, was interested and that it didn't happen last time. I wanted to make sure that it got done; that this opportunity was not lost. So I started this not-for-profit with the intention of getting city government involved as much as I could…  

44:26 Brewer – You have been meeting with then (government)?

45:30 Lowenhaupt -  I met with DoITT, my council members, with everybody I could get a hold of saying we want you involved. We think we (Connecting.nyc) can focus on the issue. NYC&Company might be a reasonable one to do this but (in reality) they will be interested in a ½ dozen of names. We'll make sure they get them. We met with DoITT and said gov.nyc is yours. It's reserved for you. We met with the Queens Borough President and she suggested that all the borough presidents be on our board. We'd love to have all the borough presidents.

46:06 De Blasio - I hate to interrupt, but there's something in the air I want to get at here. I respect the answer, but I'm not hearing the why not enough. One of the things I'd like to point to is the .nyc is going to be unquestionably more popular than .edu because it has such broad applications and I think, one of the testimony pointing out how powerful it would be as a promotional tool for people to make clear that it was their brand that that was their location simultaneously. But also on the legal front, if you're trying to assure equity and not to let lawsuits bog you down I would think having a government entity defending would give you more change of success than a non-profit even a non-profit with government support. Just because of the sheer weight and legal ability and the way government treats other governments in the legal process. So I'm not trying to be difficult, I'm trying to understand why it is not superior to have it based in government?

47:08 Palage – This is the excellent dialogue. There may not be a right answer. There could just be different viewpoints. If you look at the U.S. government, there was a certain point in time, the green paper, the white paper, the whole genesis of ICANN was to get the U.S. out, the U. S. government out of direct control of the name space. That's why they created "newco" which became ICANN a  not for profit corporation to, if you will, handle the day to day administration. Now although ICANN is handling the day to day administration the oversight you are concerned about is still maintained through two agreements: the IANA agreement and the JPA, the Joint Project Agreement. So what the U.S. government has been doing is letting the non-profit, ICANN, handle the general administration of the global coordinating role while retaining its oversight through separate agreements. So again, getting back to your concern, does the city council, does the city have a role? Yes it has a role. It's just a matter of how do you enforce the role and the concerns. So I guess my question to you is, what do you fear, what are your concerns, what could go wrong?

48:24 De Blasio – Right now we see a growing skew of everything involving Internet along the line of money and resources. As I said you want a name that's the perfect name for you you're going to have to pay for it and if someone has grabbed it entrepreneurially and sell it to the highest bidder which is happening rampantly. And that would be true obviously if you came up with .nyc. Instantly you would have people running all over trying to grab all the good names and I think what it means is that it kind of goes against everything that Gale and this committee's been talking about has equity and access, and so if you keep repeating the pattern we've had until now, which although I appreciate the history and it's government sponsored in a sense, it still seems to me to slowly but surely fall into the worst habits of the private sector where it becomes about who has the most resources who has the most lawyers, etc, etc.

49:20 Palage – Let me address that concern. I was just talking about .mobi where they have hard coded in a user guide certain specific requirements.  .biz is an un-sponsored restricted TLD and one of the requirements they have in there is the requirement that the use of that domain name there must be a bonafide commercial use. So cyber squatting or someone just holding out a name to prevent a legitimate business These are restrictions that have been hard coded into the registrant agreement that are enforced via contract. So if the council has legitimate concerns on the allocation process, if that's what they want to do, the way to do this is through a policy council that will set the registration use and terms. So if you want to sit there and set specific equitable guidelines on how names are used and how they are allocated, you even have the ability, there are some registries that prevent the resale of names.  So if you were concerned about cyber squatter getting a name and trying to resell it to the highest bidder to the detriment of a business, there are ways to address that.   One of the most important ways we are going to prevent the pirating or profiteering of the space is by having the strict registrant requirements, geographical requirement as to who could register. So I think that's number 1. If you're just limiting it to people within New York City  and this is when we met with Paul Cosgrave  from DoITT. They were very concerned that there we strict geographical guidelines so that someone from Jersey City – no you're not a New Yorker you don't apply. So that by restricting it to New Yorkers, that's going to be one of the most important safeguards to minimize profiteering. You can then have the ability to limit how many names a person could have. Historically for example, there have been some registries .ca comes to mind, where you could only have one or two domain names. These are different policy mechanisms that I think the way to go about this is  that everything that you have raised are all excellent points from an equity standpoint and making sure that the use of this TLD provides a maximum benefit to the citizens. I guess my rebuttal to you is that there are ways to do  that through a policy body where you have council members sitting in direct oversight,  and to do that and then have that feed back to the non-profit so that you have that insulation from a liability standpoint  but still have that important public policy safeguard and if you will the short leash so that if you see the non-profit acting in an inconsistent way you have the ability to pull back the leash. 

52:31 De Blasio – Let me jump in.  I don't want to prolong it, I appreciate your answers very much  The fundamental question,   we've had a very strange national situation in the last 8 years civil liberties in terms of information flow, you'll see where this goes. One of the things that grabs me is that for decades and decades and decades it was assumed that the media would show you the tragedy of the bodies of soldiers returning to this country and then somehow it was blacked out when this particular war in Iraq began and its never happened. So what that says to me is that something can be well established as a concept of freedom of information and journalistic practice and suddenly it can be compromised. Which means that anything can be compromised. You don't have to be a conspiracy theorist to realize how money power and everything else can change the flow of information. That being said, when this committee started talking about assuring real access, you saw all sorts of people coming out of the woodwork trying to inhibit the notion of the city playing a role in doing that. And all sorts of fears raised even though there are all sorts of examples of other cities and other governmental entities playing an aggressive and effective role. My fear is whenever you take it a few steps away from our immediate ability to control and oversee it, it gets lost in the confusion of things, its harder to effect change, you could have people on a board, but that's still several steps to you identify a problem and get to a solution and move a solution through an indirect process, whereas something under our direct oversight in my opinion there's more chance of at least getting a public debate on it. So I don't want to belabor. I just want to give you a flavor of why to me when I hear this particular vein, I see a lot of things in society going the wrong way in terms of democratic process and freedom of information, so on this one I'd say, how do we put a higher level of guarantee and can you do that if it's not directly overseen by a legislative body?  

54:38 Palage – I think this is a good constructive dialog. My response, again, this is just a free flow of information, one potential way of getting that, if you will, the nuclear option of what happens when you have a rogue non-profit, because that's really what you're concerned with, what happens when you have rogue nonprofit of registry operator that is no longer responsive to the city council's concern, the public policy trust has been violated.  One potential way, and again this is just a dialog here, is based upon the most recent RFP where you have to have the affirmative approval of relevant city government, perhaps you look at incorporating that safeguard into the actual registry agreement. So that any time the city has the ability to say when the application was put forward we gave them support, we believed in them and at any point in time when that trust has been violated, the city has the ability to contact ICANN and say

55:42 De Blasio – Well then it's a very short leash. I'm less worried about a rogue non-profit than a non profit overwhelmed by the power and legal teams of corporations who want to buy up a lot of names and use them for whatever reason. I think if you say to me there's a very short leach I'm more intrigued then, that there's almost a trigger mechanism something if something inappropriate happens there's very something specific remedy in a specific way for example their charter is revocable under these conditions or whatever. I am talking from a broad construct but I would urge as the committee moves forward that we push for a very clear sharp safeguard so that if something is not working we have the ability to pull it back.

56:29 Brewer – Along those lines, when I spoke to DoITT … if there was one aspect of this that I felt most strongly about is that whether it's government or non-profit    New York City should not be participating in supporting a for-profit to be the oversight for this project. So that was something that in the comment period, all of us, individually or collectively as a committee should be commenting. 

... 

66:46 Sanders – No, just more of a statement madam chairman. This sounds like a very good idea. I was thinking that the primary responsibility seems that it would go through EDC or some variation. EDC more than anything else. To manage it, they would of course sub-contract it.  But I think it's a great idea, I can see it making money for the city at a time when money will be necessary. My first thought was not free, for a charge, and for the police department .nyc or some variation of this. I can see it.

...

­97:33 Jack Eichenbaum, Coordinator Emeritus of GISMO - I started GISMO (Geographic Information Systems Membership Organization) in 1990 which has a lot to do with what I'm going to say here. We tried to develop a user group for a new technology called GIS, and we were pretty successful at that. But there were huge barriers. The barrier were that most people quite rightly think about their own concerns and parochially and not about the entire city. And when I think about a .nyc, as symbolically, as the people who think about the city as a whole. And I think of it as a merit badge in a way, for individuals and for people who are thinking about this sort of thing. I am familiar with several organizations familiar to everyone in this room. City government is divided into agencies. Most people take their agencies very seriously, more seriously that New York City. Because it's the agency that promotes them, that gives them rewards, that provide them with a workplace, they have a chairman who's concerned about the agency. And its the same in the city council, people are elected to the city council from districts, and they know about the boundaries of those districts, and their first job is to report to those districts and to get reelected by these districts. And it's the same with committees of the city council, they break the city down. And it's the same with academia. Every academic institution has departments. I remember when I was doing a masters degree in chemistry. There was a chemical physics in the physics department and physical chemistry in the chemistry department and they never talked to one another. All of these thinks are very real to people inside them, but are real barriers for people who are trying to integrate and synthesize things at a  higher level, a higher lever that we are all concerned with, particularly in the city council, looking for the betterment of this city ... And even that, most people think of it as the five boroughs, it really isn't just that. It extends way beyond that into a city-state that goes way up the Hudson, into New England, into New Jersey. It doesn't just end at the Nassau Queens line. We've got to think bigger. There needs to be people who integrate all the time. Integration of knowledge on the larger New York City level is so needed by all of our institutions, not everyone is going to do this but the people in .nyc better be doing that. And that's the merit badge, that's the symbol of how we can begin some higher level thinking that goes beyond the parochial concerns of the institutions that we work for.

101:02 Brewer - And I particularly want to thank Joly MacFie for his ongoing support keeping this committee's activities on record. I so appreciate his efforts.­

101:22 Brewer- Thank you all. This hearing is closed.

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