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U.S. Government Calls for Delay to New Top Level Domain Names

Department of Commerce says ICANN board should not approve guidebook next week.

In a scathing letter published today on ICANN’s web site, The United States Department of Commerce asked ICANN to not approve the launch of new TLDs during its meeting in Cartagena next week.

The letter, signed by Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information Lawrence Strickling, says that ICANN is not living up to its agreements in the Affirmation of Commitments.

Strickling reminds ICANN that one of its core responsibilities discussed during the negotiation of the Affirmation of Commitments (AOC) was to undertake an economic study regarding the release of new TLDs. He notes that the most recent study says this process is far from complete.

Secondly, Strickling says that a key part of the AOC was to “provide a thorough and reasoned explanation of the decisions taken, the rationale thereof…” with regards to its decisions. He notes that ICANN changed from a March declaration that there should be no cross ownership between registrars and registries to a May staff proposal of 2% ownership to a November decision allowing full cross-ownership.

Strickling writes, “While I’m aware of the desire of some to move forward, the suggestion that the ICANN Board could make an informed decision regarding the timing of the new gTLD program in Cartagena is unrealistic.”

He parts with a harsh critique of ICANN’s progress over the past year regarding improvements to accountability, transparency, and fact-based policy development.

In response to the letter, ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom blogged:

In the Affirmation of Commitments, the US government and ICANN reconfirmed our mutual commitment to the multistakeholder model. ICANN confirmed our commitment to solicit public comment and to hear all voices.

As with all contributions, ICANN will give DoC’s comments careful consideration as part of the implementation of the GNSO policy.

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    • Andrew Allemann

      @ Ron – NTIA is really more than just another constituent. It awards the IANA contract to ICANN. So what this means is unclear, but it was important enough for Beckstrom to blog about tonight.

  1. M. Menius

    The DOC letter to ICANN:

    “… you still have not performed the studies to answer the threshold question whether the benefits of expansion outweigh the costs.”

    Prolific observation by the DOC staff. An objective study would in fact find that the costs of new tld’s would be real & profound, and would likely significantly outweigh the benefit of adding unlimited tld’s.

    This has been obvious to many people. But the ICANN agenda is being rammed forward by a select few with special interests at stake. And in clear opposition to the majority. Easy to read between the lines here.

    ICANN seem to be waiting … until powers with leverage are momentarily distracted, not looking. This letter from the DOC was perfectly timed.

  2. You Know Me

    It was said somewhere that ICANN now has 57 million dollars in its coffers.

    I would not be surprised to learn that ICANN’s goal is to raise so much cash they can just bribe their way though to their end goal.

  3. M. Menius

    The ironic aspect to this huge war chest ICANN have amassed is it further insulates them from accountability. With many millions at their disposal, they can win a war of attrition against concerned parties, and more readily turn a deaf ear to the stakeholder majority.

    On the ICANN blog, George Kirikos suggested that ICANN review and reflect on the accumulated input of the many stakeholders (who submitted well-constructed arguments and concerns on the tld proposal). It’s all there clear as a bell. But it’s contrary to the ICANN-driven agenda … and thus is purposefully trivialized or ignored. They are literally waiting it out to see if there will be sustained opposition over the long term.

    Again, the fix is to stagger new tld releases several at a time (per year) to allow for market uptake and problems to be resolved. To do it any other way is unnecessary, risky, and cannot be justified. Simple. Logical, Do-able. And would diffuse global stakeholder concerns. What is there left to talk about?

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