It’s time for ICANN to stop the charades and rediscover its bottom-up mandate.
ICANN granted price increases to Verisign for .com domain names last month. It announced the decision on a Friday during the pandemic news flurry, just one day after publishing an analysis of public comments received about the proposed price hikes.
It was an astonishing lack of regard for the bottom-up, community-driven process that is supposed to guide ICANN.
At this point, no one was surprised that ICANN rolled over for Verisign, which gave ICANN $20 million as part of the deal. No one was surprised that ICANN didn’t put any weight on community feedback. But it was shocking how ICANN decided to disregard giving even a pretense of caring about the process.
Zak Muscovitch, General Counsel of Internet Commerce Association, sent a letter to ICANN’s board calling out this charade.
I found the closing particularly powerful. If ICANN’s staff is going to make decisions, negotiate contracts, and then ignore the public feedback–why have the public comment periods at all?
Read the full letter here (pdf). The closing is below.
As you are people of good will who are ostensibly trying to do the right thing on behalf of the global public interest, we would suggest that it is time to take a step back and reevaluate your entire approach with a view to establishing sound, fair processes and rational decision making.
Before embarking on a decision affecting 140 million registrations and imposing a burden on consumers in the hundreds of millions of dollars, you could have easily consulted with stakeholders. By “before”, we mean before negotiating a revised Registry Agreement, rather than seeking comment afterwards.
You could have undertaken an economic study to fulfill your mandate to act in the public interest and to ensure that increasing prices is helpful to the public, rather than solely for your registry operator.
You could have studied and identified if there were any reasonable views to be considered that were contrary to your adopted view that “ICANN is not a price regulator”, and you may even have adopted such different views.
You could have taken stock of the nearly unanimous opposition to price increases from registrants, and determined that based upon public feedback, you should change course in order to serve the public interest.
Instead, you negotiated a controversial price increase, inter alia in exchange for a $20 million payment, prior to seeking any public feedback. When you received It’s feedback, you did not reconsider or change course whatsoever. You empowered Staff to make decisions rather than take responsibility yourself.
It need not be this way. ICANN can reclaim its place as a multistakeholder, transparent, responsive, and credible institution of integrity.