2014-10-01

New gTLD Domain Extensions, ICANN Dysfunction, dot INSURANCE

As reported by Tom O'Toole at Bloomberg BNA, fTLD's successful application for new gTLD .INSURANCE is now designated by ICANN as "on hold" and correspondence from fTLD counsel to ICANN indicate the cause for the "hold" is Donuts (or one of its affiliates) which applied (through an affiliate), unsuccessfully, for .INSURANCE, but also (through another affiliate) applied for, and was awarded, .INSURE, which has launched. The correspondence (pdf) of fTLD's counsel to ICANN, none of which has been released by ICANN, provides a revealing look into the dysfunctional world of ICANN and its new gTLDs program--correspondence excerpts follow below (emphasis added)--

... Not only is fTLD deeply troubled by ICANN's handling of this matter, but we are confounded by ICANN's apparent willingness to extend the time period for Donuts to file a notice of request for Independent Review Process ("IRP") relating to the seven strings, including .INSURANCE, named in its July 18, 2014, request for CEP...

Setting aside the fact that any request by Donuts for a CEP relating to .INSURANCE is untimely and improper, any new purported time period for commencing an IRP also has expired, unless ICANN has afforded Donuts extra time... 

[W]e presume that ICANN has entered into an agreement with Donuts to extend the period for filing an IRP. If this is the case, ICANN is improperly and unduly delaying fTLD's progress towards delegation, at material detriment to fTLD...

During the several months in which fTLD’s application has been on hold as a result of various actions taken by Donuts, its affiliate, Pioneer Willow, LLC (“Pioneer”), which applied for a competing gTLD—.INSURE—has proceeded to enter into a registry agreement with ICANN and benefit immensely from the delays suffered by fTLD. On September 3, 2014, .INSURE entered into general availability without any competition from .INSURANCE. Each day that Donuts continues to delay fTLD’s application for .INSURANCE is another day that .INSURANCE loses registrants to .INSURE. ICANN must put an end to these anti-competitive actions and, at the very least, stop facilitating them by holding fTLD’s application hostage to Donuts’ improper and untimely attempts to engage in ICANN’s accountability mechanisms... 

Another concern, which should be brought to ICANN’s attention and that of the broader Internet community, is the apparent collaboration by certain portfolio applicants—companies associated with a large number of applications—in abusing ICANN’s internal processes in order to impede community based applicants from moving forward with their applications for the same strings. ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee (“GAC”) has repeatedly expressed its concern that the ICANN processes and in particular the auction mechanism raise public policy concerns by routinely disadvantaging community applicants. In light of the high costs associated with Community Objections and the high standard community applicants must meet in order to prevail in Community Priority Evaluations, the GAC reiterated in four separate Communiqu├ęs its Advice that ICANN consider “preferential treatment for all applications which have demonstrable community support.” Despite the GAC’s consistent and repeated Advice on the subject, ICANN has failed to give due regard to the Advice and has not conducted any meaningful discussion or briefing with the GAC on the subject of community applicants. In light of ICANN’s apparent disregard of repeated GAC Advice ....

gTLD applicants, such as fTLD, have a right to know the timeframes for the accountability mechanisms directly affecting their applications. Moreover, all applicants interested in pursuing ICANN’s accountability mechanisms—or applicants concerned that competitors might do so—have a right to know if ICANN is unable to comply with the deadlines set forth in its Bylaws and the extent to which they can expect such accountability mechanisms to be delayed. Because ICANN is tasked through its Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation with operating in a transparent and accountable manner, fTLD urges ICANN to provide a copy of the information requested…

read more here (pdf)

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