City-TLDs and the Multistakeholder Model – Comments To ICANN

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Thomas Lowenhaupt - ICANN53 presentation to Board of directorsJune 26, 2015, Buenos Aires – Over the past few months we’ve grown increasingly distressed over the city’s failure to initiate a new governance process for the .nyc TLD. As we’ve mentioned previously, the city’s residents and businesses lost their say in planning our city’s TLD when the .NYC Advisory Board ceased operating last December.

While at the recent ICANN conference in Buenos Aires we learned that New York is not alone in its disregard for stakeholder engagement. Indeed, we were unable to find a city-TLD that respected the multistakeholder model in their TLD’s planning, design, and development.

Responding to the flawed governance process for city TLDs,  Connecting.nyc Inc.’s Thomas Lowenhaupt offered the following comment to the ICANN’s Broad of Directors at its June 25 Public Forum in Buenos Aires:

My name is Thomas Lowenhaupt. I live in New York City, and I’d like to speak about the public interest and city-TLDs.

On April 19th, 2001, a resolution I introduced was approved by a local governance body in New York City. Entitled “The Internet Empowerment Resolution,” it called for the development of the .NYC TLD as a public interest resource.

Now, a little over 15 years later, .NYC is operating with close to 80,000 names issued. One might imagine that I’d be standing before you filled with delight and joy. But the opposite is true.

In New York City, in all these years, there has not been a meaningful public hearing about our city’s TLD.

We’re not alone in that regard. This past Sunday at a geo-TLD meeting held right down the hall, I asked the representative from .PARIS about public engagement in developing its name allocation plan. She responded that there have not been any public meetings.

How might we improve this situation and insert the public interest?

I believe an effective process is before us, the multistakeholder model.

When ICANN again begins accepting applications for cities, a fundamental requirement of the process should be that all stakeholder groups have had a meaningful opportunity to participate in a consensus-based planning process. A meaningful opportunity to participate in a consensus-based planning processes. Any application for a city TLD should detail how it embodies the informed consent of all stakeholders. Informed consent.

Such a plan would define the public interest.

In support of this statement, over the past months we’ve advanced the concept of “informed consent” into the ICANN’s policy development processes. And in the coming years we’ll advocate for bottom up, multistakeholder governance by cities applying for their TLDs, and for public engagement in their ongoing operation. (Creative Commons photo courtesy of ICANN)

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Fadi’s Chehade’s Advice for “The Reference City”

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ICANN's Fadi Chehade at NYC's Municipal Building November 24, 2014Jackson Hts., New York, November 27, 2014  – ICANN’s CEO Fadi Chehade met Monday with a group of New Yorkers from city government, civil society, and business in the offices of Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

After introductions and an update on .nyc’s status, Fadi told the attendees that in his travels he is often asked by mayors “What is New York doing about .nyc?” To the mayors, he noted, “New York is the reference city.”

(The inside joke is that most new things are tried and tested elsewhere and then adopted in New York. But they receive their first wide publicity only after the city’s mass of media gives notice. The city’s pols sometimes shine their innovator credentials with new developments and feed the originality myth. In this instance however, the idea of a city-TLD did originate here. And now, as Fadi said, the whole world is watching.)

So how do we make .nyc a positive reference for the hundreds of cities that will be be acquiring their TLDs over the next few years? Fadi was very interested in the city’s nexus policy and suggested it fit with one of the unique development’s he’s seen for new TLDs – authentication. As an example he noted that the Catholic Church has a 10 year plan to replace its centuries old Red Book, the current authoritative listing of Catholic organizations, with the .catholic TLD. Message #1, make nexus work and build upon it.

Fadi also encouraged the city to find a good model for public participation in our TLD’s governance. He pointed to the success Brazil has experienced with its “multistakeholder” governance structure for the .br TLD. Most interesting, the governance entity has 21 members with the government appointing 9 – a minority. Fadi, turning to the government officials present suggested that “ceding a little bit of the city’s power creates a community which is very powerful.” As a resident it seems a gamble worth taking. But government loosening its grip on power is indeed a rare event. More on the .br oversight by CGI.br can be found here.

For the meeting’s full recording which, in addition to the above, touched on global Internet governance issues, see here. Commons Graphic shows Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade.

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