[Comments-info-renewal-18mar19] Comment on the proposed renewal of .info Registry Agreement.
gpmgroup at gmail.com
Mon Apr 29 23:59:56 UTC 2019
Mr. Russ Weinstein,
Global Domains Division
Dear Mr. Weinstein,
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed renewal of .info
ICANN needs to decide if it wishes to be a bottom-up consensus driven
governance organization or simply a trade organization looking after its
own contracted parties from which it derives its own revenue.
This conflict of interest is not new In 1776 Adam Smith in “An Inquiry Into
the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (vol. 1 chapter 10)” wrote:
“People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and
diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or
in some contrivance to raise prices. It is impossible indeed to prevent
such meetings, by any law which either could be executed, or would be
consistent with liberty and justice. But though the law cannot hinder
people of the same trade from sometimes assembling together, it ought to do
nothing to facilitate such assemblies, much less to render them necessary.”
Smith's point is that the only way businesses can succeed in a ‘conspiracy
against the public’ is if they are given protection by governmental
Under the false premise of competition and standardization of contracts
ICANN GDD staff are asking the public to believe that they are acting in
the public interest even when it is quite straightforward to show that the
removal of pricing caps is clearly to the detriment of consumers.
The justifications for additional commercial freedoms for ICANN’s
contracted parties are being presented as being in return for the
acceptance of improved protections such as URS.
Whilst this may at first sound plausible ICANN GDD staff must be aware that
the URS rights protection mechanism is currently being reviewed by the All
Rights Protection Mechanism Working Group (RPM WG) through the bottom-up
multi-stakeholder consensus driven model. Indeed one of the questions being
asked by the RPM WG is should URS be extended to all gTLDs including .info
So one has to wonder why ICANN even bothers having a bottom-up
multi-stakeholder model, where some of the most qualified people in the
world freely give up hundreds of hours of their time to find the best
solutions, if its outcomes are to be pre-determined top-down by ICANN GDD
The other justification is competition through an equal playing field this
is based on ICANN’s mission to introduce competition.
>From the 1998 MOU part of ICANN mission was to introduce competition
II.C.2. Competition - This Agreement promotes the management of the DNS in
a manner that will permit market mechanisms to support competition and
consumer choice in the technical management of the DNS. This competition
will lower costs, promote innovation, and enhance user choice and
V.C.9.c. Potential consumer benefits/costs associated with establishing a
competitive environment for gTLD registries. 1
One way of establishing competition is to allocate the rights to run a
registry for a fixed term and on expiry of that term hold an invitation to
tender for a subsequent term.
The alternative approach to registry competition which ICANN has tried to
adopt is to award each gTLD to a registry in perpetuity and then try and
generate the competition, sort under the various MOUs, by awarding new
additional gTLDs to competing registry companies. Whilst this approach has
provided substantial benefits for ICANN’s contracted parties this approach
has provided very few tangible consumer benefits.
This is quite simply because domains are not substitutable. The disruption
cost to move to an alternative far outweighs the cost to provide the
service, so rather than creating the required competition ICANN is simply
creating a series of non-competing private monopolies and the removal of
prices caps will simply compound this policy failure.
One only has to look around the world where contracts to run TLD registries
are awarded at $2-$3 per domain to realise that ICANN’s attempts to
introduce competition are failing. If ICANN is not prepared to operate a
model where it puts the running of its gTLDs out to tender then it should
be looking at introducing wholesale price caps in the $3 - $4 range.
.info is used by a lot of small site owners often on a low or non-profit
basis around the world. These users are particularly sensitive to price
increases and especially so when their local prices are multiplied by a
strong US Dollar exchange rate against their own currency.
So ICANN really does need to reflect on how it can provide greater consumer
benefits/costs associated with establishing a genuinely competitive
environment for gTLD registries as opposed to its current approach of
creating an increasingly generously rewarded series of non-competing
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