ICANN GAC Boondoolge: Why its advice may infringe on future applications.

From ICANN’s guidebook Module 3,”ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee was formed to consider and provide advice on the activities of ICANN as they relate to concerns of governments, particularly matters where there may be an interaction between ICANN’s policies and various laws and international agreements or where they may affect public policy issues.”

It continues to say that

“The process for GAC Advice on New gTLDs is intended to address applications that are identified by governments to be problematic, e.g., that potentially violate national law or raise sensitivities.”

During the Beijing Meeting GAC as expected provided advice on some applications, and according to the GAC Communique, “The GAC Advises the ICANN Board that:

 The GAC has reached consensus on GAC Objection Advice according to Module 3.1 part I of the Applicant Guidebook on the following applications:3.

The application for .africa (Application number 1-1165-42560)

The application for .gcc (application number: 1-1936-2101) ”

Part one of module three under which DotConnectAfrica received the advice says “I. The GAC advises ICANN that it is the consensus of the GAC that a particular application should not proceed.

This will create a strong presumption for the ICANN Board that the application should not be approved. The ICANN Board is also expected to provide a rationale for its decision if it does not follow the GAC Advice.’’

During the ICANN 46 it was widely reported of leakage that DotConnectAfrica would definitely be in the list. Kevin Murphy an ICANN insider who has variously been accused by DotConnectAfrica of framing articles to favor the competition reported almost definitely that “From what I’ve been able to piece together from the GAC’s public hints, its Early Warnings, and sources in Beijing, I think I’ve identified many of these applications.

I’m pretty certain that DotConnectAfrica’s application for .africa is going to get killer Advice. ”

Another blogger

“NetNames has obtained a tentative list of applications on the GAC advice submissions list. As expected, this is a short list which includes Amazon’s Dot YUN and Dot AMAZON (the latter because of a geographic conflict being bought forward by Brazil and other South American countries), DotConnectAfrica’s Dot AFRICA, several terms associated with the Chinese geographic names including international hotel Shangri-La’s Chinese character application for the string Dot SHANGRILA, and strings linked to government functions (see list above) like Dot AIRFORCE, Dot ARMY and Dot NAVY.”

According to the developing story behind the .africa application, DotConnectAfrica has been fighting for the longest time ever that Africa Union should not be given the mandate that belongs to ICANN. AU is a co-applicant of Uniforum a south African company that received a late appointment later after a few members lobbied to get their company in place, its reported that an RFP was put forward for interested parties to apply though one had already been earmarked. DotConnectAfrica also lost its endorsement letter received in 2009 long before Uniforum came along.

DotConnectAfrica  have also requested ICANN to waive the 60%  stipulation for geographic gTLDS under the governmental support , this is principally because Uniforum are backed by AU who are keen to give a blanket endorsement at the expense of countries that are clearly not properly aware of the ICANN process  including many of the endorsements and irregularities evidencing misrepresentation .

During the Baku IGF meeting its reported that members used the African IGF meeting to lobby for governments to object DotConnectAfrica’s application. The GAC ICANN advice finally gave the hammering advice that portrays just how GAC a purportedly neutral organization is now becoming an impediment to transparency.

Milton Mueller  in his article Early Warnings….of Corruption in ICANN’s GAC opined that

“Private interests are thus openly exploiting the GAC’s role as gatekeeper, actively lobbying them to support their own application or to torpedo their competitors. Apparently, the GAC is more than willing to play along. There is lots to gain – currying favor from moneyed interests, for example – and nothing to lose, as the GAC is completely unaccountable to anyone, operates under no law, and can raise objections “for any reason.”

Its an open secret that applicants like DotConnectAfrica are thus an unfortunate victim of such personal interests, infact according to Mueller’s reportage of GAC advice, “No one supported the GAC, unless you count a half-hearted plea from board member Mike Silber to recognize how hard the GAC had worked. This drew tepid applause from a smattering of the audience.” Everybody knows tha DotConnectAfrica have been crying foul of ICANN boards representation particularly of Mr.Silber’s presence which was has been viewed as undue influence. Its not a surprise therefore that he could applaud a resented GAC.

GAC is definitely growing to be a force that is totally against the bottom up approach that ICANN is encouraging in its glorified multistakeholder model. “The GAC’s growing self-importance and isolation from the broader community of ICANN stakeholders is threatening to spiral out of control.” Says Mueller.

Kenya a country who hosts DotConnectAfrica had its advice but it was ignored in the sea of consensus, the presence of friends of Uniforum who have globe trotted lobbying for underhanded support from seemingly unaware Governmental representatives is appalling.

The Boards decision on this advice would really matter in judging how properly ICANN works, either to have a kill-switch on applicants who have spent huge investment in terms of 185 000 USD plus to go to the drain at the expense of transparency and fairness or offer a level playing field by reconsidering the guidebook and the uniqueness of the African case.


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