ICANN rejects “Africa Proposal” Tunis Agenda saying Africa “misunderstands ICANN policy”

World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA)
World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA)

The battle for a disputed .Africa top level domain appears to gain new insights as the court process continues.

The court process which has taken the whole of 2016 and is set to be ruled upon in 2017 did not sit well with certain people who through a surprising proposal to the ITU’s World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA-16) by the unlikely African Telecommunications Union (ATU) to amend resolution 47 to include top level domains. The World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly Resolution 47 (pdf) proposal heavily cited the .Africa case. regarding the use of geographic terms for top level domains.

The ICANN CEO has joined the fray of voices that reject the ATU proposal, in a letter to Mr. Houlin Zhao, the Secretary General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) stating

icannlogoAs our team members noted, ICANN has concerns on the African Group’s Common Proposal (AFCP) for an amendment to Resolution 47. While it might have been triggered by some misunderstandings of some African countries on a specific Top-Level Domain application. The proposed text of Resolution 47 is about mandating the ITU-T SG2 with work in ICANN’s remit and measures which already exist within ICANN processes.

 A few weeks before this ICANN CEO’s letter to ITU, Ms. Bekele the CEO of DCA Trust who is also the .Africa applicant wrote an article to the ICANN industry forum titled Why African Telecom Union Proposal Should be Rejected.  In a detailed account of AUC’s historical illegitimate attempt to capture .Africa, she reminded the public that,

The ATU “Africa Proposal” is the same as the failed AUC “Africa Agenda” Dakar

Sophia Bekele DCA Trust CEO

For the close observer, it is very obvious that this ATU sponsored “African Proposal” is similar to the failed AUC sponsored “Africa Agenda” of Dakar in October 2011, which proposed to reserve the .Africa name and its equivalent in other languages such as .afrique and .afriqya, to the AUC as special legislative protection, in contravention of International policy.

This contravention also extended on the so-called “transparent and open call” for AUC RFP, which called for “Community Application” for what should have been an RFP for a “Standard gTLD”, all in favour of securing the endorsement of those special interest groups. Both ICANN Board and ICANN GAC have ignored this issue, but keep ramping about AUC RFP as part of a legitimate argument to DCA.

The ICANN cross-community working group on internet governance (CCWG-IG) were also categorical that the domains are not ITU’s remit. In a statement by Statement of the ICANN Community concerning the World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly Proposal the indicated that

We respectfully submit that this is not a telecommunications standardization issue, and that international law and policy regarding the use of geographic indicators in top level domains is within the remit of ICANN and not the ITU.  In developing and implementing policy related to the use of geographic indicators in top level domains, ICANN is governed by (1) relevant international law and (2) ICANN-specific policies developed through the bottom-up multistakeholder policy development process, which is informed by Advice from ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee (“GAC”).  Moreover, the current proposals contradict previous commitments that the ITU-T is not, and will not become, a policy development body for the technical infrastructure of the Internet.

In particular, the African Telecommunications Union’s (ATU) proposal to amend Resolution 47 seeks to subordinate the ICANN process. Whatever the substance and merits of the ATU’s concern regarding the process being followed with respect to applications for the top level domain, “.Africa,” ITU-T is not an appropriate forum for resolving this ongoing dispute.  Furthermore, it is not appropriate to use this dispute to attempt a unilateral and wholesale change in policy development boundaries.

Further, another appendix from the United States of America proposed suppression of WTSA-12 Resolution 47 – Country code top-level domain names stating in part that

The United States proposes the suppression of Resolution 47 for the following reasons:

–            The problems that existed in the past with some ccTLDs are non-existent today.  For the most part, national governments have developed governance policies for their ccTLDs which managers and operators are following.  The lack of contributions to Study Group 2 addressing Resolution 47 itself is a clear indication that there is no continuing need for this Resolution;

The real threat was experienced from the ICANN GAC Chair, Thomas Schneider, who on a conference call between the ICANN board and the Generic Names Supporting Organization on Thursday stated:

I’m just urging you about considering what happens if many governments consider that this system does not work. They go to other institutions. If we are not able to defend public interest in this institution we need to go elsewhere, and this is exactly what is happening currently at the ITU Standardization Assembly.

This is part of recent developments that need to be watched with concern how ICANN will be governed after leaving the oversight of the US government.

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