US Senate takes leadership of the ICANN new gTLD program

The US Senate has added its voice to the new gTLD process procedures. In a 26th June 2013 letter to ICANN, Senator Jay Rockefeller, the head  of the Senate Commerce Committee told ICANN to “tread carefully” in opening up new gTLD’s follow GAC advice and consider a limited roll out of first round gTLD’s:

Most of the affected new gTLDS in the GAC safeguard advice target the dictionary name gTLD applications that if passed would attract more scrutiny in their use. While most affected applicants are not satisfied with the GAC Beijing advice on the applications proposals are being made to futher tighten the way the new gTLDS will be treated if they make it to delegation.

Senator  Rockefeller ‘s letter may be seen to trigger some very important issues that need consideration and though it comes generally from a trademark owners’ point of view , the problems in the new  gTLDs are mostly associated with general community ownership of linguistic terms.

The Letter calls on ICANN to consider the multistakeholder process prudently saying “I request that you [ICANN] carefully review the concerns that the ICANN ‘GAC’ and other stakeholders holders have expressed about the gTLD expassion as you move forward with this initiative ” No doubt this application round presents an unprecedented tenure of ICANN which explains the strenuous and tight schedule of fulfilling the increase of new top level domains. ICANN has had to shift some of its strategies in the wake of some failed processes and is sometimes on a “learn as you go’’ mode.

Another issue that is beign explicitly addressed in the letter includes asking ICANN to

“consider a limited first round of new gTLDS to allow for an effective one year review, as requitred under ICANN’s affirmation of Commitments with the department of commerce”

this simply means that ICANN cannot make all processes go without duly monitoring how the new gTLD’s will perform. The letter goes on that

“this review will be critical to adequately gauging the impact of this expansion on internet users  who are ultimately ICANN’s greatest stakeholder”

This letter recognizes the imput of the individual internet user, so far the only voices being heard are those of organizations or individuals who reckon hold a stake in the internet business, governments and several lobby groups, much as the community has been asked to comment of various pertinent matters it remains clear that not very many users are aware of the impact of the new gTLDS and by extension the applicants who have promised to manage the new registries.

This is regardless of the new Public Interest Commitments that would require a Registry Operator of a “Generic String” TLD

“may not impose eligibility criteria for registering names in the TLD that limit registrations exclusively to a single person or entity and/or that person’s or entity’s “Affiliates” (as defined in Section 2.9(c) of the Registry Agreement). “Generic String” means a string consisting of a word or term that denominates or describes a general class of goods, services, groups, organizations or things, as opposed to distinguishing a specific brand of goods, services, groups, organizations or things from those of others.”

Which are some of the requirements that will hold the closed generic gTLDs until ICANN is able to determine how to go about them.

This letter is so far the strongest notice to ICANN that the US government is taking leadership of IG and in particularly take a notice of the new gTLD program and concerned with how the process is being treated. So far, some decisions have been made that may mean far reaching to the applicants and the Senator shows his commitment to the multistakeholder process, I see there is more to come from various stakeholders.

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