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INTERNET CORPORATION FOR ASSIGNED NAMES AND NUMBERS
A meeting of the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ("ICANN") was held by teleconference on 30 January 2001. The following members of the Committee were present by telephone: Vint Cerf, Hans Kraaijenbrink, Sang-Hyon Kyong, Alejandro Pisanty, and Michael Roberts. Also present on the teleconference were Louis Touton, ICANN's Vice-President, Secretary, and General Counsel, and, for the beginning portion of the meeting, Diane Schroeder, ICANN's Business and Finance Manager.
The meeting was called to order by Vint Cerf at 3:20 pm U.S. Eastern Standard Time.
Mr. Touton noted that a US$150,000 loan by Cisco Systems, Inc. to ICANN would come due for repayment on 2 February 2001. The loan was originally made for one year in early August 1999 and, at the conclusion of the original term, was extended for six months. Interest for the first year was paid at the time of the extension, but an additional US$4,875 in interest will have accrued for the extension period by the repayment date. ICANN has adequate funds in its bank account to repay this loan.
Upon a motion made by Mr. Kraaijenbrink and seconded by Mr. Pisanty, the Executive Committee unanimously adopted the following resolution:
Whereas, Cisco Systems, Inc. has loaned the Corporation a principal amount of US$150,000, which will be due for repayment on 2 February 2001;
Whereas, the principal due for repayment is US$150,000 and the unpaid interest that will be accrued through 2 February 2001 is US$4,875;
Mr. Touton reported that on 19 January 2001 he received, as ICANN's Secretary, a communication from the Governmental Advisory Committee's Secretariat requesting, on behalf of that committee, that ICANN call the First Election of the GAC Chair, to be held at the next Governmental Advisory Committee meeting in Melbourne on 9-10 March 2001. Mr. Touton noted that the Governmental Advisory Committee's Operating Principle 33 provides that the committee's elections will occur as scheduled by the ICANN Board. Because of notice requirements, the call should occur before 31 January 2001.
Upon a motion made by Dr. Kyong and seconded by Mr. Kraaijenbrink, the Executive Committee unanimously adopted the following resolution:
Whereas, Article VII, Section 3(a) of ICANN's bylaws provides that the initial chairman of the Governmental Advisory Committee shall be appointed by the ICANN Board and that subsequent chairs shall be elected by the members of the Governmental Advisory Committee pursuant to procedures they adopt;
Whereas, Principle 33 of the Governmental Advisory Committee's operating principles provides that the first election will be held at a time determined by the ICANN Board;
Whereas, in resolution 99.121 the Board delegated to the Executive Committee the authority (with exceptions not here relevant) to exercise all the Board's powers in the oversight of the management of the affairs of the Corporation;
Whereas, the Governmental Advisory Committee has requested that its first election be scheduled for its meeting in Melbourne on 9-10 March 2001.
Mr. Touton noted that there have been some recent developments in connection with the "multilingual testbed" operated by VeriSign Global Registry Services.
In late-August 2000, VeriSign issued its "Statement of Direction on Multilingual Domain Names," in which the VeriSign announced its intention to open a testbed that will allow registration of Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) within .com, .net, and .org through ICANN-accredited registrars. IDNs are domain names that accommodate character sets other than ASCII. In its statement, VeriSign explained that its approach is to conduct the testbed in a manner that ensures current and future compliance with evolving internationalized domain name standards developed within the Internet Engineering Task Force ("IETF").
On 25 September 2000 the ICANN Board adopted resolutions that:
- recognized the importance of designing and implementing the multilingual testbed in a manner that promotes technical standardization efforts through open, non-proprietary standards that are compatible with the Internet's existing end-to-end model;
- called on VeriSign to conduct the testbed in full compliance with its agreements with ICANN;
- urged that registrations within the testbed be taken in a manner that protects the interests and expectations of both domain-name holders and affected third parties; and
- directed the ICANN staff to investigate whether any addenda to the agreements with VeriSign are appropriate to facilitate the operation of the testbed in a manner that protects those interests and expectations, including provisions that facilitate evolution of the testbed to match evolving standardization efforts within the IETF.
On 10 November 2000, VeriSign commenced taking registrations of IDNs containing characters employed in the Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Korean, and Japanese languages. These names were not initially activated for registration; currently they only resolve in an experimental, lower-level position in the DNS tree.
The VeriSign testbed follows one of the preferred approaches being pursued by the IETF's IDN working group. Through various name-preparation procedures, a non-ASCII name is converted into a string of Unicode (UTF-8) characters. Those Unicode characters are then encoded, using row-based ASCII-compatible encoding (RACE) into ASCII characters and appended to the prepend string "bq--". This string, which has the property of complying with the traditional "host-name" rules used in the current DNS, is then entered in the VeriSign registration system and will ultimately be included in TLD zone files. For example, the Chinese characters for "example" in the .com domain would be actually registered as "bq--3bhyww2q.com".
Although over 800,000 names have been registered in VeriSign's testbed, there has been significant opposition to the manner in which the testbed was deployed. The IETF, in general, has criticized VeriSign for deploying the testbed before the IETF completed a Proposed Standard. Various Asian governments have complained that the introduction was done without the appropriate sensitivity to cultural values. Companies have complained that the introduction was done in a way that facilitated cybersquatting of their names.
In late January 2001, VeriSign announced that it would open up registrations in the testbed to other character sets, on the following projected schedule:
- Late February - Western European and Eastern European languages
- Early March - Southeast Asian languages and languages used on the Indian subcontinent
- Late March - Middle Eastern languages
Because the multilingual testbed involves registration of valid ASCII names within the .com/.net/.org registry, as an abstract proposition the registration of those names is consistent with technical specification set forth in the Section 18 of the ICANN-VeriSign Registry Agreement. There are some aspects of the Registry Agreement, however, that complicate operation of the testbed. Mr. Touton has been in discussions with VeriSign regarding how these complications might be mitigated.
One problem that has arisen is the practice of some registrants to register multilingual names outside of the testbed. This has resulted in those registrants being able to register IDNs ahead of the announced schedule, resulting in those who relied on the schedule being blocked from registering those names and prompting significant complaints of unfairness. In addition to this "gold rush" phenomenon, some have complained that this practice has been used for multilingual cybersquatting. These effects have impaired the smooth deployment of VeriSign's multilingual testbed, and threaten in the longer term to disrupt development and deployment of IDN programs generally.
Although the discussions with VeriSign are progressing, it will likely take several weeks to complete them. In the interim, it would be helpful, as a short-term matter, to address the problems associated with out-of-testbed registrations of multilingual names by the limited measure of permitting VeriSign to block them until more permanent arrangements for comprehensively addressing the contractual issues raised by the multilingual testbed can be considered and approved by ICANN.
Accordingly, upon a motion made by Mr. Kraaijenbrink and seconded by Mr. Pisanty, the Executive Committee unanimously adopted the following resolution:
RESOLVED [EC01.6], that until such time as the Board can further consider the matter, the Vice President and General Counsel is authorized temporarily to waive terms of the Registry Agreement between ICANN and Network Solutions, Inc. (also known as VeriSign Global Registry Services) as necessary to permit blocking of initial registration through non-testbed means of second-level domains within the .com, .net, and .org top-level domains intended for use within VeriSign's multilingual testbed.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:00 pm U.S. Eastern Standard Time.