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New Year Brings More Public Comment Enhancements to Life, Addressing Four ATRT Recommendations

22 December 2011

The Public Comment Process is fundamental to ICANN's multistakeholder, bottom-up, consensus-driven process. It was also the focus of several recommendations made by the Accountability & Transparency Review Team (ATRT). Since the ATRT made its recommendations almost a year ago, the ICANN community has devoted many hours to brainstorming, discussion and consultation about how to improve ICANN's Public Comment Process.

The following new changes are the capstone on a series of improvements made to the Public Comment Process over the past six months.

  • Better Descriptions of Public Comment Topics: In addition to the recently added fields showing purpose, current status and next steps, for each public comment topic that will be opened from 1 January 2012 onwards, a category field will be noted such as Top-Level Domains, Internet Protocol Addressing and Contracted Party Agreements, relating to the public comment topic. The intent of the introduction of this new field is to make it easier for readers to determine which Public Comment topics are important for them to respond to.
  • Comment/Reply Periods: Each public comment that will be opened from 1 January 2012 onwards will also have a "Comment" period, lasting a minimum of 21 days, and if comments are received during this period, then a "Reply" period will commence for another minimum 21 days. These new guidelines are to be considered "minimums" and that the Comment and/or Reply period can be longer depending on community requests, a particular working group's preference as they issue a public comment or other factors. While the "Comment" periods are to be used by the participants to introduce their comments on the topic, "Reply" periods should be used to address and respond to the previously submitted comments during the Comment period.

Introduction of these new processes and constructs complete the implementation of ATRT recommendations 15, 16, 17 and 21.

While these new processes and constructs will be put in place by 1 January 2012, staff is continuing work on a limited community testing of a wiki-based threaded discussion environment for the Public Comments. Responding to community calls made by staff and ICANN community leaders, 21 volunteers are contributing this test, which will last through January. Once the test is completed, staff will work towards a technically improved interface if approved by the ICANN Board's Public Participation Committee (PPC).

More Information

Background

Phase I activities to improve ICANN's Public Comment Process were implemented effective 30 June 2011, in response to recommendations #15, 16, 17 and 21 of the ATRT. In that first phase, staff completely redesigned web pages, added new navigation menus, streamlined Announcement and Public Comment Box formats, and introduced an "Upcoming Topics" feature. New standardized data fields were added across all solicitations (e.g., Originating Organization, Purpose, Current Status, Next Steps) and opening and closing dates and times were clarified. To support these improvements internal document templates and guidelines were created to facilitate publication and to ensure presentation consistency in these pages.

After the launch of the redesigned Public Comment web pages in June 2011, a focus group of ICANN community volunteers identified by ICANN community leaders worked to provide initial feedback on further improvements.

These further improvements were made available for wider community review and feedback though a public comment and reply period. The public comment included a staff report where focus group feedback was referenced and linked for each relevant topic. Based on the feedback received, final implementations are now to take effect for public comments that will open from 1 January 2012 onwards.

The overall effort to make public comment improvements supports the implementation of the ATRT recommendations and enhances how ICANN community members provide input on ICANN matters.