This is an interim report to advise the community as to progress related to this investigation. At this point I have had a number of discussions with the EIU unit, ICANN staff who have been involved with the unit and assisting with their assessment, a number of discussions with community applicants and with parties opposing, and I have received some very helpful submissions. At this time I am still making enquiries about issues but thought it useful to indicate some of the matters which have arisen.
Because of the confidential nature of the EIU panel and process, there has been a certain amount of uncertainty and unease about how this worked. So I spent time talking to the EIU unit about the way the unit operated and how they obtained information and the way in which they worked with ICANN. It is apparent they take a proactive approach, and look more widely than just the bundle of information provided by the applicant. They also look at public comments and any correspondence on the ICANN website and more general research. They told me they are open to receiving all information, and gather it from many sources to provide background for the applications. There was a comment that the information came in a cloud rather than structured by applicant/objector, and this was then analysed. There is a panel which varied in size according to the workload with a number of levels of review. They have evaluators who work independently, and the result is then reviewed by a project coordinator, then a core team so that there are a number of lengthy discussions about the process. Once a result is drafted it then goes to ICANN for feedback. Their indication to me was that ICANN made comments on wording and did discuss whether the unit was happy with the scores. But they emphasised that ICANN was neutral about the results, and particularly careful to be neutral. There was a strong emphasis on the wording but also an anxiety that the community would be happy with the result.
I have also had some very thoughtful and useful comments from the applicants and from those who opposed community applications. There were a number of criticisms of the high cost of the application together with the legal and administrative costs. Several commented that a community would not have the same financial resources as a commercial applicant. Several commented on the very low number of successful applications, with a 75% rejection rate. A number commented on the ability to game the system by prolonging the application process without justification. Several criticised of the internal procedures within ICANN as permitting undue delay. There was criticism of the overall process stating it was too legalistic and that some of the processes changed while the applications were underway. Several felt they had been affected by delays in accepting change requests. Several of the applicants felt that the process was opaque compared to the earlier legal objection and string similarity processes. They felt that keeping the identity of the panellists a secret lacked transparency. A number of submitters objected to the failure to communicate the process, and the failure to object to what several described as spurious objections. There was also concern about the delay in the procedure compared with the general applications. One submitter commented that implementation was about four times greater than expected. This was attributed to periods being extended, which submitters felt was unnecessary. I am providing these as comments, without having published my analysis on the information provided and the accuracy. Certainly the most common theme is lack of transparency and delay. So these will certainly be issues on which I will pay some attention.
I am providing this is a summary of comments, and I have not yet reached the stage of making recommendations or conclusions as a result of the information which I have gathered to date. But I consider it is important that the community knows something of what has been investigated. I should add that I have had full cooperation from the EIU, staff at ICANN and the community. I hope to have further discussions with parties at ICANN 53 in Buenos Aires and move towards a preliminary report for comment shortly thereafter.