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Public Comment: New gTLD Applicant Support Program: Financial Assistance

ICANN is introducing today for public comment the implementation plans for the gTLD Applicant Support Program. Among other goals, the program seeks to provide financial assistance to applicants demonstrating financial need in order to succeed as a new gTLD applicant and registry operator, and also a mission to operate in the public interest.

The public comment period starts today and ends on 10 January 2012.

That program is represented by these documents:

The program is a result of two years cooperation among the ICANN community, particularly represented by the Joint Applicant Support Working Group (JAS WG), and the ICANN Board. The foundation of the program takes into consideration several elements of the JAS WG recommendations.

Some of the highlights of the program are:

  • Assistance will include a fee reduction to a limited number of qualifying applicants from US$185.000 to US$47.000.
  • Additional forms of assistance will include time-phased evaluation fees and provision of translation services.
  • The Applicant Support Program does not relax existing criteria for a new gTLD as outlined in the New gTLD Applicant Guidebook. The Support Program has additional criteria to identify those who best demonstrate: (1) service in the public interest; (2) financial need; and (3) having at least a level of financial capabilities.
  • Support applications will be evaluated by an independents evaluation panel – Support Applicant Review Panel (SARP).
  • Support candidates will be able to submit applications as soon as the New gTLDs Program launches, 12 January 2012.
  • The support application form will be available in TAS (TLD Application System), the same system used for all New gTLD Applicants.
  • Important Notice: the Financial Assistance Program is dedicated to truly deserving new gTLD applicants. Those applications from entities that apply for financial assistant and do not meet certain threshold criteria will be disqualified from the new gTLD program.

The fee reduction has been made possible due to the designation by the ICANN Board of a US$2 million budget. This initial budget is considered seed funding. ICANN will work with the community plans to create opportunity for other parties to contribute to the fund. Details about the fundraising activities will be made available in 2012.

There are some non-financial aspects of the program already in place:

  • ICANN has made available the Applicant Support Program to facilitate cooperation among those applicants interested in establishing gTLD registry and those entities willing and able to provide assistance.
  • Recent launch of the Customer Service Center.

Information about these can be found here: http://newgtlds.icann.org/applicants

What's next?

  • Review of the public comments; changes the program implementation details, as possible.
  • Final Program details and handbook posted before 12 January 2012.
  • Recruiting Support Application Review Panel (SARP).
  • Raising additional funds in partnership with the community.

The Applicant Support Program is an important aspect of the overall New gTLD program communications campaign. ICANN already started targeting developing economies with dedicated materials regarding the program. ICANN is also creating materials that will be available for community members that are asked to assist with outreach efforts.

Background:

This work started in April 2010 with the ICANN community work, mostly through the Joint Applicant Support Working Group. The group was represented by ICANN community members who have been working together on this initiative since April 2010. The JAS WG was formed following a Resolution from ICANN Board of Directors in Nairobi, on March 2010 which asked ICANN's stakeholder community "...to develop a sustainable approach to providing support to applicants requiring assistance in applying for and operating new gTLDs."

In the past two years, the JAS WG has shared with the community recommendations on how ICANN should develop a sustainable approach to providing support to applicants from developing economies requiring assistance in applying for and operating new gTLDs Registries under the New gTLD Program. The work culminated in the Final Report posted for comments on October 2011.

In addition to the JAS WG, ICANN Board and community have been actively providing input that helped to shape the proposed plan, particularly the Government Advisory Committee (GAC), The At Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) and the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO).

During the ICANN Dakar Meeting in October 2011, the Board noted that a working group of Board members should been convened to oversee the scoping and implementation of the recommendations arising out of the JAS Report, and resolved that ICANN was "expected to commence work immediately and provide a detailed plan for consideration." That work was undertaken with the oversight of the Board working group.

At its recent December 2011 meeting, the Board adopted the proposed "Process" and "Criteria" now open for public comment.


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