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Minutes | Meeting of the New gTLD Program Committee

Note: On 10 April 2012, the Board established the New gTLD Program Committee, comprised of all voting members of the Board that are not conflicted with respect to the New gTLD Program. The Committee was granted all of the powers of the Board (subject to the limitations set forth by law, the Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws or ICANN's Conflicts of Interest Policy) to exercise Board-level authority for any and all issues that may arise relating to the New gTLD Program. The full scope of the Committee's authority is set forth in its charter at http://www.icann.org/en/groups/board/new-gTLD.

A Regular Meeting of the New gTLD Program Committee of the ICANN Board of Directors was held in Singapore on 5 February 2015 at 15:00 local time.

Committee Chairman Cherine Chalaby promptly called the meeting to order.

In addition to the Chair the following Directors participated in all or part of the meeting: Rinalia Abdul Rahim, Fadi Chehadé (President and CEO, ICANN), Steve Crocker (Board Chairman), Chris Disspain, Asha Hemrajani, Markus Kummer, Bruno Lanvin, Ray Plzak, George Sadowsky, Mike Silber, and Kuo-Wei Wu.

Erika Mann, Gonzalo Navarro, and Thomas Schneider (GAC Liaison) sent apologies.

Secretary: John Jeffrey (General Counsel and Secretary).

ICANN Executives and Staff in attendance for all or part of the meeting: Akram Atallah (President, Global Domains Division); Megan Bishop (Board Support Coordinator); Samantha Eisner (Associate General Counsel); Allen Grogan (Chief Contract Compliance Officer); Jamie Hedlund (Vice President, Strategic Programs – Global Domains Division); Vinciane Koenigsfeld (Board Support Content Manager); Cyrus Namazi (Vice President, DNS Industry Engagement); David Olive (Vice President, Policy Development); Erika Randall (Senior Counsel); Amy Stathos (Deputy General Counsel); and Christine Willett (Vice President, Operations – Global Domains Division).

These are the Minutes of the Meeting of the New gTLD Program Committee, which took place on 5 February 2015.

  1. Consent Agenda:
    1. Approval of Minutes
  2. Main Agenda:
    1. Update on NGPC/GAC discussion regarding new gTLD GAC advice
    2. Update on NGPC/ALAC discussion regarding ALAC statement on Public Interest Commitments
    3. GAC Advice: Updates and Actions

 

  1. Consent Agenda:

    1. Approval of Minutes

      The Chair introduced for approval the Minutes of the 11 December 2014 meeting. George Sadowsky moved and Rinalia Abdul Rahim seconded the resolution. The Committee took the following action:

      Resolved (2015.02.05.NG01), the Board New gTLD Program Committee (NGPC) approves the minutes of its 11 December 2014 meeting.

      All members of the Committee present voted in favor of Resolution 2015.02.05.NG01. Erika Mann and Gonzalo Navarro were unavailable to vote on the Resolution. The Resolution carried.

  2. Main Agenda:

    1. Update on NGPC/GAC discussion regarding new gTLD GAC advice

      The Chair provided an overview of the agenda, and reminded the Committee that during January, a sub-group of the Committee met with members of the GAC to discuss the GAC's advice in the Los Angeles Communiqué and its 9 December 2014 letter about safeguards for new gTLDs.

      Jamie Hedlund provided a summary of the conference call held with the GAC, noting that the discussion focused on WHOIS-related safeguards; security risks safeguards; verification and validation of credentials for Category 1 strings associated with highly-regulated sectors or sectors with closed-entry requirements; the Public Interest Commitment Dispute Resolution Process (PICDRP); and Category 2 safeguards regarding non-discriminatory registration policies for restricted strings.

      Jamie noted that the discussion on WHOIS-related safeguards and security risks safeguards was primarily informational. He also reported that following the January 13 conference call, the Committee sent the GAC a letter with additional background information requested regarding the PICDRP. Additionally, the Committee responded to some of the advice in the Los Angeles Communiqué regarding the WHOIS roadmap. Chris Disspain remarked that the conference call was very useful and the Committee and/or Board should consider this type of engagement in the future.

      The Committee spent time discussing the GAC's continued view that a potential registrants' credentials, licenses, or authorizations should be verified and validated as a precondition to registering domain names in Category 1 strings associated with highly-regulated sectors or sectors with closed-entry requirements. The Committee also considered the concerns raised by the ALAC and other community members on the topic.

      Committee members expressed a variety of views regarding verification and validation of credentials for Category 1 strings. George Sadowsky posed questions to the Committee to help frame the discussion. George asked: to what extent does ICANN have a responsibility for the semantic implications of a TLD, and to what extent does ICANN have a responsibility for the semantic implications of a TLD? He highlighted the possible tension between the ability of registry operators to implement their business plans, and the long-run public interest resulting from the expectation about the semantic meaning that consumers or Internet users may attribute to certain TLDs. George suggested that this issue is one where the global public interest may need to prevail over other considerations.

      Kuo-Wei Wu agreed that the Committee needed to consider following a course of action that is in the public interest.

      George also suggested that if the Committee is not in a position to be able to require ex ante credentialing of registrants in the TLDs associated with highly-regulated sectors, then the Committee should consider whether there is a way to provide information to Internet users about which of the registries have been responsive to voluntarily requiring such a requirement.

      Chris outlined options that the Committee had been considering to address the issue of verification and validation, including whether policy development was a possible solution, or, as George suggested, that the Committee write to each of the registries or applicants of Category 1 TLDs associated with highly-regulated sectors asking them to voluntarily adopt a verification and validation requirement. Chris recommended that if the Committee decided to write to each of the registries or applicants, the message should clearly state that there is no obligation to adopt such requirements, and that registries and applicants will not be prejudiced in any way if they decide not to do so.

      Mike Silber acknowledged the concerns about verification and validation of credentials. He commented that it may be too late to adopt new requirements at this point in time, given the current status of implementation of the New gTLD Program. Mike questioned whether the proposed restrictions on the TLDs at issue would address the potential harms claimed by the GAC, ALAC and others. He highlighted that Internet users and consumers bear responsibility to be informed consumers, and doing due diligence about information, services or products provided on the Internet. He stated that the critical issue is implementing appropriate PICs, but also examining how ICANN can work with registries and registrars in terms of consumer education.

      Rinalia Abdul Rahim commented that the issue of verification and validation of credentials is a top priority for the GAC and the ALAC. She recommended that the Committee take action to address their concerns. Rinalia highlighted that one of the key requests from the ALAC is for ICANN to explicitly clarify that "non-harmed" third-parties can file complaints about non-compliance with PICs.

      Akram Atallah recommended that as the Committee considers various options, it should evaluate whether the proposed action is consistent with existing GNSO policy advice on the issue of appropriate restrictions for gTLDs, and guidance given to ICANN by the GNSO that it should not be the responsibility of ICANN to restrict the use of gTLDs, but instead to allow new gTLD applicants to propose various models for operating.

      Ray Plzak stated that not everything in the Applicant Guidebook is a consensus policy, and suggested that an exercise be undertaken to clearly identify which items are in fact consensus policy. Ray advised the Committee that if there is an applicable consensus policy on the issue at hand, there is no existing process whereby the Committee could suspend the policy and implement an emergency policy. He suggested that if policy work is needed to address the concerns about verification and validation, ICANN should work through the established policy development process.

      The President and CEO stated that part of ICANN accountability is predictability. He asked that the Committee acknowledge that registry operators for more than half of the Category 1 TLDs associated with highly-regulated sectors have executed agreements with ICANN, and have built their business based on the signed agreement. Additionally, he echoed the sentiment that the Committee should examine whether a particular course of action would be consistent with the GNSO policy upon which the New gTLD Program was built.

      Steve Crocker suggested that the Committee consider whether there are other options available to address the concerns about consumer safeguards, instead of limiting the solution set to contractual matters. Steve noted that one issue in the marketplace is the difference in the amount of information available to different people. As a possible solution, he suggested that the Committee consider how to provide clearer guidance for the people who enter the marketplace about a particular TLD. Steve suggested that ICANN has a role to play in trying to improve the quality of the information that is available in the marketplace, and suggested that the following pieces of information may be helpful for Internet users to understand: (1) the aspirational goal of the TLD, (2) the restrictions in place to limit registrations to meet the aspirational goal; and (3) the level of enforcement or oversight of those restrictions.

      Chris made note of the experiences with ccTLDs requiring verification and validation of credentials prior to registration, and commented that the requirement generally proves to be unworkable unless the TLD is "closed", such as only allowing governments to register names, or charging premium prices for registrations.

      Asha Hemrajani noted that because ICANN may be seen to have a responsibility for the semantic implication of TLDs, even if it does not have such a responsibility, the Committee should take action. She asked whether there was anything gleaned from the previous work of the High Security Zone TLD Advisory Group may be useful to address the current verification and validation matter.

      Bruno Lanvin suggested that it may be worthwhile to highlight the practices of TLDs who have adopted verification and validation measures to serve as an example to other registry operators of how to implement such measures. Bruno stated when the Committee evaluates the claims of potential harm from not requiring verification and validation of credentials, the Committee should not only consider potential harm to end users who will access a particular website, but also consider other registrants who may legitimately belong to the highly-regulated sector and are purchasing a domain name under a certain set of assumptions about persons or entitles eligible to register domains in the TLD.

      Markus Kummer acknowledged that the Committee should take some action to address the concerns raised about the TLDs associated with highly-regulated sectors, but noted the importance of maintaining a level playing field given that agreements have already been signed with more than half of the applicants. He agreed that it might be worthwhile to explore the possibility of publishing best practices, and making sure ICANN helps to facilitate improving the information available in the marketplace about the TLDs.

      Ray further suggested that ICANN would be well served by encouraging the ALAC and its network of At-Large Structures to develop consumer education materials. He encouraged the Committee to engage with the ALAC to gauge their interest in taking the lead on the consumer education piece.

      The Committee discussed the importance of communicating to the community the various viewpoints of the Committee and the options being considered by the Committee. The Committee agreed to continue its discussion at a subsequent meeting, and to continue to engage with the community on the topic during ICANN Meeting in Singapore.

    2. Update on NGPC/ALAC discussion regarding ALAC statement on Public Interest Commitments

      Rinalia Abdul Rahim provided an overview of the discussion held in January between sub-groups of the Committee and the ALAC. The focus of the discussion was to understand the remaining concerns about the Public Interest Commitments (PICs) included in the New gTLD Registry Agreement, and enforcement of those PICs. The ALAC expressed that they would like ICANN to make a clear, public statement expressing ICANN's commitment to take action when legitimate third parties, including for example, government agencies and consumer protection authorities, file complaints concerning non-compliance with the PICs.

      Rinalia reported that the conference call also focused on verification and validation of potential registrants' credentials, licenses, or authorizations as a precondition to registering domain names in Category 1 strings associated with highly-regulated sectors or sectors with closed-entry requirements.

      The Committee discussed the points raised by the ALAC during its general discussion about Category 1 safeguards. Please refer to Section 2.b. for a summary of the discussion.

    3. GAC Advice: Updates and Actions

      The Committee decided to discuss remaining open items of GAC advice at a subsequent meeting.

      The Chair called the meeting to a close.

Published on 27 April 2015

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