ICANN | US SBA Letter to Michael Roberts - 16 August 2000

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Letter from U.S. Small Business Administration's
Office of Advocacy to Michael Roberts

16 August 2000

August 16, 2000

Michael Roberts
Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers
4676 Admiralty Way
Suite 330
Marina del Rey, CA 90292-6601

Dear Mr. Roberts:

Thank you for your recent response to my November letter. I appreciate the time you have taken to discuss my comments and observations regarding the monumental task that lies before you.

I am glad to hear of ICANN’s continued commitment to openness and transparency, which is a crucial element to building private-sector consensus. I also appreciate your review of ICANN’s structure and purpose as detailed in Department of Commerce’s White Paper. While I am very familiar with the White Paper and the purpose behind the creation of ICANN, background information is helpful in laying the proper foundation for a relationship between our office and your organization. In a similar vein, I believe it is helpful to discuss Advocacy’s background, as it will assist you in understanding the role that we have to play in this and other issue areas.

The Office of Advocacy was created in 1976 by the U.S. Congress to represent the viewpoints and interests of small businesses within the U.S. federal government's policy deliberations. Congress listed several primary functions for Advocacy. The two that are most applicable to this situation are:

(1) examine the role of small business in the American economy and the contribution which small businesses can make in improving competition, encouraging economic and social mobility for all citizens, restraining inflation, spurring production, expanding employment opportunities, increasing productivity, promoting exports, stimulating innovation and entrepreneurship, and providing an avenue through which new and untested products and services can be brought to the marketplace;


(9) recommend specific measures for creating an environment in which all businesses will have the opportunity to compete effectively and expand to their full potential, and to ascertain the common reasons, if any, for small business successes and failures.

15 U.S.C. § 634(b).

As part of our fulfillment of 15 U.S.C. § 634(b)(1), we continually examine the role that small business plays in the economy and how different trends, policies, and technologies affect small business. Our studies have shown that e-commerce is a crucial tool for small businesses. For example:

  • by 2002, 85 percent of small businesses are expected to conduct business via the Web;
  • currently, 61 percent of small businesses with 100 or fewer employees have access to the Internet;
  • currently, 35 percent of small businesses have a Web site; and
  • currently, 33 percent of small businesses do business transactions through that site.

You can find the full text of these economic studies on our Web page at <http://www.sba.gov/advo/stats>. Also, according to statistics that we have received from Network Solutions:

  • there are currently more than 14 million registrations in .com, .net, and .org;
  • nearly 2/3 of all .com, .net, and .org registrations are by persons or entities companies within the United States;
  • 83 percent of .com, .net, and .org is registered by small business (with 250 employees or less) for a total of approximately 7.7 million U.S. small businesses; and
  • 70 percent of .com, .net, and .org is registered by micro small businesses (1 to 4 employees) for a total of approximately 6.5 million U.S. micro small businesses

As you can see from these statistics, small businesses have made substantial investments in e-commerce and are the primary registrants of domain names. Furthermore, the technical management of the domain name system, Internet addressing, and Internet protocol will affect small businesses more than any other economic group that relies on the Internet. We will continue to monitor small business use of new technologies and publish our research. ICANN is welcome and, in fact, is encouraged to use our statistics in its deliberations. It would also be helpful for ICANN to gather – and publish – small business statistics from other countries as well in order to understand more fully the impact of its decisions on the new international economy.

Insofar as my initial letter was concerned, my goal in asking ICANN to consider adopting a procedural policy was to facilitate and thus maximize small business access to the ICANN process. In reading your letter, I am afraid that my message was not clear. I did not recommend that ICANN should bind itself to the Administrative Procedure Act, but rather ICANN should mimic the spirit of this law as a private organization with major responsibilities affecting so many. My concern is that all interested parties have a predictable and fair opportunity to participate in such an important process. We are always looking at alternative means of achieving a level playing field for small business. Therefore, if means other than the structure of the APA provide interested parties with the same opportunity to participate, we will strongly applaud ICANN’s use of them.

In this connection, in recent months, I have noticed that the consensus-based private-sector process has developed many of the attributes that I was asking ICANN to ensure were present. First, the working groups, particularly Working Group B and Working Group C, have provided an excellent route for small businesses to participate in the ICANN process. The low cost and ease of participation have contributed to making it an open forum. Also, the interim and final reports conducted by the working groups provide a logical time for interested parties not able to participate in the working groups to comment.

Secondly, in almost every recent proceeding, ICANN has used longer comment deadlines. This crucial element will increase small business participation, which do not have the resources to respond to short deadlines. In addition, it will assist interested parties whose primary language is not English in participating.

Lastly, I have noted a growing sensitivity to small business concerns throughout the ICANN process. The recent release of domain name registration statistics by Network Solutions has underscored a point Advocacy has made for years – that small businesses are an important part of the Internet and the largest users of domain names. In the discussion of both Working Groups B and C, participants raised the group’s awareness of the needs of small business and the possible impact that any changes would have upon them.

Might I suggest that, regardless of which procedural policy ICANN uses, including private-sector consensus, it post this policy on its Web site. A clear explanation of how ICANN will interact with third parties would assist small business participants and individuals in their efforts to participate in the process.

I look forward to a long and mutually advantageous relationship between our office and ICANN. Best of luck to you in your efforts to expand the domain name space. We will be following the proceedings with great interest.


Jere W. Glover
Chief Counsel for Advocacy

cc: Gregory Rohde, Assistant Secretary of Commerce
Louis Touton, ICANN Vice President and General Counsel

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