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ICANN's Answers to Sub-Committee Members' Inquiries

On January 5, 2012, Cong. Greg Walden, Chairman of the House Sub-Committee on Communications and Technology, sent a letter to ICANN requesting answers to some issues related to the new gTLD program including:[1]

ICANN explained that consensus was achieved through community-driven policy development processes wherein working teams composed of members of the different internet stakeholders developed reports and recommendations and the public were given the opportunity to comment. The public comments were considered when drafting the final report and recommendations, before they were submitted it to the appropriate organization within ICANN such as the GNSO Council, which would in turn present their findings to the ICANN Board. ICANN emphasized that the GNSO Council is composed of all internet stakeholders and voted 19-1 in favor of the new gTLD policy. The internet governing body also pointed out that ICANN's Advisory Committees (GAC, ALAC, SSAC, RSSAC etc.) were involved in the consensus development. ICANN reiterated the statement of Sec. Larry Strickling that the ICANN "multistakeholder does not guarantee that everyone will be satisfied with the outcome.But it is critical to preserving the model of Internet governance that has been so successful to date that all parties respect and work through the process and accept the outcome once a decision is reached..."

  • Rights Protection Mechanisms

Rights protection will be implemented in the first and second level domain names. The internet governing body mentioned the development of the Trademark Clearinghouse as one of the rights protection mechanisms and it is mandatory to all new TLDs.

  • Request for a Second Round of Application

ICANN stated that it is committed to conducting additional rounds of new gTLD applications and it is working on determining that schedule.

  • Transparency regarding Surplus Funds generated from the new gTLD applications

ICANN emphasized that it is committed to using the excess funds generated from the new gTLD applications to advance its missions in a transparent way, such as allocating funds to projects that are of interest to the greater Internet community.

  • Bilateral Negotiations with registrars about the twelve Law Enforcement Due Diligence Recommendations

ICANN confirmed that it is conducting negotiations with its accredited registrars regarding the 12 recommendations of the enforcement agencies. Updates to the negotiation are available here

  • Contingency Plan in case a registry operator goes out of business

ICANN told the Congress that an "Emergency Backend Registry Operator" (EBERO) is in place to take-over the operations if a failed registry to ensure that the interest of domain name registrants are protected.

ICANN explained that information regarding the new Applicant Support Program is available, which offers two types of financial assistance under ASP: a reduced application fee of $47,000 from $185,000, and a payment plan to deal with the whole $185,000 application fee. To qualify for financial assistance, entities must meet certain criteria. Financial Assistance applications will be evaluated by an independent Support Application Review Panel (SARP).

ICANN explained that the Trademark Clearinghouse is a database of registered trademarks and other types intellectual property rights, which will be used to provide protection during the "Sunrise" and "Trademark Claims" processes. ICANN notes that 60-days post launch operation of the Trademark Claims exceeds the final recommendation of the Special Trademark Issues (STI) team, which was involved in developing the service and suggested that no mandatory post-launch claims service is necessary.

  • Possibility of subsidizing the costs of Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) using surplus funds

ICANN clarified that no commitment has been made regarding the use of surplus funds and that the issue is a matter of continued community consultations. ICANN will consider the proposal to subsidize costs of disputes under the UDRP.

ICANN is dedicated to improving the access and accuracy of the Whois information; Thick Whois information requirements will be in place for all new gTLDs. Five studies regarding Whois services focusing on issues related to misuse, registrant identification, privacy and proxy services were conducted.

  • New gTLD Application Fee

ICANN provided a breakdown of the current $185,000 application fee, which includes development costs ($26,950 per application), applications processing and evaluation costs ($97,800 per application), costs for risk mitigation steps ($60,000 per applicant). Further breakdown of the cost is available here

  • Revenue from second level domain name registrations under new gTLDs

ICANN said that it did not evaluate any additional revenue that might be generated from defensive second level domain name registrations. Registries are required to pay ICANN with annual fees with fixed components.

  • Cost recovery model in assessing fees

The cost-neutral model was a direct response to the GNSO policy recommendation that application fees are designed to ensure that the implementation of the new gTLD program is self funding. Once the TLDs are operational, transaction based fees for registries and registrars will apply to domain registrations.

  • Loser pays system against cybersquatting

The new gTLD dispute resolution under the new gTLD program implements the loser pays system. The IRT did not recommend a full loser pays system for domain name disputes related to cybersquatting. The loser pays system has exceptions on filing fees for disputes and URS claims of less than 15 domain names. Claims for 26 or more names in a URS claims might be done on a loser-pays basis.

  • Auction process for multiple gTLD applicants

The auctions process in case of multiple gTLD applicants will be applied as a last resort. ICANN encourage applicants to work on developing a mutually-agreeable solution.

The new gTLD program offers heightened protection mechanisms against abuses, registry failure and other malicious conducts designed by intellectual property experts

  • Law Enforcement Community Recommendations

ICANN is actively working on the 12 recommendations of the law enforcement community and negotiating with registrars to amend the Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA), particularly the inclusion of a more improved and accurate Whois database.

  • Cost/Benefit Analysis used by ICANN before implementing the new gTLD program

Five economic studies were commissioned by ICANN to examine the anticipated benefits and costs of the new gTLD program.

  1. ICANN's Response to Cong. Greg Walden. ICANN. Published 2012 January 20.