Cross Community Working Group on New Generic Top-Level Domains Auction Proceeds

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Cross Community Working Group on New Generic Top-Level Domains Auction Proceeds
Status: Active
Issue Areas: New gTLDs
Date Established: January 2017
Charter: [ WG Charter]
Workspace: [ Community Wiki]

The Cross-Community Working Group on New gTLD Auction Proceeds was convened to develop a proposal for the mechanism to be used for the allocation of auction proceeds from the new gTLD program. These auctions were established as a mechanism for resolving contention sets[1], or a group of applications containing identical or similar strings.[2]

It was recognized from the start that the auction process could bring in significant proceeds, so the funds received through the auction process were reserved until the ICANN Board authorizes appropriate use of the funds. Although the majority of contention sets were handled through pother means, the 17 that were resolved through ICANN Auctions totaled $233.5 million USD in proceeds.

Charter & Initiation of Work

The charter for the group specified that the funds could only be used in ways that supported ICANN's mission and values.[3] The charter implied, but did not require, that the proposal for the use of auction proceeds would include a proposed organization or foundation to manage and oversee the work of disbursing funds. This was in part based on the Applicant Guidebook's discussion of the potential uses of auction proceeds:

Possible uses of auction funds include formation of a foundation with a clear mission and a transparent way to allocate funds to projects that are of interest to the greater Internet community, such as grants to support new gTLD applications or registry operators from communities in subsequent gTLD rounds, the creation of an ICANN-administered/community-based fund for specific projects for the benefit of the Internet community, the creation of a registry continuity fund for the protection of registrants (ensuring that funds would be in place to support the operation of a gTLD registry until a successor could be found), or establishment of a security fund to expand use of secure protocols, conduct research, and support standards development organizations in accordance with ICANN's security and stability mission.[4]

The CCWG was encouraged to factor in operational costs and industry best practices for foundations or other grant-awarding bodies.[3]

Charter Adoption

Working Group Formation & Initiation of Work

The call for volunteers for the working group was published in December 2016.[6] The group commenced work in January 2017.[7]

Initial Report and Public Comment

The working group completed its initial report in October 2018.[8] The Initial Report listed four possible mechanisms for disbursement of auction proceeds, focusing on two specific options:

  1. Creation of an internal ICANN department dedicated to grant processing and awards;
  2. Partnership with an existing nonprofit organization, such as a donor-advised fund;
  3. Creation of an ICANN Foundation; or
  4. Delegation of grant processing and award to an external entity, with the ICANN board retaining oversight of mission focus and adherence to the board's fiduciary duties.[9]

The initial report noted that Mechanism D was largely theoretical, and if an attempt to implement the mechanism occurred, it would likely look substantially similar to Mechanism B. As a result, the group specifically recommended that the board choose between Mechanisms A and B, and welcomed community input on Mechanism C.[9]

The report also defined the objectives and goals of grant review and approval. Broadly, the CCWG determined that the auction proceeds should be used to:

  • Benefit the development, distribution, evolution and structures/projects that support the Internet's unique identifier systems;
  • Benefit capacity building and underserved populations, and;
  • Benefit the open and interoperable Internet.[9]

Specifically, the CCWG suggested the following guidelines for selecting projects that have applied for grant funding:

  1. The purpose of a grant/application must be in service of ICANN's mission and core principles.
  2. The objectives and outcomes of the projects funded under this mechanism should be in agreement with ICANN’s efforts for an Internet that is stable, secure, resilient, scalable, and standards-based.
  3. Projects advancing work related to any of the following topics open access, future oriented developments, innovation and open standards, for the benefit of the Internet community are encouraged.
  4. Projects addressing diversity, participation and inclusion should strive to deepen informed engagement and participation from developing countries, under-represented communities and all stakeholders.
  5. Projects supportive of ICANN’s communities’ activities are encouraged.[9]

Public comment on the initial report was extensive.[10] [11] Most responses from stakeholder groups preferred Mechanism B. One comment noted that an internal ICANN process would be subject to ICANN Accountability Mechanisms, which could impede its work. Other comments were dubious that a mechanism inside ICANN would be efficient in any event.[11] Most commenters agreed with the broad guidelines outlined for the distribution of auction proceeds. Comments were largely complementary of the CCWG's work and efforts.[11]

Final Report and Recommendations

The CCWG submitted its final report in September 2020.<ref name="final">[