Setting the GAC up to succeed by Yasmin Omer, ARI Registry Services

Yasmin Omer imageYasmin Omer, ARI Registry Service’s Policy and Industry Affairs Officer, explains why ICANN should offer the Governmental Advisory Committee an extra meeting in January  to avoid further delays in the new Top-Level Domain program.

ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) – the special stakeholder group responsible for providing government advice to ICANN on issues of public policy – has an important role to play in the remaining evaluation and delegation phases of the new Top-Level Domain (TLD) program.

For some applicants, the future of their new TLD projects may rest on the decisions of the 50 or so national government representatives that are active members of the GAC.ARI Registry Services

So, it is understandable that any suggestion to provide the GAC with an extra meeting to assist them in making decisions that could be fatal to the delegation of a new TLD could be met with contempt.

However, I believe most applicants will recognise that the success of the GAC, the new TLD program and therefore applicants is one and the same.

So, why is it important for ICANN to offer the GAC an extra meeting?

The risk of delay

To put it simply, the GAC require sufficient time to complete their part of the new TLD puzzle and there are serious implications for everyone involved if they don’t.

In developing the program, ICANN built specific requirements into the process to enable members of the GAC to comment on and provide official Advice about specific applications they have concerns with.

This process comprises of: 1) A GAC Early Warning which is a notice identifying an application as potentially problematic thereby allowing the applicant to withdraw and recoup a higher percentage of the application fee; and 2) GAC Advice to the ICANN Board indicating that it is the consensus of the GAC that a particular application should not proceed which almost certainly means an application will not be approved by ICANN.

Whilst an Early Warning can be filed by any individual GAC member, GAC Advice requires general agreement amongst the GAC’s membership in the absence of any formal objection. Face-to-face meetings of the GAC are therefore critical in facilitating such agreement.

It’s important to remember that this is a mandatory process. No new TLDs can be delegated until the GAC provide their Advice.

As it currently stands, the GAC are scheduled to meet twice during the evaluation phase to review, collaborate and consider their potential Advice on the 1924 new TLD applications. These meetings are timed to coincide with the ICANN meetings in Toronto (October 2012) and Beijing (April 2013).

ICANN’s tentative roadmap released last month indicates GAC Early Warnings are expected in November 2012 following ICANN Toronto, and GAC Advice is expected in late April 2013 following ICANN Beijing.

With Initial Evaluation scheduled to finish in May 2013, results published in June 2013 and the first delegations to start in August 2013, there is little room to maneuver should a delay occur within the process.

This is particularly concerning as any holdup related to GAC Advice could blowout the roadmap and create another embarrassing delay at a critical juncture.

However, there is a rather simple solution.

Offer for a January GAC meeting

ICANN must offer an extra meeting to the GAC in January 2013 to allow sufficient time for members to consult with their respective governments and ensure their Advice is delivered by April 2013.

It’s simple. Applicants want ICANN to rollout the program without any further delays and ICANN has the ability to help achieve this objective by offering the GAC an extra meeting.

ICANN needs to do the right thing by the GAC because it’s highly unlikely that GAC members would have critically reviewed the 1,924 new TLD applications in consultation with key stakeholders by next month, in time for Toronto. Therefore, the Beijing meeting in April 2013 will be the first opportunity for the GAC to discuss concerns raised and agree on the provision of GAC Advice.

Restricting the discussion and agreement on GAC Advice to one meeting is inconsistent with the GAC representative’s roles; they do not operate autonomously, they need adequate time to consult with their respective governments. It is an unrealistic objective for GAC representatives that places unreasonable pressure on them.

I think a reality check is in order because government processes involve red tape, bureaucracy and multi-layered approval procedures. Further, the success of the GAC intersessional meeting held prior to the ICANN Singapore meeting last year sets a precedent for this request.

The hosting of an extra GAC meeting will give ICANN an opportunity to demonstrate it is responsive to applicant’s needs and provide greater confidence in ICANN’s ability to maintain their proposed roadmap – something all new TLD applicants will appreciate.

Whilst ICANN’s efforts in developing GAC specific processes into the new TLD program are to be commended, the current meeting schedule does not allow for collaboration in the provision of GAC Advice on new TLDs – a process that is meant to be inherently collaborative.

The last thing anyone involved in the new TLD program wants is further delays.

It is for these reasons that I urge ICANN to offer the GAC an extra meeting in January 2013 to ensure that sufficient time has been allocated to provide GAC Advice.

Not only will the GAC thank you for this, new TLD applicants will too.

This article by Yasmin Omer, Policy and Industry Affairs Officer at ARI Registry Services, was sourced with permission from: