ICANN Meeting San Francisco: Consultation between the Board and the GAC

There seems to be a pattern developing for meetings between the ICANN Board and the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC). Today, the two groups met here in San Francisco to discuss outstanding points of disagreement on the new gTLD program, leftover from the recent meeting in Brussels. After a little more than three hours of going through individual issues one by one, the groups broke to meet in smaller groups – and then never reconvened. 

The major topics that the GAC and the Board discussed this morning were the following: community-based strings, the economic impact of new gTLDs, post-delegation disputes and the use of geographic names. The fundamental disagreement between the two groups in many cases is not of ideology but rather of execution. For example, in deciding which names should be set aside as “community,” “geographic” or “sensitive,” the Board favors a point-of-objection approach – by that, I mean the community is responsible for identifying which strings fall into those categories by filing an objection or an Early Warning. The GAC, on the other hand, favors a more conservative approach, wherein those names are identified and set aside before the application period opens.

This difference also holds for the area of economic impacts of new gTLDs. The GAC believes that applicants should outline the economic advantage of their strings in the application. One representative pointed out that most applicants will likely be more than willing to do so. On the other hand, the Board’s point of view on this is somewhat unclear – the GAC interpreted the Board’s intention was to review the economic impact after the first round of applications.

Another very tough issue to work out is the role of law enforcement. Because gTLDs, by definition, will be available to users all over the world but registries will be located in specific countries, jurisdictional issues will abound should malicious conduct occur.

On all these points, and various others, the Board and the GAC remain in disagreement. I was personally hoping some progress would have been made, and so I was disappointed when the afternoon session was called off because the Board did not feel ready to consult with the GAC again. The two groups will meet again here in San Francisco, but I am heading back to Washington and will not be there for that session.

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