CCTLD Briefing document: 19 February 2001
ccTLD-ICANN Meeting in Geneva, 19 February 2001
Peter de Blanc
This document conveys some personal opinions and thoughts of its author. Information gathered to form these opinions comes from discussions with approximately 30 ccTLD managers, which, while it is a good statistical sample, may not represent the consensus of the body as a whole. The document sets out issues and positions, and suggests new possibilities for ccTLD mission, structure, and relationships with ICANN. All financial figures and percentages are rough estimates, and subject to question by anyone.
The ccTLD - ICANN Model, “Thin” or “Thick”, with funding scenarios.
CcTLD Relations with ICANN, Status Quo, New SO, Advisory Board
CcTLD organization Mission and size, “Light weight” or “Substantial”
The ccTLD - ICANN Model:
There are strong feelings within ccTLD on this subject. While no consensus appears on specific issues, there IS a line where the two camps can be said to separate. This can be summed up as “Technically Driven” or “Policy Driven”.
The Technical side has ICANN acting as a technical co-ordination body, absorbing such groups as IETF, dealing with domain names, root servers, address space, and protocols to assure and insure continued Internet interoperability and stability. No policy would be discussed, suggested, or created outside of technical recommendations. Services provided would be limited to organizational and publishing activities necessary to support the technical work, and operation-oversight of root servers. Most activities could be carried out on-line. Few physical meetings would be required. I call this the “Thin Model”
Funding of the Thin Model could certainly be accomplished within a budget of US $ 500,000 per year. I use this figure to include fully paid staff and services to perform the co-ordination, and have perhaps one face-to-face meeting per year. This figure does not include cost of root server operations, as that currently is “donated” by organizations with a vested commercial interest, or subsidized by commercial interests. If the root server operations needed to be paid for, it could add about US $ 125,000 per server per year, multiplied by a maximum of 15 servers, or US $ 1,875,000. Total cost, fully paid, say US $ 2.375 million. Let’s round that up to US $ 2.5 million. Allocating that cost by commercial business and name sales would have 25 countries paying over 90 percent of the cost, and the US paying at least 80 percent of that. So we are looking at about US $ 0.06 to US $ 0.07 per name per year. I am not going to suggest where this money would come from at this time.
The Policy side has ICANN performing the technical work, along with development of Internet Policy, discussing, suggesting, and campaigning to get such policy accepted throughout the world, by National governments, private and public corporations, and the public at large. This, of course, is the current status, which I call the “Thick Model”.
Moving into the policy side, whether by choice or by chance, places us all in the arena of politics. All of the qualities of a political system and its attendant bureaucracy become a part of our experience, and a part of our financial obligation. While this is not, by itself, a “bad thing”, we must take care to maintain parity of representation of all stakeholders, along with parity of financial contribution to the overall system. Organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) meet together, develop policy, and agree (for the most part) to abide by that policy. Their policy becomes “pseudo-law” because they agree. In the event of disagreements they have their own dispute resolution mechanisms. These can include self-regulation inside their own system, or “Trade Wars” waged country to country outside their system. Members must maintain a balance between their individual greed and their ultimate ability to conduct commerce in a world marketplace. Ultimately, the system (mostly) works because the members practice enlightened self-interest.
The Internet situation is much the same. Unless DNS, protocols, and address space are coordinated, there will be no worldwide communication. Unless policy is coordinated there will be uncertainty in the world marketplace because there would be no consistent (even if minimal) rules of conduct.
Finally, if there is policy, the application of resources to gain consensus must apply equally across all stakeholders, not just among the 25 or so countries that represent 95 percent of the commercial Internet activity in the name space at present time, and certainly not just the United States, VERISIGN, and the US-based Registrars that represent 80 to 90 percent of the commercial activity in the Internet name space.
Funding of the thick model would certainly cost the US $ 5 million, the current level of budget, plus another US $ 1.875 million for operation of the root servers if those services were no longer “donated”.
Because we are now talking policy, and “equal representation”, we would need a way to engage, or try to engage, at lease 100 ccTLD managers or organizations in this process. We also need to know who these people are, and what kind of infrastructure they have. In fact, we may need to provide some support to them, technical training, or even use /rental of name servers somewhere because theirs are not robust, or might be located in an area of political instability, or even outright shooting wars.
My recommendation to accomplish this task is a budget of US $ 500,000 per year for at least 2 years. Funds would be applied US $ 200,000 for travel and lodging grants to bring these ccTLD managers to at least one physical meeting per year, US $ 200,000 to send a team of persons into the field to visit these organizations, determine their technical situation, and provide some briefing on the ICANN process, and an additional US $ 100,000 for back office support, updating the IANA database, telephone, web publishing, etc. This would include one full-time equivalent person on ICANN staff to deal with ccTLD operations.
Now we are up to US $ 7.3 million with payment for root server operations, or US $ 5.5 million without payment for root servers.
This could be funded with an allocation of US $ 0.15 to 0.20 per name per year.
Of course, grants are available for this kind of outreach. Another full time equivalent salary could be budgeted for dealing with grant and funding applications, reporting and compliance.
CcTLD Relations with ICANN:
Major objections to the conditions of relations between ccTLDs and ICANN fall into a few general categories;
1. Many ccTLDs want the “Thin Model” and do not (yet) see the advantages of a “Consensus-based Policy-Making organization”, or feel that their National governments are by nature sovereign and that there is no point in attempting to set policy guidelines across multi-national borders.
2. The ccTLDs that prefer the “Thick Model” do not see ICANN devoting sufficient (or any) resources to their issues.
3. ICANN spends 90% of its resources dealing with gTLD, VeriSign, Registrars, US-centric business, legal and liability issues. Then ICANN asks and expects the ccTLDs to fund approximately 30 percent of its entire budget.
4. There is no proportional relationship on the revenue side between the number of domain names and economic process existent in the contribution structure currently under consideration by ICANN. The US-centric business interests proportional share of the costs are (would be) subsidized by ccTLD registries.
5. While there is a request for 30 percent of the funding, there is no GUARANTEE of any representation of ccTLDs on the ICANN board. Although there are some board members in place now who have alliances with the ccTLD community, they got there by “coincidence”, and not by any specific process from the ccTLD.
6. OF those ccTLDs that wish to pursue a more solid relationship with ICANN, they feel that some new method of relationship needs to be in place. Possibilities include a separate SO, or advisory board. For some, operating within ICANN is desirable, but there must be a certainty of parity of representation and input to the overall process.
CcTLD organization Mission and size, “Light-weight” or “Substantial”?
Relative strength of ccTLD regional associations varies from robust to nil (nothing).
CENTR is a shining example, with good organization, a capable secretariat, regular meetings, and a budget of over US $ 400,000 per year. Next is Asia-Pacific, with a budget of US $ 50,000 per year- but with a lot of subsidies from sub-regional organizations that enable it to coordinate many conferences, workshops, and even do outreach programs.
Latin America and Africa have little, if any organization as associations, no budget, and in fact, need a lot of help. North America does not have an active regional organization, perhaps because the members are very strong by themselves, and can coordinate activities easily simply because there are so few of them.
Some CENTR members have expressed a desire to have any ccTLD organization be “light weight”, relying on regional organizations to do the bulk of the necessary work. This concept, of course, is not only unrealistic, it is clearly impossible - considering there are no functioning regional organizations in at least two regions.
At least 100 countries in the ccTLD roster could use some kind of development, outreach, technical training with respect to DNS, possible outsourcing of DNS, and, certainly some political briefing. If nothing else, these ccTLDs need strong representation because they cannot afford to be physically present at ICANN meetings.
This kind of development work is not necessarily the province of ICANN, and certainly not up to ICANN to fund by assessing wealthy members more dues in order to provide “social services”. But are these social services? Perhaps these are essential services. They are essential to insure the continued stability and development of the Internet, because the Internet requires each and every ccTLD to be functional and stable.
I propose for discussion purposes a much more robust model for the ccTLD organization.
A “Really Thick” model. A strong, World Wide Association of ccTLDs, funded sufficiently to provide the organization, administrative support, and multi-language information dissemination services that are so important to global Internet stability and development.
Such an organization would be in the position to be able to accept millions of dollars in cash and in-kind grants for economic development, and channel those funds into specific, Internet related projects in the ccTLD member states.
Naturally, this organization would have NGO status. It would most definitely be a SO to ICANN.
Financial support issues would be decoupled from ICANN, as would the need for the ccTLD members to rely on ICANN for outreach in political education. Those wealthy countries and multi-national corporations that are interested and willing to help could contribute voluntarily, both cash and human resources to this work. In many cases these same multi-national companies gain economic benefit by increased Internet activity in the developing countries. Infrastructure development, equipment sales, leasing of bandwidth capacity and telecommunications transport are measured in the billions of dollars. An informal poll of senior management personnel in several of these companies shows a very positive response to this sort of funding request.
Membership dues for developing countries would be set to a token level, yet the overall funding of the ccTLD organization could make all necessary opportunities available to those developing member states ccTLDs.
Finally, this structure would enable the ccTLD community to establish and maintain the proper peer-to-peer relationship with ICANN that would satisfy sovereign governments requirements to remain independent. It could guarantee a fixed income stream to support ICANN and its work. It would reinforce for ICANN its credibility as a multi-national, consensus based policy organization, perhaps leading to US Department of Commerce ICANN control of the root server.
I urge all of you, ccTLD managers, advisors to ccTLD organizations, ICANN board members, Names Council members, and others hearing or reading this presentation, to consider the long term ramifications and consequences of how we guide the Policy and Progress of world wide Internet development.
I ask those of you on the ccTLD list to discuss these possibilities and comment on the list.
I ask those of you who are coming to Melbourne to be ready to explain your thoughts and positions, and particularly to be prepared to do some serious consensus-building work on determining our mutual direction and mission for the future.
Peter de Blanc