The following draft was originally written by Beau Brendler.
To: ALAC and ICANN Board
From: North American Regional At-Large Organization (NARALO)
Subject: Pre-registration of TLDs
The NARALO observes that at least one ICANN-accredited registrar, United Domains, is offering what it calls "Free nTLD pre-registration" (see https://www.uniteddomains.com/ntld/pre-register-new-domains) in anticipation of the availability of some top-level domains by its own estimated date of October 2012.
While United Domains says the pre-registration service is free and non-binding, the NARALO is concerned the offer of such a service could create artificial demand which could then be used to justify additional rounds of TLD creation and release, or might serve to confuse consumers.
The NARALO wishes to remind ICANN that approximately 10 years ago, the announcement of pre-registration for new top-level domains (such as .aero, .coop and so-on) prompted the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to issue a consumer alert (http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt084.pdf) that said, in part, "Some registration services are guaranteeing new top level domain names or promising preferential treatment in the registration process....
"But, the agency cautions, these offers may be misleading.
"The FTC advises consumers to protect themselves by:
...Avoiding any domain name pre-registration service that guarantees particular top level domain names or preferential treatment in the assignment of new top level domain names.."
The NARALO is aware that the situation then and now is different, and that United Domains and others provide substantial disclosure information about the nature of the pre-registration program. The NARALO also recognizes that the FTC action at the time was thought by some in the Internet community to be excessive and alarmist.
Therefore, the NARALO recommends that, through ALAC, ICANN undertake public communication that makes clear what, exactly, consumers and others might expect from "pre-registration." It should be the organization that administers the domain name system, not the agents of domain sale, who should be defining the nature of Internet "real estate" in the public interest.