Project Roadmap: Supporting the Domain Name Industry in Underserved Regions
19 September 2014
ICANN is exploring ideas and strategies to help promote the domain name industry in regions that have typically been underserved. In particular, ICANN is looking at existing barriers to registrar accreditation and operation and considering ways that these challenges might be mitigated.
ICANN staff published in May 2014 a report for public comment exploring suggestions that ICANN has received to date for supporting the domain name industry in underserved regions. The suggestions noted in the report included potential changes to the Registrar Accreditation Agreement as well as increased educational efforts and outreach by ICANN.
Staff used public comments received on the report to create the following project roadmap. Staff published a summary report of these comments on 2 September 2014. The report is available at: https://www.icann.org/public-comments/dns-underserved-2014-05-14-en .
The community echoed many comments staff has heard before—including that adjusting certain contractual requirements for all registrars, such as registrar accreditation insurance requirements—could make it easier for businesses in underserved regions to become accredited registrars without creating undue risks to registrants and the larger domain name ecosystem.
However, ICANN staff also heard from the community that registrar accreditation requirements should not be presumed to be the cause of low numbers of registrars in underserved regions, and that low demand for domain name services in these regions also plays a large role.
This project roadmap identifies smaller steps that staff can take now to begin lessening known barriers to participation at ICANN but also incorporates the study and planning that has been suggested before effecting more substantial changes. The roadmap is divided into several tracks, with the more straightforward steps noted first. Staff anticipates that these tracks will run in parallel until each track is completed.
ICANN will continue to accept input on this roadmap via this page as the project evolves and meets key milestones. Additional information about the progress of this project will be made available through the ICANN wiki, on ICANN.org, through public comment fora, and other means.
Project Roadmap: Underserved Regions Outreach
Track I: RAA Insurance Requirement
This track of the project will involve an assessment of ICANN’s current insurance requirements for registrar accreditation, i.e. a $500,000 commercial general liability insurance policy. The assessment will consider whether the requirement remains relevant and whether there are alternatives that could satisfy ICANN’s policy goals and mission that might be more widely available and/or better suited to address the risks associated with running a registrar business.
As of September 2014, this assessment is actively underway. Staff will update the community about the progress of this track as pertinent information becomes available.
Track II: Improve ICANN Materials, RAA Instructions, Application
This track of the project will focus on improving ICANN’s accreditation-related materials, with the goal of making them easier to use and understand for a broader range of stakeholders.
ICANN staff will identify consensus policies and key agreements to be translated into the UN languages, obtain translations of those policies and agreements, and post those to the ICANN website. This process should be complete or nearly complete by the end of the 2014 calendar year.
ICANN staff will also make available a more friendly registrar accreditation application form. Commenters have told us that the current process of having to print out a list of the questions and answer them without having a fillable application makes the registrar application process less efficient than it could be. Staff is creating a form to address this feedback. The form should be available on ICANN.org no later than October, 2014.
Another contractual requirement that may pose a roadblock to potential new registrars in underserved regions—or any region—is that ICANN has required registrar applicants to demonstrate access to US$70,000 in liquid working capital. That requirement is gleaned from ICANN’s statement of registrar accreditation policy, but the requirement has some flexibility.
The policy states, “For applicants seeking initial accreditation, demonstration of the ability to procure liquid capital immediately available in the applicant's name at the commencement of the accreditation period in an amount of US$70,000 or more will be deemed adequate, although a lesser amount will be accepted upon a showing that in the circumstances it will provide adequate working capital.”
Staff will evaluate the factors that could demonstrate an applicant’s capability to run a registrar business without having the $70,000, and will list those factors in instructions accompanying the RAA. This should provide greater certainty to applicants about what they will need to show to prove their eligibility, should they not be able to demonstrate the $70,000 cash reserves. This should be complete before the end of 2014.
ICANN is working to redesign the RAA application and questions to provide a better explanation of the criteria that staff use to evaluate the sufficiency of a registrar applicant’s answers. ICANN will also develop a web-based application form, a step beyond the interim fillable form that will be available by October, 2014.
Track III: Enhanced Collaboration/Cooperation
ICANN is currently in the final phases of development of its Automated Registry Onboarding System (AROS). The system is intended to provide a means for registrars to manage their registry-registrar agreements in one place, which should streamline the processes and amount of paperwork required to enter into contracts with the individual registries.
ICANN will continue to participate in and seek out additional opportunities to participate in upcoming educational and outreach events in underserved regions.
ICANN staff expect that the collaboration/cooperation effort will continue to expand and evolve over time. We urge you to provide any suggestions you may have on this topic.
Track IV: Long Range Efforts
Track IV encompasses many items identified in the public comments that staff anticipates will take long-term planning to address.
ICANN staff plans to publish a follow-up community discussion paper in 2015 to seek additional input on the following issues: suggested parameters for greater research into low domain name services demand in underserved regions; the role of resellers at ICANN; ICANN’s outreach to insurance companies and banks; and elements that could form the basis for a new mentorship program for new or struggling DNS businesses.
Public comments on this report will be used to plan next steps on these issues.
ICANN is exploring the possibility of conducting a study of the issues surrounding low demand for domain name services in regions that are typically categorized as underserved. Staff will be seeking your input into the types of questions that should be asked, among other factors.
I commend ICANN's recognition of the need to study the issues surrounding low demand for domain names in underserved regions.
However, I'd like to emphasise that measures to increase the supply of domain names will be met with futility where demand is lacking. The roadmap demonstrates an intent to implement measures to increase the supply of domain names prior to measures to increase the demand for domain names. Implementation of the proposed solutions aimed at increasing the supply of domain names now is premature and will see the establishment of registrars who cannot support their own operations due to a lack of demand for domain names in these regions. This is an exercise fraught with futility. Our first-hand experience demonstrates that registrars will not create demand. They will meet established demand. Absent the adoption of measures to address the deficiency in demand for domain names, these registrars will effectively be set up to fail. Such an approach is not sustainable and will add further instability to the domain name industries in these regions. As such, Track IV should be made the highest priority to ensure the effectiveness of these efforts. ICANN's plan to publish a follow up community discussion paper in 2015 to seek additional input on research parameters does not reflect ICANN's prioritisation of measures to increase the demand for domain names.
Thank you so much for your comments, both during the public comment period and in this forum. Your points are very well taken and I hope you will continue to provide your input as this project progresses.