Pace towards finalizing the details of the next new gTLD application round is picking up, with a group of policy-makers close to overcoming some of the ICANN board’s concerns about the program.
A so-called “small team” of GNSO members, aided by a couple of ICANN directors, have drafted a set of recommendations aimed at helping the board approve the 38 community recommendations it has not yet adopted.
The board approved 98 new gTLD “Subsequent Procedures” policy recommendations in March, but was hesitant on issues such as the proposed registry back-end evaluation program, round-based applications, and content policing.
The board had raised the specter of a first-come, first-served model for new gTLD applications, something the community roundly rejected during the Policy Development Process for the next rounds.
Directors in the small group have since clarified that they’re really looking for a “steady state” application process, that may or may not involve FCFS, in order to make planning, hiring and software development more predictable.
There seems to be no question of the next application opportunity being anything other than a round-based process.
Nevertheless, it’s now possible that the GNSO may throw the board a bone by suggesting a PDP that would look into how the new gTLD program could operate in a “steady state” over the long term.
Content policing is another issue that has caused the board pause.
SubPro and the GNSO have recommended that registries be able to add Registry Voluntary Commitments — promises to ban certain types of content from their zone, for example — to their ICANN contracts.
But the board is worried that this may break its 2016 bylaws, which demand ICANN not get involved in content policing, even though the similar Public Interest Commitments from the 2012 round are enforceable.
The GNSO and board currently seem to be leaning towards a bylaws amendment to address RVCs, but it will be a bit of a tightrope, language-wise, to keep ICANN on its ostensibly technical mandate.
The small group has met nine times since late March to try and resolve these and other board concerns ahead of the mid-year ICANN 77 meeting in Washington DC, which starts June 12.
There’s a pretty aggressive schedule of meetings between now and then, with a bilateral between GNSO and board May 22. The board should have the GNSO’s response to its roadblocks by DC, which should allow it to start chipping away at some of the 38 unadopted recommendations.