From the CENTR meeting, Brussels, 4 October 2012

The 48th General Assembly of CENTR, the European association of ccTLD registries, discussed last week in Brussels the DNS perspectives with regard to ICANN’s new gTLD programme, but also the new IANA contract, IG updates from policy fora like IGF and WCIT...
zzz...  by now you must have fallen asleep!

I’ve become fully aware of how these abbreviations and jargon, which I also commonly use when asked to explain what I do for living, impact the audience around me when I have watched the excellent marketing movie of the Japanese .jp operator:

Openly acknowledging that, however, I emphasise the last sentence in the video: ‘these jargons [sic] might put you to sleep, but this job is really important’.

The national domain registries (ccTLD registries) are the institutions managing country code domains - like the Japanese .jp or the Spanish .es. Their role is to a large extent technical (maintaining the servers in charge of the national domains) and administrative (selling and re-selling national domains), but the related policy decisions they make directly impact the end-user experience and, ultimately, the business (and even the political) environment. Consider some of the concerns the ccTLD registries address:

  • The relevance of the national branding through country domains in a globally networked world where ‘generic’ domains (gTLD) like .com or .travel are dominant.
  • The economic importance of clear policies regarding the use of established trademarks in national domain space, and rights and priorities.
  • The impact of the establishment of domain names in national scripts (such as Arabic, Chinese, Cyrillic or any other language) on the growth in number of users - and thereby on e-literacy, e-business and e-services.
  • The consequences of human rights on eventual content filtering of illegal, inappropriate or objectionable content without clear procedures and involvement of juridical institutions.
  • The responsibility for maintaining the national domain system secure and resilient, in spite of growing number of sophisticated cyberattacks.
  • The role in channeling the revenues into the development of national ICT infrastructure, services, awareness and education...

The European ccTLD registries, associated in CENTR, gather regularly to discuss these and other policy challenges they face. The last week CENTR General Assembly in Brussels had a very interesting schedule: besides discussing issues like corporate governance, marketing and administration, security and strategic planning, the meeting also discussed the updates from the (increasingly important) global policy fora, like ICANN’s work on the new gTLD, Internet Governance Forum (IGF) developments, and the forthcoming ITU World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT).

It was surprising to realise that not many of the more than 50 CENTR members are involved in the global policy fora other than ICANN. A discussion slot on the IGF and WCIT within the meeting agenda was therefore very useful and inspiring: after initially brainstorming possible implications of eventual government-led global policy decisions on the operations of the ccTLD and on the Internet future in general, there were lots of enquiries about the trends in the IGF process and the plans for the November IGF meeting in Baku, and especially about WCIT. The brief outline of some of the proposed amendments of the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITR) for WCIT - including those related to the introduction of the notion of Internet traffic to the ITU mandate, and those related to the violation of network neutrality and the establishment of globally approved multi-tiered Internet - have made the registries consider working on a possible common position in relation to WCIT. Moreover, they underlined the importance of establishing close relations with their national governments, to make them more aware of the basic Internet principles and the consequences of global policy decisions.

I was there to learn about the emerging challenges of the technical community, to share my experiences about non-technical aspects of these global processes, and to push for ccTLD support for pan-European and national capacity building programmes that would assist the engineers to better understand diplomacy and political processes - i.e. the governments, and enable public authorities to grasp the thematic complexity of Internet policies and make informed decisions. Well, I might have overestimated the current levels of interest of ccTLD registries in global policy processes, but I am now sure that interest is growing as they are becoming more aware of the possible impacts of global decisions on their work.

‘The battle over the Internet’ is on and heating up , and ccTLD registries are joining at a good time. It is time to awake others by explaining why ‘this job is really important’ - even if the jargon still puts them to sleep!

 

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