Saturday, September 17, 2011

Mauritius Government engages Stakeholders on the redelegation of .MU ccTLD Domain Name

Mauritius begins a new redelegation battle
The government of Mauritius is in the process of engaging stakeholders in the country's internet sector on the redelegation of the .MU country code top level domain name from a few private hands to a more formally defined structure based on a local multistakeholder representation including government, private sector, academia, NGOs and others like the management of Kenya's KENIC for .KE domain names.

Mauritius has been battling this re-delegation nightmare for close to a decade now to bring its ccTLD under a broad-based management model that is deemed to be in the public's best interest. There is feeling at the top echelons that now is the time for everyone's voices to be heard in the management of .MU, the voices of Mauritius' vibrant internet community.

Initially, the Mauritius' .MU ccTLD namespace was administered by Internet Direct, a company founded by Mr Yann Kwok, a player in the African and Mauritian internet industry, in 1995. Internet Direct has been assuming the role of trustee of the .MU ccTLD since 1995 when it was granted the .MU ccTLD by IANA. An MOU was reached in 2009 that left technical operations in the hands of Internet Direct while giving policy oversight functions to the various stakeholders but surely this was just a ceasefire and quite cosmetic. Many registrars concur that nothing changed in the real sense from the 2009 MOU. Today, the .MU ccTLD registry is administered by the Mauritius ccTLD Network Information Centre (MUNIC) , the "successor" to Internet Direct. The technical infrastructure for the .MU ccTLD is currently located outside the country.

ICANN has no issue with ccTLDs being managed by individuals or organizations representing the interests of the communities or with the technical management being located externally so long as the management is sound and serves the community. To ICANN, a well managed ccTLD registry makes no difference to end users whether it's in private hands or in the hands of a coalition of stakeholders. A country is considered to be in charge of its ccTLD registry as  long as the Sponsoring Organisation and the Administrative contacts are based in that country. That's all. Perhaps this might explain the rapid redelegation of the dotSO ccTLD to the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, with the technical operator GMO Registry based in Japan.

But many African governments disagree. In recent years, there has been a persistent push by the various players in the African internet community and from the governments to have these resources based in Africa, including the technical infrastructure of the ccTLDs. African communities want more and total control of their ccTLDs within their borders. There are several reasons for this push including the feeling that foreign administrators have no deep patriotic interest in the success of the African ccTLDs, the need to foster skills locally and also the same old nationalism, Africans do not want to have to fight what we call "web colonialism". So quick redelegation is the surest way to forestall the "great catastrophe."

But can African registries rise to the challenge? Many African registries have been undergoing reforms in management and also implementing world class registry solutions and local infrastructure for hosting technical operations on the continent. Open source registry software solution like COCCA which is deployed in-country has been a boon to African registries and has been implemented in over 18 African ccTLDs including Mauritius' .MU thus freeing African registries from reliance on foreign based proprietary registry systems which in addition to being costly also require remote hands, an extra expense to the already cash strapped African ccTLDs.

Mauritius believes it's time and would like to transfer the .MU ccTLD registry operations to Mauritius. The country published a consultative document that will be open for discussion throughout this month before the nation reactivates the redelegation process. After reviewing proposals, the country will set up a non-profit private company as the new Registry operator for the .MU namespace. The country will then file a redelegation case with ICANN and update the root servers to reflect the new location of .MU registry.

View Full Document for Public Comment Here . Interesting times ahead for .MU.

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  1. Your article highlights a key point:
    "A country is considered to be in charge of its ccTLD registry as long as the Sponsoring Organisation and the Administrative contacts are based in that country"

    In the case of Mauritius, both the SO, admin and tech contacts are based in country. The matter was discussed at the State Law Office after the MoU and they saw no need to change anything as the ccTLD is running properly. The attorney in charge said that if it's not broken, why fix it?

    The MoU referred to above was not comestic - it delegated the regulatory responsibility to a true non profit entity, while letting the old SO run the technical operations during a transition period.

    The consultation paper is proposing, a 100% state owned organisation (ICTA's view of a "community") and among other things, to outsource the technical operations to a foreign bidder. How ironical! Take the operations from the current local organisation to outsource it to a foreign entity so that local companies can gain technical competence???

    Of course, it is actually just a power struggle for civil servants working for the regulator (ICTA) to get excuses for travelling, pure and simple.

    To highlight another example. AfriNIC, based in Mauritius, is already allocating IP addresses for the whole African continent. ICTA is not happy that AfriNIC is allocating those addresses to Mauritian companies and is proposing to set up a National Internet Registry so that it is the ICTA which will allocate the IP addresses to Mauritian companies.

    While this may make sense for a country like China with a 1.2 billion people, Mauritius is three orders of magnitude smaller with 1.2 million people and barely a couple of thousands companies (including inactive ones!).

    So again, it's for these civil servants to justify their lame existence to get travel and earn per diem. No wonder that Africa will stay Africa. Mauritius is no exception.

  2. Its time the nations of Africa who don't have their domains re-delegated to do that as soon as possible, organizations that are handling these ccTLD's must also be trusted and well able to manage and run the systems to avoid killing a viable future.