Wednesday, January 11, 2012

ALAC on new gTLD Applicant Support: Who's needy?

Following up on the publication of Comments on ICANN's Applicant Support Program, one comment that has caught my attention is that by ALAC regarding what Criteria ICANN will use to qualify an applicant as a needy. In the Applicant Support document this criteria is not clearly defined; there's no objective criteria that has been cast in iron that will help the Support Application Review Panel(SARP) to determine whether an applicant is needy and worthy of a $138,000 waiver.

This could be a serious problem, because a "needy" applicant might be judged as "not needy" by the SARP and the consequences are fatal. Applicants that apply for financial support and fail to meet ICANN's minimum threshold for qualifying for this program will not only lose the financial support but will be excluded from the entire new gTLD process. Which means your newgTLD dreams and all the hard work will go up in smoke.

While this process has been instituted as a deterrent against gamers, for which there are no short supply of in the DNS industry, it may end up harming innocent victims.

So many applicants who will be applying for financial support will be taking a huge gamble. Dreams might be crushed. So before applying for financial support, applicants must be sure they are needy but how will they know if they meet that criteria of being "needy"?

According to the ALAC Statement: The Preliminary Implementation plan does not include sufficient discussion of the criteria by which a Support Applicant will be judged as meeting financial need requirements. While the JAS WG recommendation was also deficient in this matter, there was recommendation that further work be done by the JAS WG together with the Staff Implementation team to develop objective criteria for the financial evaluation. The need to do this has been made greater by the punishment documented in the Preliminary Implementation Program for 'gaming', i.e. by designating forfeiture of the application fee and exclusion from the New gTLD program for those judged as not meeting the financial need criteria. While this may be a clever mechanism for dissuading ICANN's professional gamers, how can an applicant from outside the ICANN community trust that the process won't find them insufficiently needy when they are being measured against unknown criteria. 

$47K USD is a great sum for an applicant from a developing economy to gamble on being judged insufficiently needy against an unspecified set of financial criteria. ALAC advises that the Staff Implementation plan work with a group of JAS WG volunteers and others to develop a set of objective criteria for the financial evaluation. The need to do this has been made greater by the punishment documented in the Preliminary Implementation Program for 'gaming', i.e. by designating forfeiture of the application fee and exclusion from the New gTLD program for those judged as not meeting the financial need criteria. While this may be a clever mechanism for dissuading ICANN's professional gamers, how can an applicant from outside the ICANN community trust that the process won't find them insufficiently needy when they are being measured against unknown criteria. $47K USD is a great sum for an applicant from a developing economy to gamble on being judged insufficiently needy against an unspecified set of financial criteria.

ALAC advises that the Staff Implementation plan work with a group of JAS WG volunteers and others to develop a set of objective criteria that take the realities of the developing world and its variety into
account.


According to ICANN's Draft Financial Assistance Handbook published for public comment just before Christmas, the Financial Needs criterion will be evaluated based operational environment(difficulty of obtaining funding), organizational size(priority to small and medium sized organizations when evaluating applications for financial support), project budget and funding resources(Applicants who clearly identify why financial support would help to improve their financial projections or mitigate any potential risks will be given 1 point.), Outreach for financial support(demonstrate that you have taken extra steps in sourcing funds for the new gTLD initiatives eg from donors etc).

It's all very fuzzy and many

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