Redelegation of the .CD domain representing the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Office Congolais des Postes et Telecommunications

ICANN has received a request to redelegate the .CD domain, a country-code top-level domain representing the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to Office Congolais des Postes et Telecommunications. ICANN Staff have assessed the request, and provide this report for the ICANN Board of Directors to consider.

Factual Information

Country

The “CD” ISO 3166-1 code is designated for use to represent the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Chronology of events

The .CD domain was initially delegated in 1997 to Interpoint SARL, a Switzerland-based registry provider that has also provided service for a number of other African countries such as Burundi and Rwanda. Interpoint was the operator of the .ZR domain for Zaire. When the country was renamed to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, it was issued with a replacement ISO 3166-1 code of "CD" on 14 July 1997. Interpoint approached ICANN to replace .ZR with .CD, and was delegated the .CD domain shortly thereafter. The administrative contact for the domain was Frederic Gregoire, and the technical contact was David Kruger.

In October 2000, the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, through its Office Congolais des Postes et Telecommunications (OCPT), entered into a joint venture agreement with Bahnhof Infowerk AB, a Swedish company, to operate the .CD domain. As a result, a redelegation request was submitted to ICANN to redelegate the .CD domain to the Government, with Bahnhof Infowerk acting as technical operators.

While investigations on the redelegation request proceeded, in January 2001 the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo wrote to ICANN to "protest against the illegal and irregular administration" of the .CD domain. In this communication it advised that current operations (i.e. by Interpoint) were being conducted by persons unknown to the government, and that they are examining identifying a reliable partner to redelegate the domain to at a later date.

In February 2001, the Government executed an agreement with Key Systems GmbH, a German provider of domain registry systems, to establish a company "Key-Systems Congolais" to be responsible for the administration of the .CD and .ZR domains. In this agreement the parties undertook to engage with ICANN to obtain redelegation of the domains. After this agreement, Key Systems wrote to ICANN seeking to obtain redelegation of these domains. ICANN responded that as the .ZR domain is to be retired, it could not be redelegated in this fashion. With respect to the .CD domain, ICANN sought confirmation from the current operator of the .CD domain that the redelegation was supported. ICANN also continued to research the conflicting request to redelegate the domain it had received in late 2000.

ICANN became aware that Interpoint had transferred effective operations of the .CD domain to Key Systems without the redelegation process having been conducted. ICANN was also recipient of a number of complaints from people in the country, complaining about how the domain was now being managed. Aware of objections to the redelegation, and in light of the multiple conflicting requests for redelegation, ICANN wrote to Interpoint that "we hope you will keep in mind that you are still the designated technical contact of the .cd top-level domain, and as such you continue to have responsibility, under the IANA's supervision, to the global and Congolese Internet communities for the proper operation of the .cd top-level domain. In that regard, we request that, until further guidance from the IANA, you fulfill your responsibilities for technical management of the .cd top-level domain by operating the registrant database and DNS zone." Frederic Gregoire acknowledged this request, and wrote to Key Systems on June 18 advising that he will comply with ICANN's request until the matter of redelegation is settled.

In early 2002, the Minister wrote to ICANN, advising that progress on obtaining consent to transfer operations was proceeding well. It was indicated Interpoint was supportive of transferring the registry data for .CD. The Ministry reported it was now of a view to support delegation of the .CD domain to the Ministry, with Didier Kasole of ISOC-Congo running the domain within the country.

In June 2002, Key Systems and Interpoint SARL entered into a contract to take "measures necessary" to transfer the registry data for the .CD and .ZR domains to Key Systems, and to support redelegation of the domain to Key Systems. A new request for redelegation was submitted to ICANN, listing the Ministry of Post, Telephones and Telecommunications as the sponsoring organisation, with Key Systems representatives acting as the administrative and technical contacts. 

In December 2002, the Minister of Post and Telecommunications of the Democratic Republic of Congo met with ICANN representatives. They informed ICANN they felt the .CD domain had been hijacked and were seeking private-sector, multi-stakeholder led management of the .CD registry. They informed that they sought to have the Ministry responsible for the domain with technology functions performed by the University of Kinshasa. They noted a Congolese organisation, Congo Internet Management sprl, had taken over de-facto operation of the domain, with technical back-end systems provided by Key Systems. They said they were in discussions with Key Systems about recovering the domain registry data.

In August 2003, a request to redelegate the .CD domain to the President of the Autorite de Regulation de la Poste et des Telecommunications du Congo (ARPTC), with Didier Kasole listed as the technical contact, was presented to ICANN. This request was ultimately closed without prejudice.

On 12 June 2006, OCPT lodged a new request to redelegate the .CD domain. In support it provided Decision 010/2005 by the Minister of Post and Telecommunications. In order to confirm support for the proposal, and to ensure an appropriate transfer plan, ICANN attempted to establish contact with the current domain contact and proposed contact persons. Outreach to both the current and proposed contacts for the domain over several months but was unsuccessful. After several months, ICANN closed the request without prejudice.

Around this time, CIM transferred aspects of operations of the technical backend to Qinetics, another registry vendor trading under the name RegistryASP, while still maintaining a commercial relationship with Interpoint to sublicence the ability to operate the .CD domain.

On 30 October 2006, a new request for redelegation to OCPT was submitted to ICANN. ICANN wrote to Interpoint regarding the lack of response ICANN had received on this request, asking that they respond by 28 February 2007. ICANN stated that if no response was received by that date, ICANN would assume that they are uncontactable. On 18 March 2007, Gregoire ultimately responded advising he had never been contacted by ICANN previously regarding a redelegation, and said he had already consented to redelegation of the domain a "long time ago". As ICANN had not received any such consent relating to transfer to OCPT, and also OCPT had argued it had been unable to contact Gregoire in order to plan for an orderly transfer of domain registry data from Interpoint to OCPT, ICANN sought further clarification. Gregoire responded that he was in daily contact with OCPT and was surprised by their assertions, and offered a written confirmation in April 2007 that he did not oppose redelegation of .CD. Based on this response, ICANN engaged OCPT to clarify whether registry data had been offered by Interpoint.

During this period, while seeking clarification from the various actors, the office of the Minister of Post and Telecommunications wrote to ICANN advising that the representatives of OCPT did not have standing to be seeking a redelegation, and any such requests needed to be referred to the Minister's office. With an ongoing conflicts on many aspects of the request, ICANN set a deadline of 15 June 2007 for the various parties to come to agreement in order to continue processing the request. In response, ICANN was asked to hold off processing while local discussions continued regarding what the proposed redelegation should entail. ICANN then closed the request without prejudice.

In November 2007, the Governments of South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo signed a Memorandum of Understanding to cooperate on a number of infrastructure issues. The scope of work included specifically "the Management, under OCPT, of the .CD internet domain network." In line with this agreement, Telkom Group Limited (Telkom SA) later commenced working with OCPT to assist in .CD redelegation and management matters.

On 5 March 2008, a new request to redelegate the domain was submitted by OCPT. OCPT noted in the application that the current operator of the .CD domain was uncooperative and that the request should be considered a hostile redelegation. After meeting with representatives of OCPT the request was closed, to be resubmitted at a later date when the applicants were ready.

On 25 June 2009, CIM wrote to ICANN for the first time confirming that they had taken over day-to-day management of the .CD domain, and disagreeing with some of the representations made by OCPT. Upon seeking clarification — given that no redelegation had taken place — they advised "Frederic Gregoire has delegated the responsibilities of the .cd to Congo Internet Management". CIM explained that they had done so with the recognition of the DRC government, under a 2002 agreement. ICANN advised that it does not intervene in local disputes, and that the currently recognised operator of .CD was Interpoint. ICANN encouraged that CIM engage locally and discuss redelegation.

On 21 December 2009, OCPT wrote to CIM advising that the terms of its  2002 contract had not been fulfilled, and as attempts to settle the matter had been unsuccessful, it was terminating the agreement for CIM to operate the domain. It ordered CIM to transfer "all data and essential information relating to the management of the .CD domain name" to OCPT.

On 13 February 2010, Gregoire wrote to OCPT, advising that since 2003 he has been acting under instruction of CIM in maintaining .CD, and had been paid by CIM to do so. He claimed that in the intervening period "for reasons known only by ICANN" that the redelegation of .CD had been prevented from taking place. He suggested OCPT enter into a similar commercial arrangement with Interpoint to continue to operate .CD while performing a clandestine registration service, "allow[ing] you in fact to control the whole .CD domain ... without awaiting ICANN's decision".

On 8 March 2010, a new request to redelegate the .CD domain to OCPT was started with ICANN. For the remainder of the calendar year, the applicant continued to supply new documentation for ICANN consideration, and at the end of 2010 a complete redelegation application was submitted. During the year outreach was performed by OCPT within the country, including engagement with the Internet Service Provider Association of the DRC.

Proposed Sponsoring Organisation and Contacts

The proposed sponsoring organisation is Office Congolais des Postes et Telecommunications, a governmental entity of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, located at 95 Boulevard du 30 Juin, in Gombe, Kinshasa.

The proposed administrative contact is Chris Tshimanga, an employee of Telkom SA consulting to the Office Congolais des Postes et Telecommunications. The administrative contact has stated that they are based in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The proposed technical contact is Jaco Lesch, a representative of the Office Congolais des Postes et Telecommunications.

Evaluation of the Request

String Eligibility

The top-level domain “CD” is eligible for delegation under ICANN policy, as it is the assigned ISO 3166-1 two-letter code representing the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Public Interest

The Minister of Posts, Telephones and Telecommunications has reiterated to ICANN that it supports the redelegation of the .CD domain to OCPT, consistent with the decree issues on 13 May 2005 to that effect.

Support for the application has been received on behalf of the National Network of NGOs for the Promotion of New Information Technologies and Communication (REPRONTIC). The applicant has also provided minutes and other material relating to consultations performed in relation to the application.

The application is consistent with know applicable local laws in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The proposed sponsoring organisation undertakes to operate the domain in a fair and equitable manner.

Based in country

The proposed sponsoring organisation is constituted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The proposed administrative contact is understood to be resident in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The registry is to be operated in the country.

Stability

The request is deemed uncontested, with the current sponsoring organisation Interpoint SARL along with the current back-end services provider Registry ASP consenting to the transfer to OCPT. An appropriate transfer plan has been tendered with support from the involved parties.

Competency

The application has provided satisfactory details on the technical and operational infrastructure and expertise that will be used to operate the domain. Proposed policies for management of the domain have also been tendered.

Evaluation Procedure

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is tasked with managing the Domain Name System root zone as part of a set of functions governed by a contract with the U.S. Government. This includes managing the delegations of top-level domains.

A subset of top-level domains are designated for the local Internet communities in countries to operate in a way that best suits their local needs. These are known as country-code top-level domains, and are assigned by ICANN to responsible trustees (known as “Sponsoring Organisations”) who meet a number of public-interest criteria for eligibility. These criteria largely relate to the level of support the trustee has from their local Internet community, their capacity to ensure stable operation of the domain, and their applicability under any relevant local laws.

Through an ICANN department known as the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), requests are received for delegating new country-code top-level domains, and redelegating or revoking existing country-code top-level domains. An investigation is performed on the circumstances pertinent to those requests, and, when appropriate, the requests are implemented. Decisions on whether to implement requests are made by the ICANN Board of Directors, taking into account ICANN’s core mission of ensuring the stable and secure operation of the Internet’s unique identifier systems.

Purpose of evaluations

The evaluation of eligibility for country-code top-level domains, and of evaluating responsible trustees charged with operating them, is guided by a number of principles. The objective of the assessment is that the action enhances the secure and stable operation of the Internet’s unique identifier systems. The evolution of the principles has been documented in “Domain Name System Structure and Delegation” (RFC 1591), “Internet Domain Name System Structure and Delegation” (ICP-1), and other informational memoranda.

In considering requests to delegate or redelegate country-code top-level domains, input is sought regarding the proposed new Sponsoring Organisation, as well as from persons and organisations that may be significantly affected by the change, particularly those within the nation or territory to which the ccTLD is designated.

The assessment is focussed on the capacity for the proposed sponsoring organisation to meet the following criteria:

Method of evaluation

To assess these criteria, information is requested from the applicant regarding the proposed sponsoring organisation and method of operation. In summary, a request template is sought specifying the exact details of the delegation being sought in the root zone. In addition, various documentation is sought describing: the views of the local internet community on the application; the competencies and skills of the trustee to operate the domain; the legal authenticity, status and character of the proposed trustee; and the nature of government support fort he proposal. The view of any current trustee is obtained, and in the event of a redelegation, the transfer plan from the previous sponsoring organisation to the new sponsoring organisation is also assessed with a view to ensuring ongoing stable operation of the domain.

After receiving this documentation and input, it is analysed in relation to existing root zone management procedures, seeking input from parties both related to as well as independent of the proposed sponsoring organisation should the information provided in the original application be deficient. The applicant is given the opportunity to cure any deficiencies before a final assessment is made.

Once all the documentation has been received, various technical checks are performed on the proposed sponsoring organisation’s DNS infrastructure to ensure name servers are properly configured and are able to respond to queries for the top-level domain being requested. Should any anomalies be detected, ICANN staff will work with the applicant to address the issues.

Assuming all issues are resolved, an assessment is compiled providing all relevant details regarding the proposed sponsoring organisation and its suitability to operate the top-level domain being requested. This assessment is submitted to ICANN’s Board of Directors for its determination on whether to proceed with the request.