Subject: Melbourne IT concerns
To: Manager, Internet Assigned Names Authority (IANA)
Melbourne IT understands that the .au Domain Name Administration Ltd (auDA) sent a request through to IANA on the 21 May 2001 requesting the re-delegation of the .au domain. auDA published details of their request on their website on 12 June 2001.
Under section 3, of RFC 1591, Melbourne IT, as a significantly interested party in the domain, wishes to also provide some input into the re-delegation process.
On the 8 October 1996, Mr Robert Elz granted a non-exclusive delegation for the administration of the ".com.au" namespace to Melbourne IT under the name allocation policy developed by Mr Elz (see http://www.ina.com.au/register/names.html). Since 1996 Melbourne IT has performed some of the critical registry functions, such as maintenance of the ".com.au" zone file, as well as registrar functions such as domain name registration and checking compliance with the names policy. Melbourne IT has also encouraged the development of a competitive retail industry, through the appointment of a large number of resellers (over 500). These resellers compete on the basis of price and quality of service, with Melbourne IT's retail operation. Melbourne IT has less than 50% market share of the retail market, but through the support of resellers has grown the overall ".com.au" market to over 200,000 registrations. Australia is now one of the few countries that has established a strong local market in domain names against the fierce competition of ".com". Most Australian on-line businesses use ".com.au" domain names, and thus the administration and management of ".com.au" is a critical resource. Australian consumers can also choose to register in other second level domains under ".au", including ".org.au", ".net.au", "asn.au", and ".id.au". ".com.au" domains account for over 80% of the total ".au" domain space.
Melbourne IT has consistently worked closely with the Australian Government and the Internet industry to transition the management of domain names from a small scale voluntary operation to a much larger scale mission-critical operation. Melbourne IT was one of the original founders of auDA as an industry self-regulatory body, and helped write its constitution.
Some of the Principle Purposes of auDA, as defined in its constitution, include:
Melbourne IT believes in the following core principles relating to managing the ".au" and ".com.au" domain space:
For the purposes of achieving these principles the key issues for Melbourne IT are:
On 11 November 1999, Mr Robert Elz delegated the full policy authority for ".com.au" to auDA.
We assume that Robert wanted to first measure how well auDA managed this authority for ".com.au", before requesting that IANA transfer its delegation for ".au" to auDA.
Melbourne IT has been frustrated by the progress on many of tasks allocated to auDA in its Constitution. For example despite serious performance problems with the AUNIC domain name database service during the first half of 2001 (which prevented many people from renewing or purchasing ".com.au" domain names), the service was only migrated to a more stable platform on 3 June 2001. auDA attracted substantial industry criticism over its handling of the tender for this service, which included permitting the use of advertising of a particular domain name retailer on a service that is intended to be neutral. Despite over 12 months of funding from registrars, auDA has only created two industry advisory panels: the Competition Model Advisory Panel and the Names Policy Advisory Panel. The auDA Board finally accepted the recommendations of the Names Policy Advisory Panel on 8 May 2001, but we understand that auDA intends to delay the introduction of the new policy until late 2001 or early 2002. auDA created a working group to quickly develop a dispute resolution policy, which completed a policy for dispute resolution between registrants based on ICANN's UDRP policy in June 2001. auDA has delayed considering this policy until Aug 2001, and it may not be introduced until late 2001 or 2002.
Melbourne IT has been an active participant in all Advisory Panels and accepts the principal of a self regulatory approach in developing policies.
On 12 July 2001, the auDA Board accepted the report of the Competition Model Advisory Panel which set out the model for competition. The Competition Model Advisory Panel recommended that auDA establish an implementation steering group with broad industry and consumer participation, as well as establish specific advisory panels on important matters such as:
Melbourne IT supports the new competition model which is roughly based on the ICANN model for competition amongst ".com", ".biz", and ".info". Melbourne IT is an active competitor in the international domain name market, and is not afraid of competition. In fact Melbourne IT has consistently been a strong advocate of competition in both Australia and internationally.
Melbourne IT has requested auDA to introduce the names policy and dispute resolution policy as soon as possible, and has requested that auDA establish an Advisory Panel with some urgency to deal with the many complaints arising from some practices of domain name retailers in Australia. We understand the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has received many complaints from consumers, and that there is support within the ACCC for the urgent establishment of a code of conduct before the end of the year.
Instead of cooperation from auDA, auDA has proposed a very significant increase in its licence fee to fund auDA to implement the competition model. The industry has not received any budget from auDA to justify this, and Melbourne IT does not believe that auDA is seeking sufficient industry advice and support (as an industry self-regulator) for its implementation plans. For example, we understand that auDA intends to auction domain names that have previously not been registered under the ".com.au" policy. The names policy Advisory Panel supported making these domain names available, but there has been no consensus on auctioning these domain names rather than the usual first-come, first-served allocation approach of most significant country code registries.
Melbourne IT now believes that auDA may even be acting outside the scope of its constitution for its lack of consultation and openness with the industry, and seems not to be implementing the results of its Advisory Panels.
With regard to the re-delegation process, Melbourne IT would like to know the views of the current ".au" delegate, Mr Robert Elz. Melbourne IT believes that Mr Elz has performed his duties as trustee for ".au" with great integrity, and has established the foundation of the success of the ".com.au" domain space. He has continued to operate the authoritative nameserver for ".au", and has ensured the integrity of the ".au" space. Mr Elz has strong support from many in the Internet community within Australia, and Melbourne IT believes that the integrity and trust of both auDA and Melbourne IT will be at stake within the community if Mr Elz were not to voluntarily endorse auDA as the delegate for ".au".
If IANA believes that it must re-delegate the domain without the approval of Mr Elz, Melbourne IT suggests that IANA give consideration to delegating ".au" to the Australian Communications Authority (ACA), which is the Australian Government's regulator of the communications industry. In fact, the Australian Government has created legislation to endorse ACA as the manager of ".au" should the self regulatory process break down. If the ACA was given direct management of ".au" and management of the tender processes described in the competition model for new ".au" registries, then there would still continue to be a very important role for auDA. For example, auDA could devote more time to the development of codes and standards rather than manage operational issues. So far auDA has done well to achieve consensus within the Advisory Panels, and Melbourne IT strongly supports the continuation of this work.
While the matter of re-delegation of ".au" is being resolved, Melbourne IT recommends that auDA implement the names policy and dispute resolution policy for ".com.au", and develop a code of conduct for domain name retailers, under its current endorsement from Mr Elz for ".com.au". Melbourne IT believes that if auDA successfully completes these tasks for ".com.au", it will gain the support from the Australian internet community for managing the whole of ".au".
Melbourne IT wishes to continue its close association with auDA, and has confirmed with auDA that it will continue to fund auDA's activities at the current level in developing industry consensus through the auDA Advisory Panels.
The purpose of this letter is to caution IANA on making the decision on re-delegation, until auDA can show that it can progressively improve the ".au" domain space. Melbourne IT is concerned that auDA's desire to implement major changes to the domain space without further industry consultation may lead to significant instability in ".com.au" with resultant negative effects on consumers. AuDA has yet to establish a proven track record in implementing its policies and decisions, and auDA should take advantage of further expert assistance. Melbourne IT believes that the end result of a poor implementation of the competition model will be that ".com" will gain a significant hold on the Australian market, and the competition of ".com.au" will be reduced.
Melbourne IT welcomes further discussion on this issue, and would especially like to hear Mr Robert Elz's input.
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