IANA Report on the Delegation of the .POST Top-Level Domain
2 August 2012
This report is being provided under the contract for performance of the IANA function between the United States Government and ICANN. Under that contract, ICANN performs the “IANA function”, which includes receiving delegation and redelegation requests concerning TLDs , investigating the circumstances pertinent to those requests, making its recommendations, and reporting actions undertaken in connection with processing such requests.
Factual and Procedural Background
There are several types of top-level domains (TLDs) within the DNS, including TLDs referred to as “generic” TLDs, or “gTLDs.” They can be subdivided into two types, “sponsored” TLDs (sTLDs) and “unsponsored” TLDs, as described in more detail below.
Generally speaking, an unsponsored TLD operates under policies established by the global Internet community directly through the ICANN process, while a sponsored TLD is a specialized TLD that has a sponsor representing the narrower community that is most affected by the TLD. The sponsor thus carries out delegated policy-formulation responsibilities over many matters concerning the TLD.
A Sponsor is an organization which is delegated some defined ongoing policy-formulation authority regarding the manner in which a particular sponsored TLD is operated. The sponsored TLD has a charter that defines the purpose for which the sponsored TLD has been created and will be operated. The Sponsor is responsible for developing policies on the delegated topics so that the TLD is operated for the benefit of a defined group of stakeholders known as the Sponsored TLD Community and who are most directly interested in the operation of the TLD. The Sponsor is also responsible for selecting the registry operator and, to varying degrees, establishing the roles played by registrars and their relationship with the registry operator. The Sponsor must exercise its delegated authority according to fairness standards and in a manner that is representative of the Sponsored TLD Community.
The extent to which policy-formulation responsibilities are appropriately delegated to a Sponsor depends upon the characteristics of the organization that may make such delegation appropriate. These characteristics may include the mechanisms the organization uses to formulate policies, its mission, its guarantees of independence from the registry operator and registrars, which individuals or entities will be permitted to participate in the Sponsor's policy-development efforts and in what way, and the Sponsor's degree and type of accountability to the Sponsored TLD Community.
The Sponsored TLD Application Process
On 26 June 2003, at the ICANN Board meeting in Montreal, the Board directed ICANN staff to invite public comment on a draft request for proposals for sTLDs posted on 24 June 2003, and in particular on the question whether the RFP should be limited to applicants that had proposed sponsored TLDs in November 2000. The public comments are available on ICANN’s website.
In parallel with the public comments, the ICANN Board discussed at length the topic of how, and within what timeframe, ICANN should proceed with the creation of new gTLDs, including sTLDs. On 29 October 2003, the ICANN Generic Names Supporting Organisation (GNSO) called upon the Board to initiate a process for an interim round of sTLDs.
Following various community discussions, including input by experts and interested parties through the GNSO, and from users both directly and through the At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC), on 31 October 2003, at its meeting in Carthage, Tunisia, the ICANN Board directed the ICANN President to finalize and post no later than 15 December 2003 an open Request for Proposals, not restricted to prior applicants, for a limited number of new sTLDs. The final RFP was to be based on these conclusions and the comments received concerning the posted draft.
In response to this direction, on 15 December 2003, ICANN announced and released the request for proposals (RFP) for sTLDs. The RFP was divided into six parts. The first part provided explanatory notes on the application and evaluation process, as well as on the type of information requested by ICANN. The remaining parts constituted the application itself.
The RFP’s explanatory notes described the selection criteria, which were in brief:
- The technical standards included “evidence of ability to ensure stable registry operation,” “evidence of ability to ensure that the registry conforms with best practice technical standards for registry operations,” “evidence of a full range of registry services,” and “assurance of continuity of registry operation in the event of business failure of the proposed registry.”
- The business plan had to “demonstrate the applicant's methodology for introducing a new sTLD and the ability of the organization to implement a robust and appropriately resourced organization.” The financial model had to “outline the financial, technical and operational capabilities of the organization.”
- The sponsorship information had to include a “definition of sponsored TLD community,” “evidence of support from the Sponsoring Organization,” “appropriateness of the Sponsoring Organization and the policy formulation environment,” and “level of support from the Community.” In addition, the criteria of “community value” had to be demonstrated by the “addition of new value to the Internet name space,” protections for “the rights of others,” “assurance of charter-compliant registrations and avoidance of abusive registration practices,” “assurance of adequate dispute-resolution mechanisms,” and “provision of ICANN-policy compliant WHOIS service.”
ICANN received 10 applications for new sTLDs before close of the application period on 16 March 2004. Applications were received for the following 9 sTLD strings: .ASIA, .CAT, .JOBS, .MAIL, .MOBI, .POST, .TEL, .TRAVEL and .XXX. Two different applicants submitted applications for .TEL. The public parts of the ten applications were posted on the ICANN website for public comment. The public comments received were posted at the same location.
An independent panel of experts with substantial knowledge of relevant technical, business/financial and policy areas was established to review and evaluate the applications. The internationally diverse panel was separated into three teams, with each one focused on technical, business/financial or policy areas. The teams began their work in May 2004 and completed their reports in July 2004. The independent review procedures ensured that all communications involving the evaluations were made through the Project Manager and as such, the review was blind between the teams and ICANN staff and between the teams and the applicants. The identity of the experts serving on the evaluation teams remained confidential until conclusion of the evaluation process.
Each of the three review teams met six to eight times by teleconference. Each team posed a series of questions to applicants that sought clarification of points relevant to evaluation of the applications against the RFP criteria. Each team provided a separate report, assessing the information in the applications against the criteria – technical, business/financial and sponsorship/community value – that they were charged with evaluating.
In the case where an applicant passed all three sets of criteria and there were no other issues associated with the application, it proceeded to technical and commercial negotiations designed to establish a new sTLD.
In cases where an evaluation team indicated that a set of criteria was not met, or other issues had to be addressed, ICANN gave each applicant an opportunity to submit clarifying or additional documentation.
The .POST Application
The proposed sponsoring organization and registry operator for the .POST top-level domain is the Universal Postal Union, a specialized agency of the United Nations based in Bern, Switzerland. The organization has engaged Afilias to provide back-end registry services. The public parts of the application were posted online. The community for the proposed .POST domain is the worldwide postal community, comprised of “public and private operators, organizations and government agencies that provide and support universal, trusted and secure postal services”.
Each of the three evaluation teams described above reviewed the application for the .POST top-level domain. Their recommendations were transmitted to ICANN on 12 July 2004.
The technical evaluation team recommended approval of the .POST application on technical grounds. The technical evaluators noted “[t]he clear structured namespace makes it different from other TLDs and there is clear criteria for what entities can register, and that all registrations must satisfy eligibility. The validating organization is established to our satisfaction. In light of these factors, we believe that .POST meets the technical selection criteria set forth in the RFP.”
The business/financial evaluation team also determined that the Universal Postal Union met the business and financial criteria set forth in the RFP and recommended approval of the .POST sTLD. The business/financial evaluation team found that the sponsoring organization structure is “ideally suited” to the task of engagement required in the operation of sTLDs.
The sponsorship/community value evaluation team also determined that the .POST application met the Sponsorship and Other Issues selections criteria set forth in the RFP, noting that the application “was presented in a well defined and sensible manner” and the applicant “has a clear and long established policy formulation environment”, though the “applicant needs to show how non-state registrants (such as FEDEX) would participate in the policy development process.”
After it was deemed the UPU had fulfilled the requirements of the RFP, negotiations commenced with ICANN regarding the language of the sponsorship agreement.
On 6 September 2007, ICANN posted communications from the Universal Postal Union regarding the proposed business model for .POST for public comment. Two comments were received and summarized by ICANN staff. Negotiations regarding the sponsorship agreement for .POST continued.
In February 2009, the Universal Postal Union wrote to ICANN seeking special consideration of the requirement that it adhere to ICANN’s temporary specifications and consensus policies It noted its inability to adhere to such policies if they conflict with the UPU’s governance. It provided further input in April 2009. ICANN also received communication from the Governmental Advisory Committee in its March 2009 communiqué of the need to consider the issue. ICANN responded seeking to identify a way of satisfying UPU’s concerns, while retaining ICANN’s temporary specifications and consensus policies, as they represent “one of the core principles of the generic registry and sponsor agreements, and those agreements contribute to the overall security and stability of the Domain Name System”. The Universal Postal Union noted ICANN’s concerns, and asked that negotiations on agreeable language that satisfied both parties continue.
In October 2009, negotiations on language for the .POST sponsorship agreement successfully concluded between ICANN and the UPU. In particular, section 8.11 detailed provisions specific to the sponsor as a specialized agency of the United Nations. On 2 November 2009, the proposed sponsorship agreement was posted for public comment. Two comments were received.
On 9 December 2009, the ICANN Board considered the proposed sponsorship agreement and noted that “ICANN and the UPU conducted extensive, time consuming and challenging negotiations to overcome a number of contracting issues unique to the UPU as a result of its status as an intergovernmental organization and specialized agency of the United Nations”, but that negotiation on the terms of the sponsorship agreement has been successfully concluded. It resolved to approve the .POST sponsorship agreement, and authorized ICANN to enter into the agreement for .POST top-level domain .
On 11 December 2009, ICANN and the Universal Postal Union entered into a Sponsored TLD Registry Agreement for the operation of the .POST top-level domain.
On 10 July 2012, ICANN’s Root Management Staff, in accordance with the IANA function contract, received an application for delegation of the .POST domain to the Universal Postal Union. The request was subsequently revised on 26 July 2012.
In accordance with the aforementioned sponsored TLD process, ICANN has concluded that the .POST sponsored top-level domain should be established and delegated to the Universal Postal Union. This conclusion was reached after an extensive process involving an open request for proposals involving several opportunities for public review and comment, evaluation by an independent panel of experts, and review by the ICANN Board. Subsequent to successful conclusion of the evaluation process, the Board approved a registry agreement for .POST, which was executed on 11 December 2009.