The-New-York-Times-T.jpgJackson Hts., New York, January 1, 2012 - When I first read the New York Times’ Christmas Day editorial calling for a pilot project in place of ICANN’s current one-size-fits-all new TLD plan, I saw the perfect opportunity to present our proposal for a step-by-step introduction of TLDs: cities first, then corporations, and finally the problematic generic TLDs - .art., .sports, .news etc. Read it here.

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City-Hall.JPG

Jackson Hts., New York, December 22, 2011 - With 21 days remaining before the ICANN’s filing window opens for new TLDs, authoritative city government sources report the following: the new deputy mayor with responsibility for the TLD’s oversight (Robert K. Steel) is being briefed about the opportunity; “everyone in the loop” is being consulted; the city has not decided what to do with the three proposals it received in December 2009 (we presume these are by Verisign, CORE, and a now merged Minds & Machines and NuStar application); the lead agency has yet to be determined; and the role of the public in the decision making process is unclear.

With mere days remaining for the application’s submission, we can’t fathom completing the comprehensive, ground-setting TLD design, planning, and development process, including public education and engagement, which we’ve advocated. With faith that the Bloomberg Administration can come up with a suitable zeitgeist vision waning, earlier this year we petitioned the city council to, minimally, set aside the neighborhood names as local civic and economic development resources.

But without a long-term vision and a strong commitment to using the TLD as digital infrastructure, we fear that our city’s TLD, and the neighborhood names, will be lost among the hundreds of helter-skelter TLDs ICANN is expected to authorize over the next few years. In the new TLD environment, a standard model city-TLD might be suitable for selling tourist tchotchkes, but without adequate planning, it will not serve as the infrastructure we need to enhance our digital future. 

Having worked and waited over 10 years for this opportunity to arise, we find ourselves compelled and saddened to make the following recommendation: Let’s begin now to undertake a comprehensive review of all that a TLD can do for our city. Let’s observe cities receiving TLDs in this first round and learn from their experience. And let’s prepare for ICANN’s next filing opportunity for city-TLDs, expected in perhaps three years - barely enough time to prepare a thoughtful and comprehensive plan.

Learn more about our overall effort from our Wiki Home Page

isoc-ny-logo.jpg New York, December 6, 2011 - How does a city use a Top Level Domain? That question remains largely unanswered as the April 12 deadline for filing applications for new Top Level Domains, or TLDs, approaches. While ICANN, the global entity with responsibility for issuing TLDs, has initiated a new TLD program, it has not consulted with cities or provided any guidelines on their use. Beyond the (not inconsiderable) contributions of Connecting.nyc Inc., no academic study, funded research, or formal explorations of any sort on the effective and efficient use of city-TLDs have been undertaken.

New York’s Internet Society has stepped forward to help fill the expertise and planning gap by creating the Occupy NY wiki. Working in much the same manner as the popular Wikipedia, the Occupy Wiki presents a venue where the public can present their ideas, ask questions, communicate, and explore how this new digital infrastructure, might help address the multitude of social, political, and economic challenges that face our city on a daily basis. How it can help our small businesses and create a more livable city.

In creating the Occupy NY Wiki, New York’s Internet Society, (ISOC-NY), a chapter of the global Internet Society, has initiated an important step in the traditional bottom-up decision-making process upon which the Internet was built. In offering this resource, ISOC-NY hopes the contributions of New York’s residents and organizations will assist with the submission of an application to the ICANN for a city-TLD in early 2012.

We wonder though how the city can possibly discern the effective use of a TLD in the few days remaining before ICANN’s filing deadline. Having advocated for .nyc’s acquisition for over a decade, some might be shocked when we say: We think it prudent that New York’s Internet community begin now preparing for the next filing opportunity, with ISOC-NY’s Occupy Wiki an appropriate first step. Our broader plans for research and public engagement indicate further steps.

Properly preparing for a city-TLD’s arrival is equivalent to preparing a street grid, zoning plan, or subway line - something that takes years, not days. Our friend Constantine Roussos has invested 5 years and millions of dollars planning the .music TLD, one far less complex and with far less impact than a TLD for the world’s premier city.

But we applaud this initiative and responsible action by ISOC-NY on behalf of its home city. We encourage ISOC-NY to continue to advocate for research into the effective use of this critical Internet resource. Long term, city-TLDs offer a significant business opportunity for the city. With the United Nations in our back yard, as we learn then transfer our experiences globally, they promise to become an important new source of employment, providing good jobs for ISOC members and residents with expertise in a variety of fields.

Finally, we encourage our wiki team to visit the Occupy NY Wiki and do elves-work helping new users. (The isoc-ny logo is courtesy of the Internet Society-NY.)

Learn more about our overall effort from our Wiki Home Page

Jackson Hts., New York, November 11, 2011 - New Yorkers are receiving offers to “pre-register” .nyc and .newyork domain names. At this lucky moment (11.11.11.11.11) we’d like to pass on some advice - scammers are afoot “pre-registering” our domain names (New York’s). Neither the city of New York, Connecting.nyc Inc., nor any other entity has been authorized by ICANN, the global overseer of new TLDs, to engage with so called “pre-registrations.” Those issuing them are not in a position to honor them.

More important, if you think you have identified a game changer domain name, we suggest you keep it for yourself until the official registrations are open. It would be unwise to tell a stranger about it as s/he might register it before you have the opportunity to do so.

If these companies ask for a payment in exchange for this “pre-registration,” you might consider calling the local District Attorney.

Learn more about our overall effort from our Wiki Home Page

Hangout-Mike-Palage-and-5-others.JPGThe Net, September 9, 2011 -  We convened our usual 10-11 AM Thursday meeting using Google+’s new Hangout feature yesterday. The question of the day was: “Whose TLD Is It: the City of New York, the State of New York, or the “Internet Community”? The answer is quite complicated if you consider that there are several options for New York’s TLD: .newyork, .newyorkcity, or the presumed .nyc, with the city, state, and “Internet Community” having more or less rights or power to claim each.

The meeting was convened and moderated by Connecting.nyc Inc.’s Thomas Lowenhaupt. Others attending were Seth Johnson, a New York based information quality specialist and policy advocate, Joly MacFie, V.P. Internet Society-NY, the day’s expert guest, Michael Palage, attorney and former member of the ICANN’s board of directors, and Robert Pollard, founder of Information Habitat: Where Information Lives, a United Nations NGO. 

The complexity of the situation was hinted at by the number of entities with a role in defining New York’s TLD usage and suitability: the City of New York, the State of New York, ICANN, IANA, and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s NTIA.

At meeting’s end Mike Palage noted that at the conclusion of the June 2010 ICANN meeting that approved the new TLD process, the rising comment was that its passage represented “the end of the beginning.” Indeed.

Joly MacFie captured and published a video of the event, and there’s a wiki page presenting the salient points. (Commons photo courtesy of Patti Shubitz.)

Learn more about our overall effort from our Wiki Home Page

Filed September 9th, 2011 under City Council, Neighborhoods, City-TLDs, NTIA, .berlin, .paris, ICANN

June-20-2011-New-TLD-Timetable.jpgJackson Hts., New York, June 20, 2011 - Meeting in Singapore, the Board of Directors of ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, today approved a plan to usher in one of the biggest changes ever to the Internet’s Domain Name System. The Board vote was 13 approving, 1 opposed, and 2 abstaining.

Beginning as early as January 2012, an Application Guidebook will be released to enable entities to apply for city and other new Top Level Domains.

Today’s action is the latest milestone on the path toward issuing new TLDs that began during the Clinton Administration with the creation of ICANN in 1998. Ten years later, in June 2008, ICANN approved a New TLD policy that set the groundwork for today’s approval.

Following yesterday’s timeline, domain names using the .nyc TLD could be issued as soon as the first half of 2013. While there’s always the potential for additional delays, see for example our NTIA: Responsibility and Respect for Stakeholders post, this action will assuredly move the city toward more detailed thinking about the role of a TLD, a process that we expect will include public participation. (See our process recommendations.) We’ll post on the process and timeline for preparing and submitting the .nyc application to ICANN soon.

Learn more about our overall effort from our Wiki Pages

NTIA-logo.0.JPGJackson Heights, New York, June 15, 2011 - The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) yesterday published a Further Notice of Inquiry (FNOI) concerning the process ICANN must follow in issuing new TLDs. The relevant paragraph for the .nyc TLD reads: 

Responsibility and Respect for Stakeholders — The Contractor shall, in collaboration with all relevant stakeholders for this function, develop a process for documenting the source of the policies and procedures and how it has applied the relevant policies and procedures, such as RFC 1591, to process requests associated with TLDs. In addition, the Contractor shall act in accordance with the relevant national laws of the jurisdiction which the TLD registry serves. For delegation requests for new generic TLDS (gTLDs), the Contractor shall include documentation to demonstrate how the proposed string has received consensus support from relevant stakeholders [highlights ours] and is supported by the global public interest.

The NTIA is accepting comments on the FNOI until July 29, with the full FNOI and the process and address for submitting comments available here.

Our initial thoughts are that it would be good to further define “relevant stakeholders.” And we will be submitting comments to NTIA by July 29 to add our support for the direction they are headed and to suggest some clarity.

But let’s presume for the moment that the final Statement of Work arising from this NTIA review goes through pretty mush as is. Several questions arise.

Who are the “relevant stakeholders” for the .nyc TLD? Internet users? Small businesses using websites? Small businesses planning to use websites? Residents? Residents using the Internet? Registered voters? Tourists? Former residents? Those who love and wish they lived in New York? The city’s big businesses? Businesses selling products in NYC and with a permanent presence? Big businesses selling products in NYC but without a presence? Wall Street? Civic groups? Community Boards? The city of New York? The city council? The Comptroller? The Public Advocate? The office of the mayor? The governor? The state legislature? The city university? Our private universities? Religious institutions? Charities? The homeless? School children? Future generations? And what of the region: do those living a stone’s throw across the Hudson and working in the city have a say? What about those living across the Hudson or in our reservoir supply region, not working in the city, but strongly influenced by city policies, should they have a say? What about the prospective contractors who will operate the computers that maintain the database of .nyc names, and the prospective retailers of these names? Our experience from attending hundreds or meetings and discussing .nyc with thousands of people over the past 10 years is that all of these have an interest in the development of the .nyc TLD and therefore have a stake in its development and continuation.

This raises another question: Should each group have equal weight in determining the consensus policy? Obviously resident views should have more weight than tourist or wannabe views, but coming up with a fair weighting process will be challenging. The experience of the commons community could be of great assistance here. And the multi-stakeholder model that governs the ICANN and the IGF provide other relevant experience.

Next: Who should determine the relevant .nyc TLD stakeholders and coordinate a review and consensus development? Our vote is the Internet Society, in consultation with the mayor and city council. Yesterday’s INET sponsored by the Internet Society and ISOC-NY attracted the top Federal and City government IT policy leaders, a father of the Internet, Vint Cerf, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the web, and 250 others. It was masterfully organized, lived streamed globally, and demonstrated that ISOC knows the issues and has the wherewithal to undertake such a massive review. (Disclosure: our founder is a member of the ISOC-NY’s board of directors.)

Finally, how long will this review take and how is this convening of stakeholders to be financed? Deciding on the review organization(s) and structure, identifying members, securing a budget, preliminary research, on and off line public hearings, report preparation and distribution requires about two years. But no one’s going to snatch .nyc from the New York Community, so the key is to get this right. It’s a matter of careful preparation so that when the application for .nyc reaches ICANN, it details that a thoughtful evaluation process took place, leading to a consensus by all stakeholders. The Internet Society should provide a start up budget for the local chapter. ICANN should view this as model making for city-TLDs, make a financial contribution and assign staff to coordinate with its ongoing activities. The city should make a contribution, as should a foundation with an interest in New York City, perhaps the Sloan or Rockefeller Foundations. Each of the other organized stakeholder groups should kick in something, and a Kickstart should be initiated to facilitate public participation and civic awareness.

Learn more about our overall effort from our Wiki Pages

dotNYC-broken-logo.jpg Jackson Heights, New York, June 13, 2011 - At least one ICANN-accredited registrar, United Domains, is offering what it calls “Free nTLD pre-registration” with .nyc domain names included in the offer. So if you go to that offer page and indicate a desired .nyc domain name - news.nyc, sports.nyc, weather.nyc, etc. - you’ll be able to reserve that name within the United Domain’s database, and when .nyc names become available through a completed ICANN application process, the considerable resources of United will assist you in acquiring the entered name. Several thousand names have already been “reserved.” United estimates the availability of “some” top-level domains by October 2012.

While United Domains pre-registration service is free and non-binding, the North American Regional At Large Organization, part of the ICANN governance ecology, is concerned that “the offer of such a service could create artificial demand…” Today it posted a comment for review on its wiki expressing concerns with the process. We concur with those concerns and today added our two cents on that ICANN site as follows:

In the instance of New York City, I can imagine pre-registrations becoming a matter of civic disruption. For example, imagine small businesses predicating their business plans on the availability of .nyc domain names as implied in these pre-registration offers. I start gearing up to offer weather.nyc. And my sister-in-law hears of this new opportunity and “reserves” crochet.nyc. And Andy at Pizza Boy hears us jabbering and says he has a new chain of local pizza shops planned and this would fit in perfectly with his city-wide delivery plan. And on and on into the thousands.

Next the city starts to take a serious look at the social, economic, cultural, and civic impact of .nyc and realizes that such a review will take some time. With cities acting in glacial time rather than Internet time, this could lead to many thousands of disappointed “pre-registrants.”

Now imagine a candidate for mayor, let’s say Anthony Weiner - an advanced Internet user - sees this disgruntled group of pre-registrants as a political resource that can become a plank in his campaign, “Elect me mayor and on the first day in office I’ll sign off on .nyc - NO DELAY!”

With the ICANN having offered zero, zip, nada, guidance for cities looking into this once-in-an-Internet opportunity, I can see this as the winning proposition. “There’s no evidence to show that city TLDs are other than revenue generating.” “Our small businesses need it NOW.” “Jobs, jobs, jobs.” “Other cities are going to get a jump on us.” Etc.

More thoughtful candidates will be left to argue for the benefits of infrastructure. ~ Mayor Weiner.

Thomas Lowenhaupt, Founding Director

Connecting.nyc Inc.

Having presented the broad advantages that can arise from a thoughtfully developed .nyc TLD for over 10 years, we are all too aware of the difficulty of selling .nyc as the city’s new digital infrastructure. (See our 159 wiki chapters.) And with ICANN preparing to approve the Application Guidebook for new TLDs at its Singapore meeting on June 20, immediate action is required.

Unless the city or ICANN act quickly to create a period of reflection and a planning process for .nyc (find our recommendations here), this one opportunity to weave this wonder of modernity to strengthen our 400 year old city will be lost. Our opportunity to create an intuitive city with a sustainable .nyc TLD will be lost. And what could be a force for thought, deliberation and uniting, and for establishing New York as a trustworthy center for digital commerce, as imagined in Queens Community Board 3’s April 2001 Internet Empowerment Resolution, will become a shattered dream.

Learn more about our overall effort from our Wiki Pages

Commissioners-Plan-of-1811-map-portion.jpgJackson Hts., New York, March 22, 2011 - Two hundred years ago today the “Commissioners of Streets and Roads” adopted what’s come to be known as the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811. By establishing the basis for Manhattan’s street grid, the Plan served the city well, providing a basis for the city’s safe, organized, and prosperous development. See this great New York Times article for a recounting of the real estate values and transportation and health benefits realized by investing in going through hills and swamps rather than around them.

Today, the .nyc TLD presents us with a decision of similar scope: Do we create a user-friendly city whose resources are available via a variety of intuitive digital pathways? Or do we sell off a key digital resource willy-nilly to satisfy short term interests?

How we resolve the issues surrounding the .nyc TLD’s division and allocation, its integration with traditional systems and resources, how we assure its sustainability (perhaps for generations), and its ongoing governance will determine the city’s capacity to effectively function as a economic and social engine for its residents. As well, our response to these questions will determine our competitive position with other global cities with which we increasingly compete.

Additionally, in deciding on the .nyc TLD’s scope we will be marking our borders. In both the digital and real worlds, strong borders make good neighbors. Should our digital borders be coterminous with existing ones, or do they demand a rethinking to a regional or perhaps a hybrid geovirtual configuration? Only when we’ve established those borders can we can begin to build a governance system within.

Will New York be Ready?

At its recent meeting in San Francisco, ICANN, the entity with primary responsibility for issuing new TLDs, took steps that bode well for the development of its long awaited New TLD Application Guidebook that will enable .nyc’s acquisition. It approved the .xxx TLD thereby unnerving some nation-states, and it confronted ICANN’s Government Advisory Committee, the body representing nation-state interests before ICANN, demanding clarity as to its concerns about the new TLD process. In doing so ICANN expressed its intent not to be subservient to the existing nation-state system. (Indeed, its CEO has expressed a desire to see ICANN recognized as a new nation-state with U.N. membership.) As a result, it now seems that 2012 might see ICANN finalizing its Guidebook and receiving applications for city TLDs. Is New York prepared?

Since the city council tacitly passed oversight to the mayor’s office in February 2009, the administration has taken two steps. In March 2009 it issued a Request for Information, or RFI, seeking ideas on the utility and operation of a city-TLD. It sent the RFI to the Old Boys Network of businesses that made their fortunes by operating organic TLDs such as .com and .org. It didn’t invite the public to imagine the TLDs role in creating a digital city. Not did it invite civic organizations, planning entities, libraries, or our computer science, engineering, and business schools to chime in. Our origin, arising from Queens Community Board 3’s April 2001 Internet Empowerment Resolution, did result in a copy of an RFI coming our way, with our RFI response available here.

Based on the RFI responses, in October 2009 the city issued a Request for Proposals for an entity to assist it with the TLD’s acquisition. In it, the city described the Old Boys Network as the qualified proposers, with their ability to run computers that efficiently sell domain names apparently qualifying them as the city’s architects for a digital era.

Today it is believed that a handful of RFP responses sit at the city’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunication (DoITT). Last month we asked DoITT’s Commissioner Carol Post if the city had made a fundamental decision as to the TLD’s operation: Does the city see .nyc operating as a Standard TLD such as .com and .org, or as a planned, community TLD as we’ve proposed? Or putting the question in 1811 terms: does the city propose going around the hills, gullies, and swamps or through them?  As per Commissioner Post, no decision has been made, but there’s been “much discussion” at DoITT. (See the video of that Q&A here.)

Toward A New Commissioners’ Plan

But DoITT’s decision is being made without any public participation, with city hall apparently ready to forgo the messiness of a democratic discussion. This is understandable as a city TLD is a new issue with little home grown expertise and much misunderstanding ahead. But it we’re to have a world class city-TLD, we’ll need the engagement of all to plan and support its development. 

Councilmember Gale Brewer has advocated modifying the city charter to move oversight of digital resources in line with that of land use, modeled perhaps on the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure or ULURP. We applaud that agenda and note that a TLD, access to a fast and inexpensive Net, and appropriate training are all critical to creating a prosperous and livable city in a digital era. In exploring those Charter enhancements we urge that note be taken of the democratic potentials offered by the Net, including our voters.nyc.

Today’s 200th anniversary of the Commissioners’ Plan offers a propitious moment to begin a multistakeholder exploration by city government, academia, civic organizations, industry, and the public to plan the architecture of our digital city. In early 2009 we had the basis for such an exploration with CUNY and other institutions set to join. But DoITT’s issuance of an RFI convinced those interested that things were moving too fast for reasoned thought. That was two years ago. Each day it becomes clearer that our future will be determined by the availability of critical resources such as domain names, fast and ubiquitous access to the Net, and an aware and trained populace. It’s not too late to begin a thoughtful examination of our digital future. Let’s begin today.

Comment below, email your thoughts to Tom@connectingnyc.org, or help write the study’s charter on our DARPA to CARPA wiki page where we’ve begun to lay out the scope of a reasoned study.

Learn more about our overall effort from our Wiki Pages

cowboys.JPGCartagena de Indias, Colombia, December 8, 2010 - In April 2001 a local governance unit in New York City passed an Internet Empowerment Resolution requesting the issuance of the .nyc TLD to enable the city to keep pace with the times. Noting the massive innovation enabled by the Internet, New York essentially said “Why not us?”

9 years later no one questions the right of cities to have TLDs but applications for city TLDs are caught in a logjam caused by the ICANN’s one-application-fits-all approach to issuing new TLDs. While laudable, the process continues to plod along, grappling with one barrier after another.

Cities offer the optimum test of the application process:

  • For those concerned about intellectual property, city TLDs reduce the likelihood of trademark confusion. The .cat experience attests to this. Additionally, cities are responsible players with ready recourse through nation-state structures.
  • The thoughtful development of city TLDs using a standardized Internet of Things nomenclature, will provide an infrastructure for innovation in fields from global rescue operations to locating the nearest movie theater.
  • City TLDs will provide a test for those concerned about the human and technical readiness of the ICANN and the route. 
  • There are 476 cities with million + populations. If the ICANN’s global outreach project initially focuses on reaching these entities, offering financial and technical assistance to several of the less-able, a manageable batch of applications will work their way through the process. 
  • For those concerned about the encroachment of government into the realm of business, qualification for city-TLD processing should be tied to agreement to the standards presented in Public Interest City-TLD Definition.

Once this city batch has worked its way through the human and technical processes, and as the issues of concern on another TLD category are worked out, that next group will proceed using Application Process B.  (Photo courtesy Library of Congress.)

Learn more about our overall effort from our Wiki Pages

Filed December 8th, 2010 under Inspiration, City-TLDs, NTIA, ICANN
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