ICANN Has Money to Spend, Seeks Ideas

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By Joseph Wright

Sept. 10 — Sitting on nearly $60 million and needing to figure out what to do with it is a pretty nice problem to have. That's what domain name system overseer the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers is dealing with, and it's looking for suggestions, according to an ICANN staff discussion paper released Sept. 8.

ICANN staff used the paper to seek public input on the framework a cross-community working group of various stakeholder groups will develop for deciding what to do with the funds. They also seek input on the appropriate roles for experts and the ICANN board, a conflict of interest policy, outreach beyond the ICANN community and how the decision-making framework should be implemented.

When ICANN decided to open up the domain name space to new applicants in 2012, it provided for “last-resort” auctions in the event that multiple parties submitted qualified applications for the same name and couldn't privately resolve which applicant would be awarded the string. Most contended applications have been resolved through private auctions in which the prevailing party pays the winning price to its competitor. In last-resort auctions, however, the proceeds go to ICANN.

To date ICANN has conducted 13 last-resort auctions; after paying for auctions costs, they have netted the organization just under $58.8 million. One additional auction is currently scheduled for Oct. 14, and up to 25 additional strings could go to auction in the future pending the outcome of various priority evaluations and accountability mechanisms.

ICANN board chair Steve Crocker said Oct. 13, 2014 that the proceeds had been segregated into a special fund pending a later determination about how they should be used.

Staff compiled a list of suggestions for using the funds proposed at ICANN public meetings over the past five years or in other public forums. Those suggestions include:

• partially refunding fees to unsuccessful applicants;

• donating to charities;

• funding technical domain name system or Internet development projects;

• subsidizing efforts to enhance participants' and applicants' geographic diversity; and

• promoting the new generic top-level domain name space.


ICANN will be accepting comments on the discussion paper through Oct. 18.

To contact the reporter on this story: Joseph Wright in Washington at jwright@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Thomas O'Toole at totoole@bna.com

The discussion paper and comment forum can be found at: https://www.icann.org/public-comments/new-gtld-auction-proceeds-2015-09-08-en