New Delay for Long-Awaited.Africa Internet Domain

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By Joseph Wright

March 7 — A long-awaited Internet domain just for Africa must wait a little longer, after a California federal court temporarily enjoined the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers from further efforts to bring .africa online.

DotConnectAfrica (DCA) Trust sought the temporary restraining order against ICANN to halt the progress of a competing bid from .ZA Central Registry (ZACR), which runs South Africa's national domain, to operate the .africa generic top-level domain (gTLD). A gTLD is the portion of a Web address after the dot, such as .com or .org.

The order by the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California extends DCA Trust's years-long uphill battle to control a domain that some see as critical to bringing large numbers of Africans online for the first time.

“Plaintiff has demonstrated that once the tGLD [sic] is issued, it will be unable to obtain those rights elsewhere,” Judge R. Gary Klausner said in granting the request. ICANN's arguments that African governments and the ICANN community would be prejudiced by further delay, the court said, were “conclusory.”

African Governments Impatient

ICANN's board authorized March 3 completing the .africa delegation process for ZACR, which is supported by most African governments through the African Union. But DCA Trust claims the African Union originally supported its application, and that the support was irrevocable under ICANN's procedures.

Ministers from numerous African governments used a March 7 session at the ICANN public meeting in Marrakech, Morocco, to express frustration with the long delay in delegating .africa and reiterate their support for ZACR.

The court will hear DCA Trust's preliminary injunction motion April 4.

“ICANN has not had the chance to present facts to show why delegation at this point is appropriate. ICANN will have that chance in the next few weeks,” the organization said in a statement.

ICANN previously moved to dismiss DCA Trust's suit, saying gTLD applicants agreed to resolve all disputes through ICANN's independent review process . An independent review ordered ICANN to continue its evaluation of DCA Trust's application, but DCA Trust failed that review for lack of government support .

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

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Donald G. Aplin at daplin@bna.com