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.AFRICA Status Update

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ZACR

 

Executive Summary:
The Extended Evaluation of DCA's Application expires in mid January 2016. We expect that DCA will (again) fail the Geographic Name Evaluation criteria leaving us free to pursue the full implementation of the Registry Agreement concluded with ICANN on 24 March 2014.    

Overview:
The public launch of the .africa TLD by the ZACR was delayed due to the Independent Review Process (IRP) between ICANN and DotConnectAfrica Trust (DCA Trust). DCA Trust was the second applicant for the .africa gTLD.

It is a matter of public record that DCA Trust initially submitted a separate competing application for .africa, but lacked critical government support. In contrast, the ZACR’s application for .africa was accompanied by widespread support from African governments, the African Union Commission (AUC) and the African Internet community.

In terms of the stringent rules governing the application process for the new gTLDs, an application that qualifies as a “geographic” name must be accompanied by significant government support. This criterion was not only absent from the DCA Trust application, but it also attracted widespread opposition from African governments.

Government opposition to the DCA Trust application manifested itself in a number of ways, including the issuing of Government Advisory Committee (GAC) consensus advice. The GAC, which represents governments from all over the world within the ICANN multi-stakeholder structure, formally advised the ICANN board that it had reached consensus that DCA Trust’s application for .africa should not proceed. As a result, the ICANN Board denied DCA Trust’s application with immediate effect.

The ICANN Board decision, issued on the back of consensus GAC advice, was challenged by DCA Trust through an internal accountability review process called the “Independent Review Process” or “IRP". This process is documented in the ICANN Bylaws.

Following the IRP process, ICANN elected to refer the DCA Application [1-1165-42560] back to the Initial Review process. As indicated above, a critical aspect of the evaluation process is assessing whether the geographic name application has the required minimum government support (60% of African Governments). This process is administered by the Geographic Name Panel.

On 13 October 2015, ICANN published DCA's Initial Evaluation Report and the following comment was inserted under the Geographic Names section: "The Geographic Names Panel has determined that your application falls within the criteria for a geographic name contained in the Applicant Guidebook Section 2.2.1.4. However, the required documentation of support or non-objection was either not provided or did not meet the criteria described in Section 2.2.1.4.3 of the Applicant Guidebook. As per Section 2.3.1 of the Applicant Guidebook, your application is eligible for Extended Evaluation."

Section 2.3.1 of the Applicant Guidebook deals with extended evaluation of Geographic Name strings: "In the case of an application that has been identified as a geographic name requiring government support, but where the applicant has not provided sufficient evidence of support or non-objection from all relevant governments or public authorities by the end of the Initial Evaluation period, the applicant has additional time in the Extended Evaluation period to obtain and submit this documentation. If the applicant submits the documentation to the Geographic Names Panel by the required date, the GNP will perform its review of the documentation as detailed in section 2.2.1.4. If the applicant has not provided the documentation by the required date (at least 90 calendar days from the date of the notice), the application will not pass the Extended Evaluation, and no further reviews are available."

The deadline for DCA's Extended Evaluation is the end of January 2016. We expect there to be NO FURTHER REVIEWS AVAILABLE.

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The IRP (concluded)

On 12 May 2014 the International Centre for Dispute Resolution, at the instigation of DCA Trust, issued an interim decision advising the ICANN board to suspend the possible delegation of .africa until the IRP process has been resolved. Prior to this development, the ZACR’s application, having passed Initial Evaluation (IE) and contracting, had been progressing through the final stages of preparing for the technical delegation of the TLD.

As a result of the delegation process being suspended pending the resolution of the IRP proceedings, we have had no option but to delay the impending launch of .africa to the public.

Whilst the current delay is unfortunate and inconvenient, we do not believe that the final IRP decision will in any way change ICANN’s decision to delegate the .africa TLD to the ZACR. The merits supporting ICANN’s decision, underpinned by consensus GAC advice and the new gTLDs applicant guidebook leaves no doubt as to the final outcome of this matter.

The IRP process issued its Final Declaration on the 9th of Juily 2015. The processes that followed this declaration include:

July 14, 2015: Letter from Dr. Elham M.A. Ibrahim to Steve Crocker re: Independent Review Panel (IRP)

July 15, 2015: ZACR Response on the Independent Review Process (IRP) Final Declaration

July 16, 2015: Board Resolutions, Special Meeting of the ICANN Board

July 16, 2015: ICANN to Resume Evaluation of DotConnectAfrica Trust Application for .AFRICA

July 20, 2015: Letter from United Nations Economic Commission for Africa to AUC concerning letter of support

July 31, 2015: .AFRICA IRP Declaration – Clearing Up Some Facts, by John Jeffrey, ICANN's General Counsel & Secretary

July 31, 2015: African Union Commission Communiqué on the declaration of the IRP

 

Litigation Process

January 20, 2016: DotConnect Africa vs. ICANN & ZACR

DCA initiates legal proceedings against ICANN and the ZACR in California, seeks a Preliminary Injunction suspending the delegation of the .AFRICA gTLD to the ZACR.

Follow updates on the litigation process here: http://africainonespace.org/litigation

 

FAQs: following IRP Declaration


ICANN updates: icann.org

2016

21 June 2016: Judge denies as moot ZACR's request to reconsideration and vacate Prelimenary Injunction on basis that ZACR no longer a party to the matter. 

15 June 2016: Judge dismisses DCA's claims against ZACR   

6 May 2016: ZACR files request for judge to reconsider and vacate Prelimenary Injunction 

26 April 2016: ZACR joins US litigation process and files Response to DCA's Complaint 

12 April 2016: US Court grants Prelimenary Injunction against ICANN, further halting delegation process 

4 March 2016: US Court grants Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against ICANN, halting delegation process 

3 March 2016: ICANN Board resolution following outcome of DCA Initital (IE) and Extened Evaluation (EE). Instructs CEO and staff to proceed with delegation of .AFRICA to ZACR.

17 February 2016: DCA Extended Evaluation (IE) Results, failing geographic name review again.

28 January 2016: Court Order Denying Plaintiff’s 'Ex Parte' Application for Temporary Restraining Order and Order to Show Cause Re Preliminary Injunction

20 January 2016: DCA commences litigation against ICANN by filing a Complaint

 

2015

1 December, 2015: GAC Reply to ICANN Board regarding the DCA vs ICANN IRP proceedings

15 October, 2015: Clarfication of the Republic of Kenya's position on the application of the dotAfrica TLD 

13 October, 2015: DCA Initial Evaluation (IE) Results, failing geographic name review and opting for Extended Evaluation (EE)

29 September, 2015: Letter from the AUC to the Geographic Names Panel (GNP)

4 September, 2015: 2015 Addis Ababa Declaration of AU Ministers in Charge of Communication and ICT

20 July, 2015: Letter from United Nations Economic Commission for Africa to AUC concerning letter of support

31 July, 2015: .AFRICA IRP Declaration – Clearing Up Some Facts, by John Jeffrey, ICANN's General Counsel & Secretary

31 July, 2015: African Union Commission Communiqué on the declaration of the IRP

16 July, 2015: ICANN to Resume Evaluation of DotConnectAfrica Trust Application for .AFRICA

16 July, 2015: Board Resolutions, Special Meeting of the ICANN Board

15 July, 2015: ZACR Response on the Independent Review Process (IRP) Final Declaration

14 July, 2015: Letter from Dr. Elham M.A. Ibrahim to Steve Crocker re: Independent Review Panel (IRP)

9 July, 2015: IRP Final Declaration

28 June, 2015: STATUS REPORT (dotAfrica Project Team)

24 March, 2015: Procedural Order #5 (A hearing on the merits of the arguments scheduled for 22-23 May 2015)

 

2014

3 December, 2014: ICANN's Response To DCA's Memorial on the Merits

3 November, 2014: DCA's Memorial on the Merits

12 May, 2014: IRP Decision on Interim Orders of Protection - Suspend ZACR PDT process for .AFRICA

1 October, 2014: STATUS REPORT (dotAfrica Project Team)

29 September, 2014: ICANN response to ZACR (1)

25 September, 2014: IRP Procedural Order #4

20 September, 2014: ZACR letter to ICANN (1)

5 September, 2014: IRP Procedural Order #3

14 August, 2014: Declaration of the IRP Procedure

25 June, 2014GAC Communiqué, ICANN 50

15 June, 2014: ICANN letter to AUC

13 June, 2014: US Department of Commerce, letter to ICANN Board

2 June, 2014: AUC letter to ICANN regarding IRP

12 May 2014: IRP Panel instructs ICANN to suspend the delegation of .AFRICA

24 March, 2014: ZACR Registry Agreement with ICANN

24 March, 2014: Registry Agreement Signing Ceremony between ICANN and ZACR, witnessed by AUC. 



2013

24 October, 2013: Commencement of IRP

13 August, 2013: ICANN Board resolution to deny DCA Reconsideration Request

1 August, 2013: Board Governance Committee (BGC) report

12 July, 2013: ZACR Applciation passes Initial Evaluation (IE)

2 July, 2013: AUC Letter of support for the .Africa (dotAfrica) TLD application

4 June, 2013: ICANN Board Resolution to adopt the NGPC Scorecard regarding Beijing GAC Advice

4 June, 2013: NGPC Resolution and Scorecard, based on GAC Beijing Advice

11 April, 2013: GAC Communiqué - Beijing, China



2012

20 April, 2012 ZACR, with the support of the African Union Commission, files application for .africa geographic TLD during ICANN's new gTLD program. 


Latest FAQs, following IRP Declaration

  • The ZACR application for .AFRICA passed evaluation on 12 July 2013. Following this, the ZACR signed a Registry Operator agreement with ICANN on the 24th of March 2014, which regulates the delegation and administration of the .AFRICA domain. This agreement is unconditional and is still in full force and effect.

  • One of the consequences of having signed the agreement is that the ZACR and ICANN have to work through the technical and operational processes of delegating (basically delivering) the .AFRICA TLD to the ZACR. This process is known as PDT (Pre Delegation Testing).

  • Whilst the PDT process was underway, based on unanimous Government objection from the government stakeholder group (known as GAC Consensus Advice) the ICANN board rejected the competing application for .AFRICA, submitted by DotConnectAfrica Trust (DCA). This decision by the ICANN Board, based on government advice, lead to the filing of the Independent Review Process (IRP) by DCA.

  • Once the IRP was underway, the panel requested ICANN to “suspend” the PDT process. ICANN obliged and for almost 20-months the ZACR’s PDT process did not move forward, notwithstanding that there is a signed Registry Agreement in place.

  • Following the conclusion of the IRP, the panel recommended that the DCA application be referred back to the evaluation process. Since .AFRICA is a geographic name, a key component of this evaluation process is to determine whether the DCA application has the required support from over 60% of African governments and no substantive government objection. Given the GAC Consensus Advice this seems an impossible hurdle for DCA to overcome and their application is sure to be dismissed as part of the evaluation process.

  • ICANN has elected to keep the PDT suspension in place pending the outcome of the DCA evaluation.
  • The Independent Review Process (IRP) is not a court process but rather an independent accountability or alternate dispute resolution mechanism introduced by the ICANN community. It is very similar to an arbitration process.

  • As indicated above, the IRP has had no legal effect on the ZACR contract with ICANN. The ZACR contract remains firmly in place. There is, however, an operational impact on the launch of .AFRICA due to the fact that ICANN has elected to continue with the suspension of the PDT until the DCA evaluation has run its course. 

  • The ZACR needs to complete the PDT process before it it can launch (make available) the .AFRICA domain to the public.

  • More information available here.
  • Much depends on the evaluation of the DCA application. As mentioned above, a key component of this evaluation is to determine and verify the minimum government support, which is a prerequisite for a domain such as .AFRICA. The evaluation of government support is assigned to a separate evaluation panel known as the Geographic Names Panel (GNP).

  • According to the Applicant’s Guidebook:
    • a geographic name will require: “documentation of support… from at least 60% of the respective national governments in the region, and there may be no more than one written statement of objection to the application from relevant governments in the region and/or public authorities associated with the continent or the region.”
    • In cases where an applicant has not provided the required documentation, the applicant will be contacted and notified of the requirement, and given a limited time frame to provide the documentation.”

  • We estimate that the period that the GNP would require to conclude its  assessment will be anything between 3 - 6 months. This process has already started, to the best of our knowledge.

  • In our opinion, no. Their actions are simply delaying the inevitable.

  • In order to succeed with the .AFRICA application, DCA is (or should have been) fully aware that it requires, and must prove, substantive government support. Having worked closely with the African Union Commission (AUC) and individual African governments on this matter, we do not believe that DCA has the required support.

  • We do know for a fact that DCA has attracted unprecedented government objection, which in itself is a fatal blow to their application. Over 16 (sixteen) Early Warning notices were issued by different African governments against the DCA application, followed by Consensus GAC Advice to reject their application.  The writing is, and has always been, on the wall for DCA.

  • All 16 (sixteen) government Early Warnings, against the DCA application, are on record and available to the public here.

We have legally binding, unconditional and fully enforceable contract with ICANN. Given what we know about the requirements for geographic names and the unprecedented level of government objection to the DCA application, we simply cannot imagine that we will not be successful.

We believe that ICANN can take some positives away from the IRP Declaration and improve its accountability mechanisms. It is just a pity that .AFRICA had to be drawn into this process.

  • We continue to prepare for the launch of the .AFRICA domain to the public. This means that we are not only preparing our technical systems, but also that we continue to engage with the distribution channel (the Registrars) who will take the new .AFRICA domain to the public.

  • We are also working closely with the AUC and African governments to ensure that the Reserved Name Lists are updated and remain relevant.

  • Work is also been done on establishing the dotAfrica Foundation, which will oversee the delivery of benefits flowing from the .AFRICA project in terms of: developing African:
    • Country domains (ccTLDs);
    • Registrars;
    • Online Content; and
    • Other socio-economic initiatives relating to the Internet in Africa.