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Why We Asked ICANN to Reconsider on Dot-Radio

A Q&A with George Bundy

The European Broadcasting Union appears to be front runner to secure the new generic top level domain “dot-radio.” But some critics feel that if ICANN awards .radio to the EBU, the decision would recategorize the radio industry as a restricted community — and that the use of the radio “namespace” online would become subject to regulation by a Geneva-based entity not familiar with the industry.

George Bundy is founder of multimedia ecommerce company BRS Media. His company operates the domain name registries .fm and .am, and hopes to secure .radio.

Q: You are part of an appeal of an important decision in this process. Who is participating in your appeal?

Bundy: We are a party to the Reconsideration Request (14-41) submitted to ICANN on Sept 25, 2014, as are Afilias Limited and Tin Dale LLC (Donuts Inc.). Details are linked here.

Q: What is the basis of the appeal?

Bundy: This process is not an “appeal” but a reconsideration request of the Community Priority Evaluation (CPE) panel’s evaluation. At this time ICANN does not have a CPE appeal process. The basis of the reconsideration request is that the panel incorrectly applied the standards set out in section 4.2.3 (Community Priority Evaluation Criteria) of the Applicant Guidebook including:

-Community Establishment Delineation: The CPE Panel quoted: “Internet radios are also part of the Radio community, and as such will be acknowledged by .radio TLD, as will podcasters. In all cases certain minimum standards on streaming or updating schedules will apply.”

There are no such “minimum standards on streaming.” Additionally, according to Wikipedia, “Podcasting contrasts with Internet streaming,” meaning podcasters would not meet ANY standards on streaming.

-Enforcement: The CPE panel noted that the application satisfied by applying “enforcement program based on random checks” and the applicant noted they “will adapt the practices according to the experience gained.”

As ICANN itself has demonstrated with the dramatic change in WHOIS Accuracy Program enforcement, in the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement (2013 RAA), random checks with experience gained is not a specific enforcement measure, and represents nothing more than a largely unrestricted approach to eligibility.

-Opposition: The CPE panel noted: “Application received letters of opposition, which were determined not to be relevant.” However, the response to ICANN by the International Radio Emergency Support Coalition (IRESC), Economic and Social Council to the United Nations Secretary General clearly noted valid relevant opposition from one group of non-negligible size.

-Support: The CPE Panel noted: “The applicant possesses documented support from institutions/organizations representing a majority of the community addressed.” However, as a case in point, the EBU’s sister Broadcast Unions signed identical supporting form letters:

  • NABA (North American Broadcasters Association) – Full membership is only available to radio network broadcasters in North America and NOT the thousands of local broadcast radio stations in Canada and the U.S.
  • ABU (Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union) – Full Members may be only two full members in any one country, NOT the thousands of local broadcast radio stations in the Asia-Pacific region.
  • ASBU (Arab States Broadcasting Union) – Active Members includes only radio organizations appointed by Arab member-states to act as their representative, and NOT the independent radio broadcasters in the Arab region.

Clearly none of these EBU sister unions represent a majority of the community addressed as radio in their respective regions.

Q: The ICANN process is complex for outsiders to understand. Let’s cut to the chase: Why is this process important to most people who work in the radio industry?

Bundy: Yes, ICANN and Internet governance policies are complex to understand. However, it is in the best interest of all industries to at the least be informed about ICANN and Internet governance, just as radio must understand FCC governance policies.

As I noted, it’s very much like royalty rates in the ‘90s when most in the industry had an “it does not matter to us today” mindset.

The Internet and .radio top-level domain will be the future of the radio online. By the end of this year, ICANN will have released over 500 new TLDs. Some will fail, others will succeed. It would be shortsighted to just think, “I have a .com domain today, so I don’t really care about the future of the Internet, .radio or ICANN.”

Q: The EBU told Radio World in 2012 that it “represents the interests of the global radio community and can be relied on to provide a secure namespace to facilitate and speed the radio industry’s digital, online evolution.” That sounds like an attractive pitch. How would BRS Media’s management of the domain differ?

Bundy: Claims by the EBU to “provide a secure namespace” may sound attractive until you look at the policies, which tend to benefit some, while discriminate against others. For example in the EBU Application Nexus “community is delineated,” U.S.-based radio broadcasters are (2.4) Forth Class Citizens, in the Second Category, and licensed amateur radios are near the bottom of the list, which is why the International Radio Emergency Support Coalition filed an objection to the EBU application as discriminatory.

This list is from the EBU (1-1083-39123) Application:

1 Broadcasters’ Unions

2 Licensed Radio Broadcasters
2.1 International Broadcasters
2.2 National Broadcasters
2.3 Regional Broadcasters
2.4 Local Broadcasters
2.5 Community Broadcasters

3 Trademarks
3.1 Trademarks used for radio related activities for example companies providing specific services, equipment, radio programmes, etc.
3.2 Defensive registrations by non-eligible applicants

4. Internet radio stations

5 Licensed amateur radios and clubs

6 Radio professionals

In addition, under “Content⁄Use: what restrictions,” registrants are required to state their intended use of the registered domain name. Today, most domains have NO such requirement to explain “intended use” and to stay with that “use” forever. As an example, some of our clients now use their domain as a Twitter branding URL; 16 years ago that “intended use” did not exist. But according to the EBU enforcement, “A false statement of intended use is an indication of bad faith and can be the basis for the suspension of the domain name.” So, if you want to use the domain as your website and make a change, is that a “false statement of intended use”? Policies like these are nothing more than a source of censorship and discriminatory in nature.

Our stewardship of a top-level domain speaks for itself. We have provided an open, stable and non-discriminatory space for over 16 years. We have great clients from all aspects of the radio industry, using TLDs any way they see fit to succeed online, all without policies that are a source of censorship, discrimination and restricted usage, today and in the future, no matter how the Internet and usage change.

Q: At this point, when do you think URLs ending in “.radio” will start being available to organizations to request?

Bundy: We have been asked this question since announcing our intent to apply for .radio back in 2009. Now over five years later, I still cannot pinpoint a “timeframe to live.” As I noted, ICANN will have over 500 new TLD live by the end of 2014. However, domains in contention like .music, web, .app and .radio can still take years to get to the market.

Q: What else should radio industry people know about this process?

Bundy: Specifically with regards to ICANN and the Community Priority Evaluation (CPE) process: Since the EBU prevailing with the minimum 14 points with .radio last month, other applications have been released: The .gay Community Priority failed only scoring 10 points, some noted the panel claimed there was no delineated gay community. Also, the RIAA and SoundExchange-backed .music application failed community priority, only scoring 3 points out of 16.

These inconsistent evaluations back our claim that the Community Priority Evaluation panel incorrectly applied the standards set out in section 4.2.3 (Community Priority Evaluation Criteria) of the Applicant Guidebook.

More information:
-A helpful overview in RAIN

-More about the meaning of terms including “community nexus,” see a recent story on the website DomainIncite.