ICANN Resolutions » Competition, Consumer Trust, Consumer Choice Review Team (CCT-RT) Pending Recommendations

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Competition, Consumer Trust, Consumer Choice Review Team (CCT-RT) Pending Recommendations


Resolution of the ICANN Board
Meeting Date: 
Thu, 22 Oct 2020
Resolution Number: 
2020.10.22.03 – 2020.10.22.05
Resolution Text: 

Whereas, ICANN was obligated under the Affirmation of Commitments to "organize a review that will examine the extent to which the introduction or expansion of gTLDs has promoted competition, consumer trust and consumer choice, as well as effectiveness of (a) the application and evaluation process, and (b) safeguards put in place to mitigate issues involved in the introduction or expansion." A community-led review team – the Competition, Consumer Trust and Consumer Choice Review Team (CCT-RT) – was announced on 23 December 2015 to fulfill that mandate. The Final Report of the Competition, Consumer Trust and Consumer Choice Review ("Final Report") contains 35 full consensus recommendations.

Whereas, on 1 March 2019, the ICANN Board took action on each of the 35 recommendations issued within the Final Report, as specified within the scorecard titled "Final CCT Recommendations: Board Action (1 March 2019)" (the "March 2019 Scorecard").

Whereas, also on 1 March 2019, the Board resolved to place 17 recommendations into pending status (in whole or in part), and committed to take further action on these recommendations subsequent to the completion of intermediate steps, as identified in the March 2019 Scorecard.

Whereas, since that time, ICANN org proceeded to work on all 17 pending recommendations, and the status of that work is reflected in the detailed assessment titled "Informing Board action on Competition, Consumer Trust, and Consumer Choice Review (CCT) Pending Recommendations" (the "Detailed Assessment"). Where available, the Detailed Assessment includes information pertaining to resources needed and deliverables envisioned to implement the CCT-RT's recommended improvements. As documented in the Detailed Assessment, 11 of the 17 pending recommendations are now ready for Board action.

Whereas, the CCT Board Caucus Group reviewed ICANN org's Detailed Assessment and recommended the Board to act on 11 pending recommendations as detailed therein. The CCT Board Caucus Group also engaged with the CCT Implementation Shepherds prior to recommending this action.

Resolved (2020.10.22.03), the Board takes action on each of the 11 recommendations specified within the scorecard titled "Competition, Consumer Trust, Consumer Choice Review Team (CCT-RT) Pending Recommendations: Board Action on 11 Recommendations" (the "October 2020 Scorecard"). The Board directs ICANN's President and CEO (or his designee(s)) to take all actions directed to the ICANN org within the October 2020 Scorecard.

Resolved (2020.10.22.04), for the six recommendations that remain in pending status, the Board directs the ICANN President and CEO, or his designee(s), to complete as promptly as possible the outstanding items needed to prepare the recommendations for further Board action. The Board also directs the ICANN President and CEO, or his designee(s), to provide regular updates to the Board, through the CCT Board Caucus Group, on the status of that work.

Resolved (2020.10.22.05), for the 11 recommendations the Board approves today, the Board directs the ICANN President and CEO, or his designee(s), to develop an implementation plan and to provide regular status and progress updates to the Board, through the CCT Board Caucus Group. Implementation work that is able to be included in existing work plans should begin as soon as possible. Any recommendations that require significant resources and plans to be implemented should be included into future operational planning and budgeting processes, allowing for appropriate community consideration and prioritization, as applicable, of planned work.

Rationale for Resolution: 

Why is the Board addressing this issue?

Reviews are important accountability measures that are critical to maintaining a healthy multistakeholder model and helping ICANN achieve its Mission. Reviews also contribute to ensuring that ICANN serves the public interest. The first Competition, Consumer Trust and Consumer Choice Review (CCT), initiated under the Affirmation of Commitments (AoC), is an important aspect of ICANN's commitment to continuous review and assessment of key areas.

The Competition, Consumer Trust, and Consumer Choice Review Team (CCT-RT) submitted its Final Report and Recommendations to the ICANN Board of Directors on 8 September 2018.

On 1 March 2019, the ICANN Board took action on the Final Recommendations produced by the CCT-RT. Per the ICANN Bylaws, the ICANN Board considered how to best address each of the recommendations, and decided on three categories of action: accepted, pending, and passing through to different parts of the community, as documented in the March 2019 Scorecard.

As part of that resolution, the Board committed to take further action on the 17 recommendations placed into "pending" status, subsequent to the completion of intermediate steps as identified in the March 2019 Scorecard. These intermediate steps ranged from: ICANN org conducting analysis and identifying gaps in a particular area of work; to engaging a third party to conduct analysis on data types needed; or to providing a report on work done to date, among other things.

What is the proposal being considered?

The proposal is in furtherance of Board resolution 2019.03.01.04, which placed CCT recommendations 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 18, 20, 23, 24, 26 in pending status, in whole or in part.

Since 1 March 2019, the Board Caucus Group dedicated to the CCT effort (the CCT Board Caucus Group) has overseen ICANN org work in addressing the open actions related to the 17 pending recommendations. ICANN org has provided the Board with information to support further Board action to address 11 of the 17 pending recommendations (see Detailed Assessment). Where available, the Detailed Assessment includes information on resources needed to implement the CCT-RT recommendations, as well as information on implementation paths and associated deliverables.

Additional time is required to conclude actions pertaining to six pending recommendations, which, in some instances, are tied to community dependencies. For example, the Board is not in a position to consider how to move the contractual negotiation portions of recommendations 14 and 15 forward, which recommend amendments to existing agreements to help prevent DNS abuse, as there are still ongoing community discussions to reach a common community understanding of DNS abuse and related terms. The Board therefore notes the continued dependency on community conversations prior to any further Board action on these two recommendations. Status updates on progress made in addressing these six remaining pending recommendations are captured in the Detailed Assessment. The Board is committed to take action on the outstanding recommendations as soon as it has received information needed to make an informed decision, and directs ICANN org to provide progress updates on these six remaining recommendations in due course.

In assessing the CCT-RT Pending Recommendations, the CCT Board Caucus Group reached out to the CCT-RT Implementation Shepherds. Implementation Shepherds are review team members who volunteered to be a resource to provide the Board with clarifications as needed on the intent behind recommendations, the CCT-RT's rationale, facts leading to the CCT-RT's conclusions, its envisioned timeline, and/or the CCT's consideration of what successful measures of implementation could look like. The CCT Board Caucus Group and ICANN org have engaged with the CCT-RT Implementation Shepherds since the review team concluded its work as detailed on the dedicated wiki page.

Prioritization

Prioritization of community-issued recommendations needs to take place within the broader context of all ICANN work and must consider implications on community and ICANN org resources and bandwidth, as well as the availability of resources (including funds) whether required up-front only, or on an ongoing basis. It is essential to ensure that all parts of ICANN take part in the prioritization – ICANN community, ICANN Board and ICANN org. Any recommendations that require significant resources and plans, should be included into operational planning and budgeting processes, allowing for appropriate community consideration and prioritization, as applicable, of planned work.

Recommendations the Board Approves

Today the Board approves 11 of the 17 pending recommendations: 6, 7, 8, 11, 13, 16, 18, 20, 23, 24 and 26. Each of these recommendations are consistent with ICANN's Mission, serve the public interest, and are within the Board's remit. The Board's action today only impacts the portions of each of these recommendations that are directed to the ICANN org or Board. The Board in its 1 March 2019 action passed through portions of recommendations directed to parts of the ICANN Community, and today's action does not impact or alter that prior "pass through" designation or any subsequent actions the ICANN Community has taken on those passed through recommendations.

In reviewing Recommendation 6, which calls for "partner[ing] with mechanisms and entities involved with the collection of TLD data" and "collect[ing] TLD registration number data per TLD and registrar at a country-by-country level", the Board considered the gap analysis and feasibility assessment received from ICANN org (see Detailed Assessment). The Board notes that the notion of partnering with entities to obtain necessary data aligns with feedback received on the CCT-RT Final Report. The Business Constituency (BC), for instance, encourages ICANN to "make use of voluntary data that can be obtained from contracted parties, the community, and users and registrants at large". Recognizing challenges identified in the ICANN org assessment (see Detailed Assessment): i.e., Registration Directory Service (RDS) data from ccTLDs and registrars at a country-by-country level may be difficult to obtain, and there may be certain regions where collection is limited, the Board approves the recommendation with a note that, ICANN org can make best efforts on a regional level to obtain TLD data, on a voluntary basis.

Recommendation 7 calls for collection of "domain usage data to better understand the implications of parked domains". The Board notes support for this recommendation in the public comments. For instance, the Intellectual Property Constituency (IPC) notes that "this would be helpful data, particularly as it relates to the implications of parked domains on intellectual property rights holders". Recognizing that the CCT-RT suggested a definition for 'parking' ('parked domains'), the Board notes that no universally agreed, or community vetted, definition of parking appears to exist within the domain name industry (see Detailed Assessment). For the purposes of collecting data on this recommendation, the Board calls for ICANN org to investigate existing definitions of parking, including the CCT-RT's definition and its data collection methodologies, and other potential data sources, in order to provide a definition of parking, for community review and a transparent methodology and process for data collection. With this caveat, the Board approves this recommendation.

With respect to recommendations 8 and 11, which suggest conducting periodic surveys of registrants as well as end-user consumer surveys, the Board refers to the additional questions identified by ICANN org in its gap analysis (see Detailed Assessment) and notes that implementation would require continuing portions of the registrant and consumer end-user surveys previously conducted for the CCT-RT, and incorporating additional questions and tools for tracking Internet user behavior to address new requirements from these recommendations. Based on initial discussions with potential vendors for this project, consumer attitudes towards the gTLD landscape tend to change slowly. The Board notes support in the public comment proceeding on the CCT-RT Final Report for Recommendations 8 and 11. For instance, the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) "endorses recommendations in the final report that encourage the collection of data to better inform policy making before increasing the number of new gTLDs". The Board also recognizes concerns expressed relative to costs associated with data collection. For instance, the Registries Stakeholder Group (RysG) questions the perceived benefit of these recommendations, relative to costs. The Board notes ICANN org's recommendation (see Detailed Assessment) on frequency of this data collection effort. Accordingly, the Board approves recommendations 8 and 11 with a note that surveys ought to be conducted at regular intervals of at least three years to ensure baseline data for future analysis as well as to reduce response burden, given the survey length and the pace of behavioral change associated with the domain name marketplace.

Recommendation 13 calls for collection of data on the impact of restrictions. Informed by the ICANN org assessment (see Detailed Assessment), the Board notes that data collection concerning consumer awareness of registration restrictions (part 1) and consumer trust levels in TLDs with restrictions versus those without (part 2) can be incorporated into future surveys of consumer-end users and registrants (see recommendations 8 and 11). Determining a correlation between lower abuse rates and stricter registration policies (part 3) entails extending parts of the "Statistical Analysis of DNS Abuse in gTLDs" study. Implementation of part 4 entails seeking data to help future review teams assess the costs and benefits of registration restrictions to contracted parties and the public. The Board notes the clarification received from CCT-RT Implementation Shepherds in response to the CCT Board Caucus Group query on costs and benefits within the context of this recommendation, and the expected outcome of such a study. The Detailed Assessment indicates that this recommendation could be implemented by incorporating questions around costs and benefits in the voluntary data gathering collection efforts mentioned above, particularly in relation to recommendations 8 and 11. The Board also expects that these data sets will be provided to the future review team to conduct a cost/benefit analysis based on the data. The identification of how registration restrictions are enforced or challenged (part 5), however, is highly dependent on contracted parties' willingness to provide information on enforcement. With the caveat that obtaining meaningful data to analyze enforcement may be challenging, ICANN org could seek to obtain this data through a voluntary survey. The Board notes that this is in alignment with the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) comment that "this data is important to capture, provided any such activity would be voluntary". The RySG adds that "If ICANN desires this information, it can obtain it through independent research or through requests for voluntary information". The Board considers that it is essential to ensure this collection effort be preceded by consultation with contracted parties on the approach and methods for a voluntary survey (or other means of contacting contracted parties), to ensure the most meaningful and useful data can be collected. Recognizing the existing workload challenges the community is facing, the Board calls for the survey to be conducted as a pilot survey to ensure resources are appropriately spent, given the voluntary nature of this data collection effort. As such, results and participation rates should be reviewed to determine whether the survey should be continued at regular intervals. With these caveats, the Board approves recommendation 13.

Recommendation 16 calls for "further studying of the relationship between specific registry operators, registrars, and DNS Security Abuse by commissioning ongoing data collection including but not limited to, ICANN Domain Abuse Activity Reporting (DAAR) initiatives". The Board notes support in the public comment proceeding for this recommendation. The IPC, for instance, comments that it: "strongly supports this recommendation and has long been interested in more in-depth and frequent collection and publication of such data and actionable responses to problems identified". The Board notes that ICANN org will continue to collect data and generate monthly reports on an ongoing basis. Moreover, the Board wishes to highlight that DAAR itself is not and cannot be a compliance/enforcement tool. Rather, it is a tool that monitors third party reputation lists to indicate possible concentration of DNS security threats. When outliers appear in DAAR data, it merely suggests further investigation is needed, not that compliance/enforcement is warranted. Based on this, the Board approves Recommendation 16.

Recommendation 18 calls for the gathering of data to inform the "WHOIS Review Team" on "whether additional steps are needed to improve WHOIS accuracy, and whether to proceed with the identity phase of the Accuracy Reporting System (ARS) project". As explained in the Detailed Assessment, the Board notes that this recommendation has already been fulfilled and that the request for anonymized WHOIS inaccuracy complaint data from "registrars, registry operators, ISPs, etc." appears to be the only element that was not made available to the Registration Directory Service Review Team (RDS-WHOIS2-RT). As reported in the Detailed Assessment, while ICANN org does not have this data, the RDS-WHOIS2-RT completed its work in September 2019 and did not request the data prior to issuing its Final Report. The Board notes should future RDS reviews request that data, ICANN org will provide the information to help inform work, as appropriate. The Board approves this recommendation and notes that no further action is required at this time.

On Recommendation 20, which suggests assessing "whether mechanisms to report and handle complaints have led to more focused efforts to combat abuse", the Board notes that, under the current terms of ICANN's agreements with contracted parties, ICANN org does not have the authority to demand information that registries are not required to collect or submit to ICANN org. This concern is echoed by the RySG, which calls the recommendation "inappropriate as it expands beyond Registry Operators' contractual obligations". ICANN org's analysis, as articulated in the Detailed Assessment, shows that this data could be obtained through a voluntary pilot survey. Similar to Recommendation 13 part 5, this collection effort should be preceded by consultation with contracted parties on the approach and methods for a voluntary survey (or other means of contacting contracted parties), and results and participation rates should be reviewed to determine whether the survey should be continued at regular intervals. With these caveats, the Board approves this recommendation.

On Recommendation 23, which calls for data gathering efforts on new gTLDs operating in highly-regulated sectors, the Board notes that ICANN org currently reports on volume and nature of complaints received regarding gTLDs operating in highly-regulated sectors. While the "review of a sample of domain websites" can be conducted by ICANN org, parts of the recommendation involving the following data points "steps registry operators are taking to establish working relationships with relevant government or industry bodies"; "the volume of complaints received by registrants from government and regulatory bodies and their standard practices to respond to those complaints"; and "data to compare rates of abuse between those highly-regulated gTLDs that have voluntarily agreed to verify and validate credentials to those highly-regulated gTLDs that have not" should be obtained through a voluntary survey. The use of a voluntary survey aligns with public comments received on the CCT-RT Final Report. For instance, the RySG "urges that any data collection efforts should be voluntary". Similar to Recommendations 13 (part 5) and 20, the voluntary survey should be completed as a pilot and community input sought on the approach and methods to collect data. The Board also notes that ICANN org does not have means to communicate with resellers. For the corresponding datapoint, this will need to be obtained through registrars, on a voluntary basis. With respect to the part of the recommendation to conduct "[a]n audit to assess whether restrictions regarding possessing necessary credentials are being enforced by auditing registrars and resellers offering the highly-regulated TLDs", the Board notes that ICANN org data shows insignificant volumes of complaints (see Detailed Assessment), indicating that this is a low-risk area. In consideration of ICANN org's limitation under the Registry Agreement to conduct only two audits per year, the Board believes it is important to ensure these limited resources are used to focus on obligations that have the largest potential impact to the safety, security and resiliency of the Internet's DNS. The Board directs ICANN org to continue to monitor complaint trends in this area, and to plan for an audit if any risk is identified.

Regarding Recommendation 24a., which states that ICANN org "report on a quarterly basis whether it has received complaints for a registry operator's failure to comply with either the safeguard related to gTLDs with inherent governmental functions or the safeguard related to cyberbullying", the Board notes that ICANN org currently reports this data on a monthly basis. Regarding Recommendation 24b., which states that registries be surveyed to determine "1) whether they receive complaints related to cyberbullying and misrepresenting a governmental affiliation; and 2) how they enforce these safeguards" the Board notes that, in alignment with recommendations 13 (part 5), 20 and 23, data gathering should be piloted through a voluntary survey: i.e., results and participation rates should be reviewed to determine whether the survey should be continued at regular intervals. With this note, the Board approves Recommendation 24.

With regards to Recommendation 26, which recommends repeating at regular intervals a study in order to ascertain the impact of the New gTLD Program on the costs required to protect trademarks in the expanded DNS , the Board notes that as suggested in the ICANN org assessment (see Detailed Assessment), there is an opportunity to collaborate with relevant partners, as appropriate, to gain a deeper insight into the effects of the New gTLD Program on trademark enforcement, using a combination of qualitative and quantitative research. This is in alignment with comments received from RySG in the public comment period on the CCT-RT Final Report that "going forward, ICANN should take steps to ensure that any studies conducted are optimized to solicit meaningful and statistically significant data from a representative sample of respondents." The Board approves this recommendation and encourages collaboration with relevant partners (as appropriate).

The Board is conscious that a number of recommendations rely on voluntary participation of community members (e.g. Recommendations 6, 8, 11 13, 20, 23, 24). Recognizing that this may have an impact on the community's workload and add complexity to existing bandwidth challenges, the Board stresses the need to ensure efficiency in data collection efforts to avoid creating burden. As such, ICANN org should identify synergies and streamline data collection efforts as called for in these approved recommendations in order to leverage resources and preserve community bandwidth.

Which stakeholders or other parties were consulted?

The CCT-RT Final Report was posted for public comment to inform Board action on the CCT-RT Final Recommendations. The public comment proceeding on the Final Report was opened on 8 October 2018, closed on 11 December 2018, and yielded a total of nine community contributions, which were carefully considered during the assessment of Final Recommendations that resulted in the 1 March 2019 Board action on the Final Report. The summary of input received on the CCT-RT Final Report highlighted that the community was of divergent opinion on the report.

No additional community consultation is required.

The Board also, through the CCT Board Caucus Group, consulted with the CCT-RT Implementation Shepherds to gain some clarification to help inform the Board action. Information on those interactions is available here.

Are there fiscal impacts or ramifications on ICANN (strategic plan, operating plan, budget); the community; and/or the public?

The implementation of the CCT-RT recommendations that the Board has approved will have an impact on the organization's activities and expenses during implementation and on an on-going basis. It is expected that any recommendations that require incremental resources should be included into operational planning and budgeting processes, allowing for appropriate community consideration and prioritization, as applicable, of planned work.

Are there positive or negative community impacts?

Taking action on these recommendations will contribute to ensuring ICANN meets its commitments relative to addressing issues of competition and consumer protection pursuant to new gTLDS. Potential actions resulting from these recommendations could affect community bandwidth and resources, in addition to other ongoing work.

Are there any security, stability or resiliency issues relating to the DNS?

This Board action is not expected to have a direct effect on security, stability or resiliency issues relating to the DNS, though the outcomes may have an impact in the future.

Is this action within ICANN's Mission? How does it relate to the global public interest?

This action is within ICANN's Mission and mandate and in the public interest as it is a fulfillment of a key commitment entered into in 2009 within the Affirmation of Commitments, now embodied in the ICANN Bylaws. ICANN's reviews are an important and essential part of how ICANN upholds its commitments. The scope of this review is inherently tied to ICANN's core values of introduction and promotion of competition in the registration of domain names.

Is this either a defined policy process within ICANN's Supporting Organizations or ICANN's Organizational Administrative Function decision requiring public comment or not requiring public comment?

Public comments were received on the CCT-RT Final Report.