Registrars’ ability to compare different TLDs and TLD models, coupled with our understanding of TLDs’ impacts on resellers and domain owners, gives us valuable insight into TLD operations and processes and makes us well-equipped to offer registries actionable feedback on their operations.
This is certainly the case in the .ca space, with approximately 350,000 .ca domains registered through Tucows. The CIRA Annual General Meeting will be held on September 23rd, at which time CIRA Members will vote on proposed changes to the CIRA bylaws (you can find the proposed changes, along with each proposal’s supporting statement, on the CIRA website).
The Registrar community is deeply committed to participation in domain governance, as our history of work in the ICANN policy development process as well as involvement in ccTLD governance has shown. ICANN has a committee reserved for members purporting to represent the public interest: the At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC). Ironically, this group typically makes recommendations adverse to registrant goals. In contrast, registrars’ interests are closely aligned with registrants’. This underscores the importance of having registrar voices in the CIRA space to effectively champion registrant needs. Our own CEO, Elliot Noss, served a total of 5 years on the CIRA Board’s Community Investment Committee, including being reappointed twice, providing his personal time and expertise to that important initiative.
There are three proposals tabled by former CIRA Board Member Alex Beraskow that are particularly troubling, as they single out members who are also registrar employees or otherwise push registrars out of the picture.
Proposal #3 advocates excluding employees of registrars from serving on the CIRA Board of Directors and Proposal #7 would prevent employees of registrars from even participating in the process to nominate board members. In both cases, these rules would restrict the eligibility of registrar employees even if they are CIRA members in their own right, who own .ca domains personally.
Proposal #8 is particularly disjointed, as many of the ideas raised in the proposal’s supporting statement are unrelated to the proposed changes. Beraskow raises concerns about the number of .ca domains a registrar may have registered and tries to equate that to influence of that registrar toward the CIRA Board. His concerns about conflicts of interest, raised in his other Proposals, are then tied to an argument about the Dispute Resolution Process without a clear link. Transparency requirements are reasonable goals and are already accounted for by the CIRA Board’s current statements of interest. We also note the Board’s response on this topic, that “this member proposal covers operational or administrative practices that do not belong in an organization’s Bylaw” and that the desired transparency of dispute resolution costs is already in place on the CIRA website.
Taken together, these proposals exclude registrar employees from meaningful participation in the CIRA process, are ill-founded, and perhaps more importantly, they are ill-intended. They presume ill intent on behalf of registrars—based on nothing. No incidents, no history, no basis. They are based on an assumption of bad behaviour.
A registrar employee is no more vulnerable to conflicts of interest than a web hosting provider employee, an ISP employee, or an intellectual property lawyer. Or someone purporting to act in the public interest. CIRA members from each of these industries have knowledge and expertise that can directly benefit the operation of a ccTLD registry; there is no reason to expect that a registrar employee is the only type of individual, or that a registrar’s business is the only type of business, that would be affected by changes to the .ca system.
We support the CIRA Board’s response that “Registrars represent an important stakeholder group and excluding them from the opportunity to stand for the Board is contrary to the essence of the multi-stakeholder model and would artificially limit the choice of members when selecting potential Board directors,” and that “Excluding Registrars would deny the Board an important perspective.”
Specifically related to the Nominating Committee, we appreciate the Board’s reminder that “Members of the Nomination Committee are subject to a robust Conflict of Interest policy and are required to disclose any conflict of interest. They are required to complete a Conflict of Interest declaration, which is set out in Schedule “C” of CIRA’s Policy on Nominations and Elections, which is publicly available on CIRA’s website.”
We focused on these three proposed changes as they are the most directly connected to our place in the domain ecosystem, but the other proposed changes are similarly problematic. We support the Board’s recommendation that CIRA members vote against all eight proposed bylaw amendments.
If you own a .ca domain you can also participate in the CIRA Annual General Meeting on Thursday and we hope to see you there!
While we were writing this blog post, Mr. Beraskow sent a mass unsolicited email to many CIRA members; late yesterday afternoon the Board responded. You can read both emails here. We love good communication among organization members but we love respecting data protection and the Canada Anti-Spam Legislation even more, and that didn’t happen here. We appreciate the Board’s response.