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ICANN Board quizzes Internet Society over .Org sale

Board questions how the deal is in the spirit of the original decision to assign .org contract to Internet Society.

Logo for .org domain, featuring a blue circle with white letters spelling ORG

ICANN’s Board of Directors is asking Internet Society (ISOC) pointed questions about the proposed sale of Public Interest Registry, which operates .org, to private equity company Ethos Capital.

Maarten Botterman, chair of the board, sent a letter (pdf) to Gonzalo Camarillo, chair of the ISOC Board of Trustees, on February 13. The letter asks 18 questions, and many of them relate to how .org will be run as it relates to Internet Society’s proposal when it was awarded the domain extension.

Botterman wrote:

When ISOC applied for and was awarded the right to manage .ORG in 2002, ISOC made commitments to the Internet community on how it would differentiate and uphold the
unique purpose of the .ORG TLD. ICANN awarded the management of the .ORG registry with the belief that ISOC was uniquely positioned to live up to these commitments for the long
run. These commitments have been maintained since that 2002 award, and ICANN has heard loud and clear that the community of .ORG registrants is concerned that these
commitments already have been abandoned or will be abandoned if the transfer to Ethos Capital is completed. ICANN has also heard concerns raised that the .ORG community was
not consulted by ISOC as part of the ISOC’s consideration of the proposed transaction.

That ICANN’s Board is considering the transaction and the spirit of the original deal to assign ISOC the .org contract is an interesting development.

Among the more interesting questions the board has asked ISOC:

  • There have been public statements that ISOC received multiple bids for the sale of PIR. Did ISOC solicit any responses from bidders as to how each would continue to uphold any/all of the 2002 Commitments?
  • What has Ethos Capital committed to do in regard to the 2002 Commitments? And are such commitments included in any of the transaction documents, organization documents or elsewhere in a manner that insures they will be sustained and enforceable by .ORG registrants or others in the future? [emphasis added]
  • We understand that ISOC received a written proposal from Ethos Capital in September 2019. Were any prior proposals made or prior discussions had with Ethos Capital or any of their representatives or advisors? If yes, when did those discussions occur? [This gets to the issue of if discussions were held in conjunction with ICANN dropping price caps on the .org domain.]
  • Please describe how, in deciding to sell PIR to Ethos Capital, ISOC balanced the interests of the .ORG community with ISOC’s interest in achieving a sizeable endowment to support ISOC’s future operations separate from PIR and .ORG?
  • Given the public reaction to the announced sale of PIR, will ISOC commit to completing any additional engagement with the .ORG community prior to consummating the proposed transaction with Ethos Capital? [PIR has pushed back on ICANN’s request for more time to evaluate the deal. Now ICANN is effectively going directly to ISOC with this request and a request to engage with the community.]

ICANN’s board has requested that ISOC respond by February 24.

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Author: Andrew Allemann

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