18(c) What operating rules will you adopt to eliminate or minimize social costs?
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I: . DCA as the applicant for the DotAfrica gTLD has taken great care to develop the most fair registration policy possible. It will offer a phased launch consistent with ICANN requirements to ensure the protection of Trademark holders and the satisfaction of potential registrants. According to the Applicant’s Guidebook, all new gTLD registries will be required to use the Trademark Clearing House to support its pre-launch or initial launch rights protection mechanisms. According to ICANN, these RPMs, at a minimum must consist of a Trade Marks Claims Service and a Sunrise Process.
The ICANN-mandated Sunrise period open to Trademark holders will precede a Landrush or Premium Name availability period during which applicants are able to register their interest for various domain names. The Landrush phase will be followed by General Availability, during which time domain names will become available for purchase by any entity.
Multiple applications for a particular domain name would be resolved depending on the determination of what the domain name represents. For a standard domain name, it would be necessary to first of all ensure that the legal rights of third parties have been fully protected, for example, if there are no conflicting trademark claims, multiple applications will be resolved on a first-come⁄first-served basis if such names are not considered as premium domain names. However, if such multiple applications for a particular domain name appertain to what the DCA DotAfrica gTLD Registry considers as a ‘premium domain name’, then, after also ensuring that the legal rights of third parties have been fully protected, an auction process would naturally be used to resolve such situations. The procedures for conducting the auction will be defined and agreed with the Auction House that will be retained to provide the service of selling (auctioning) the premium domain names.
It is expected that an auction will help raise sizable revenues accruing to the coffers of DCA Registry Services that will assist in funding the non-profit⁄charitable objectives of DCA Trust.
It is important to stress that all post-Sunrise registrations at the time of General Availability will be subject to a first come first served basis.
II: In our estimation, cost benefits for users and registrants starts with a standardized and competitive pricing model. The prices for standard domain names offered during the time of General Availability will be similar to the price of gTLD domain names such as dotcom, dotnet, dotorg that are readily affordable by a large majority of domain name registrants in Africa. Domain name pricing will be reviewed in accordance with the policies set by the Registry, subject of course to the mandatory ICANN-approved guidelines governing the price increases of domain names⁄renewal pricing.
To increase domain name registrations, different cost benefit and cost saving incentives will be used to attract registrants to register domain names in the TLD. This will be part of the marketing and sales strategy. There will be regular promotions for registrars, and various incentives will be offered such as special introductory discounts, bulk registration discounts, and product service packages that combine for example, domain names with certain number of web-email addresses, FTP accounts, etc. However, such promotional activities will be performed for short durations, for example over a 30-day period.
The examples of promotional opportunities that could be readily exploited are as follows:
1. During the general availability period shortly after the Sunrise period, DotAfrica domain names will be offered at highly discounted prices in the first few days via promotional campaigns on a first come first served basis
2. DCA Registry will enter into agreements with DotAfrica domain name registrars to offer discounts on bundles of DotAfrica domain names sold together with ccTLD domain names in line with our goal of cross marketing DotAfrica domain names with ccTLDs domain names. For example, DCA DotAfrica Registry Services will enter into partnerships with a given country-code TLD such as Kenyan ccTLD - .ke (or Ethiopian ccTLD - .et) to sell DotAfrica domain names at a discounted price of say, $5 if a customer buys them as a bundle with a .ke ccTLD domain name. Similarly, a customer who buys a .ke domain name will also get the chance to buy a DotAfrica domain name at $5. This will happen shortly after the Sunrise period and will last for a limited duration subject to agreements reached with participating ccTLD registries, DotAfrica registrars and resellers.
3. DCA Registry will also launch domain promotions during events such as the African Cup of Nations, and several major continental sports meetings like athletics (e.g. All African Games), volleyball, basketball, golf, etc. that will be valid throughout the eventʹs period during which DotAfrica domain names will be acquired at discounted prices.
4. There will be generous discounts on bulk purchases of DotAfrica domain names that meets a certain threshold, for example $60.
5. Other promotions of benefit to registrant’s will include offering branded DotAfrica merchandise such as T-shirts, flash disks, and other promotional gift items to winners in a draw.
6. Special DotAfrica Football Promotions (Africans have a passion for football hence this provides a natural avenue for branding and promotional activities) e.g. offering hugely discounted DotAfrica domain names whenever an African team is playing, during major football tournaments such as the African Champions League where African teams are participating.
7. DCA Registry will launch the DotAfrica Pioneers Program that will award 100 Premium Domain names with 2-year registrations for free to 100 Pioneers from Africa with proposals on how to develop those domain names for the benefit of Africa. The guidelines for the Pioneers Program will be published soon after the completion of the Sunrise period.
It is therefore anticipated that individual Internet users in Africa shall constitute the largest category that stands to benefit most from the introduction and general availability of the DotAfrica generic Top Level domain names for the following reasons:
a) DotAfrica affords them an opportunity to acquire the best and most descriptive domain names to brand products and services.
b) Competitive pricing that is commensurate with the income levels of most Africans. The intended registration cost of US$10.00 per standard domain name will no doubt improve affordability when compared to the prices offered by ccTLDs for the country level domain names.
c) The DotAfrica generic Top-Level Domain will bring global best practice in DNS registry management to the African continent that simplifies registration via the Extensible Provisioning Protocol (EPP) registry system.
One cost benefit for users and registrants is the innovative form of payment that has been proposed for the settlement of domain name service transactions. In a continent where card banking facilities and the use of credit⁄debit cards are not widespread, electronic payments for e-commerce is often an important hurdle to overcome. With this recognition therefore, DCA DotAfrica Registry will use normal online and banking payment methods, and at the same time, in cooperation with registrars and technology service providers, DCA DotAfrica Registry will work strenuously to integrate mobile payment systems such as MPESA (developed by Safaricom and widely used in Kenya) across the entire registrar and domain reseller network within the first three years. This will greatly expand payment options and access as well as lead to increase of registration of domain names since Africa is still mostly a mobile continent and with the aim of making domain name purchase and renewal transactions as convenient and painless as possible whilst reducing transaction costs. DCA and Safaricom have already entered into a framework Memorandum of Understanding which accepts that the MPESA mobile payment system developed by Safaricom Ltd. for payment⁄money transfers within Kenya could be utilized as a payment system for the settlement of DotAfrica domain name sales transactions, and also commits both parties to further develop this model and used in other markets within the African continent.
In addition to the above, other anticipated benefits would accrue to different potential stakeholders based on the strategic partnerships that DCA intends to establish with ISPs, IXPs, Association of ccTLDs in Africa, etc.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and IXPs: DCA intends to build strategic partnerships with over 200 ISPs and the 21 IXP’s which exist in Africa and offer a variety of services including website hosting, domain registration services, including providing name servers to new domain name registrants and future sales channels⁄shop fronts for DotAfrica domain names. DCA intends to use successful venture to market its domains and also offer services to the niche currently not reached by other telephone networks.
Global and African Registrars and Registrar Associations; DCA will work closely with the developed ICANN accredited registrars within the continent to build a cross-marketing relationships that will result in a great increase in the number of DotAfrica domain sales within the continent. Global Registrars such as United Domains among many others already understand the huge potential of the African domain name market and have been actively involved in disseminating information on DCA and undertaking pre-registration of DotAfrica domain names.
Since a core aim of DCA’s Charitable Mission and Purpose is to channel any surplus financial proceeds from the DotAfrica gTLD Registry Services operation to the DCA Trust Fund to invest in, and develop Internet social development projects in Africa, it is also envisaged that some of the funds earmarked for such purposes shall be availed from the Trust Fund and used to provide financial support to Registrars in Africa in order to assist in building their technical capacity in domain names sales and marketing.
ccTLD Managers and Associations: The African Domain Name industry is typified by country code Top-Level Domain (ccTLD) registry operators with very low domain name registration volumes. When compared to the number of Internet users, there is a huge untapped potential. The problems faced by the African Domain Name industry include:
1. The ccTLD “crisis” in Africa: Lack of Awareness of the potential of African ccTLDs
2. Steep Pricing - The high cost of ccTLD Domain Names: African ccTLD Domains cost an average of $80 from our estimation, leading to the low uptake of domain names. Thus users prefer to obtain the other generic Top Level Domain Names from North American registries which costs about US$10.00 on average.
3. Technical issues DNS Infrastructure: African domain registrants who resort to ccTLD domains normally face archaic or manual domain registration procedures that take 24 hours to a few weeks in some cases.
4. Dispute Resolution in African ccTLD Namespaces: There are no legal structures in many African countries that can handle domain name dispute resolution. Copyright laws are weak in most countries, and legal systems in most countries need to be reformed.
5. Registry Governance. There are issues with ccTLD management and governance policies where there is still a level of government control in some instances and registration policies sometime reflect governmental interference.
6. With the rapid depletion of most descriptive domain names that have already been registered by Internet users in regions with advanced Internet infrastructures, the African Internet users are faced with a choice of registering second rate domain names which are long and not easy to remember.
It is therefore anticipated that DCA DotAfrica Registry Services as the prospective registry operator of the DotAfrica gTLD will address all of the aforementioned short-comings, and to this end, proposes to have a close working relationship with the existing ccTLD managers and association of TLDs in Africa. (See for example, .http:⁄⁄www.circleid.com⁄posts⁄20111217_dotconnectafrica_expresses_commitment_to_work_with_african_cctlds⁄ ). This will be a critical entry point that would enable the faster introduction of DotAfrica gTLD domain names to the individual countries, and will also be used in a cross marketing model to avail the DotAfrica domain names to the ccTLD registries.
DCA has already outlined a win-win outcome for African ccTLD managers who responded enthusiastically towards forging a working relationship that will not only avail DotAfrica domain names and increase the relevance of the struggling ccTLD’s that suffer from operational, financial and governance issues. The DCA Registry has proposed a cross marketing model that will see partial revenue proceeds from the DotAfrica namespace reinvested in strengthening African ccTLDs with weak administrative and technical infrastructure. DCA hopes to assist in building the capacity of African ccTLDs by utilizing any surpluses accruing to its Trust Fund for the achievement of such objectives. Finally, in our measures to protect geographic domain names at the second level, we have also proposed assigning country names in any language including the ISO3166 two letter codes to their respective ccTLD registries for their use in branding their country’s resources or developing new business around those domains under the new DotAfrica gTLD.
Without prejudice to the foregoing, it is important to clarify that, In keeping with its mission and purpose of ensuring equality⁄non-preferential treatment in customer service delivery, DCA DotAfrica gTLD registry intends to focus only on providing registry services for the delegated DotAfrica gTLD and will not be encumbered, for example, like a ccTLD registry service that is also wishing to apply for, and administer a continental gTLD. The potential conflict of interest would be rather obvious and such a ccTLD registry that, on one hand is dedicated to serving a particular country domain market, will find that its country-specific mandate would conflict with that of running the registry operation of a continental gTLD in the overall delivery of its customer services. As an independent organization, DCA believes that a ccTLD registry with governmental connections and ownership (which would make it lack any broad independence since it is on a national mission) should not be seen as also serving a continental gTLD.
III: The new gTLD Registry Services Agreement with ICANN has a term of ten (10) years, and since all domain name registrations within the TLD will be subject to the gTLD registry services agreement with ICANN, registrars will also be offered the option of obtaining initial domain name registrations that will not exceed ten (10) years. Due to the effect of possible inflation and other cost escalations that could be imposed by macro-economic conditions outside the control of the registry operator, for example fluctuations in the global price of energy that affects transportation and freight costs, and the price of different commodities, possible escalations or adjustments in the price of domain names are inevitable over a 10-year period. However, these would be managed in such a way that any price increases are justified and gradual. If there are any planned increases in the price of domain names, registrants will be given a 6 month to 1-year prior notification, and the general prevailing rate of inflation within the economy will be used to determine the magnitude of price escalations but in no event will this exceed 5 – 10 per cent per annum. To ensure that any revisions to agreements with registrars are in conformity with the stipulations of the new gTLD Agreement, any such revisions will be approved in advance by ICANN. Similarly, any planned price increases for registry services will be first approved in advance by ICANN before registrars are notified, and the price increases implemented.
To ensure that proper processes are followed and nothing is done outside the oversight of ICANN, all Registry-Registrar Agreements and relations between registrars registering domain names in the TLD and the registry operator will be governed by the stipulations contained in Article 2.9 of the ICANN gTLD Registry Agreement. Similarly, the pricing for registry services and any price increases shall be subject to the stipulations contained in Article 2.10 of the ICANN gTLD Registry Agreement. For example, there will be uniform pricing for renewals of domain name registrations for all registrars, and the registry operator will ensure that there will be no abusive and⁄or discriminatory pricing practices that will be imposed on registrars. In the same vein, no arbitrary price increases or unnecessary costs will be imposed on consumers.
Without prejudice to any of the aforementioned, as per Article 6.4 of the new gTLD Agreement any fees adjusted at ICANN’s discretion will be proportionately and transparently passed on to registrars and users at the time of communicating renewal pricing to users and registrants.
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