Unity was "excluded from further consideration" by the Staff report because it came in seventh in the Gartner technical evaluation. However, the Gartner cover letter states explicitly that "we consider seven of the applicants to be fully capable of operating the registry in accordance with the requirements of ICANN." 'Nuf said. On that basis alone, Unity's top ranking on the remaining criteria ought to keep it in the running for the final award.
GNR's bid was shaded downward by the Final Staff Evaluation Report for the following reasons: 1) It does not operate on the same scale as Neustar and Afilias. This is true but of limited relevance because the Gartner review ranked them almost the same technically; 2) the staff report also stated that "the GNR proposal is ranked significantly lower than the ISOC proposal by the Usage Evaluation Team." This is not quite true. GNR was ranked lower ONLY on the dimension of public support. On both the "differentiation" and "responsiveness/governance" criteria, GNR was ranked second overall, higher than ISOC/Afilias, and significantly higher than Neustar. 3) Worse yet, the final staff report claims that GNR should be downgraded because it may not qualify for the Verisign endowment. This is quite unfair! Neustar will not qualify for the Verisign endowment, either. The Staff Report goes on to make a wholly erroneous statement: that the NCDNHC evaluation of GNR would have been lower had it known that GNR would not qualify for the Verisign endowment. As a member of that evaluation team, I can say in no uncertain terms that that is not the case. NCDNHC was told that the nonprofit or for-profit nature of an applicant should not enter into its evaluations at all. We followed those instructions religiously. Whether GNR qualifies for the Verisign endowment or not had absolutely nothing to do with our ranking.
I also believe that RegisterOrg's proposal was slighted unfairly by the Final Staff Evaluation Report. While it is true that the DotOrg Foundation proposal, which uses Register.com as a back end, was ranked pretty lowly by the NCNDHC team, the RegisterOrg proposal was ranked higher than Neustar in all respects except Public Support. In the Differentiation dimension, RegisterOrg was ranked 2nd whereas Neustar was ranked 5th; in Responsiveness/Governance, RegisterOrg was ranked 6th, whereas Neustar was ranked 8th. Register.com has as much experience as Neustar.
Of course, IMS/ISC was not even discussed by the final staff report because of their low rankings from Gartner. But in the Usage (NCDNHC) Evaluation Team report they ranked third or fourth, and if ISOC/Afilias is not a factor they should be considered as a major contender.
You will recall that Neustar employees were claiming that .org was "in the bag" some time ago. The Usage Evaluation Report, which ranked them below other applicants, must have come as a shock to them. Sadly, they have responded with a rather vicious, no-holds-barred attack. Their desire to discredit the evaluation, however, has exceeded their fidelity to fact. For those who care to pursue it, the Evaluation Team's response to Neustar's comments can be found in our Supplemental Report.
That report (specifically, pp 7-9) went through Neustar's original objections point by point and showed just how unfounded (and even dishonest, in certain cases) they were. I note that in its second reply comments Neustar does not bother to acknowledge the Supplemental Report. They simply repeat discredited arguments or shift rhetorical grounds.
Here is an example of the type of argumentation Neustar stooped to. In its first-round comments Neustar tried to claim as endorsers of its proposal four organizations that had simply been asked to respond to a survey. The Evaluation team searched for these endorsments and discovered that they had NOT endorsed Neustar's proposal, and pointed this out in the Supplemental
Report. Neustar was rather silent on that issue this time around.
Neustar's first round comments, a 50-page rhetorical barrage, is chock-full of this kind of camouflage. We had to go through it sentence by sentence to separate fact from fiction. It wasn't fun. What does this say about the integrity of this applicant? What does it imply about its willingness to work with the noncommercial community?
Neustar has now been reduced to two arguments. One is that the NCDNHC Team was biased in favor of noncommercial entities. But that argument is so far off base it's funny. Our top choice, Unity Registry, was a for-profit, and of our top 4 recommended choices, 2 were noncommercial and two were commercial. No amount of spin can present such results as reflecting a bias toward noncommercial entities. Despite being thoroughly refuted in the Supplemental Report, Neustar continues to hammer away at it.
The other argument is that NCDNHC suffers from a conflict of interest because it gave applicants points for helping noncommercial participation in ICANN. In fact, responsiveness to and supprt for noncommercial participants in ICANN were part of the evaluation criteria. We recognized that direct assistance to NCDNHC is but one of many possible ways of assisting noncommercial participation in ICANN. We did not show any particular bias toward those who selected to do this via the NCDNHC. But we did recognize those who did propose to work with NCDNHC as a legitimate way of being responsive to and supportive of noncommercial participation. One could claim conflict of interest if we had insisted on recognizing direct contributions to the NCDNHC as the ONLY form of supporting noncommercial interests in ICANN. But we did not.
Our top-ranked applicant, Unity, does not provide any direct assistance to NCDNHC, but it does other suitable things. Of the top four, ISOC/Afilias and GNR proposed direct forms of working with NCDNHC; Unity and IMS/ISC did not. Also note that applicants who did propose direct methods of assisting NCDNHC, such as UIA/Diversitas, did not get top rankings.
To conclude, critics of ICANN who believe that they are part of an evil insider conspiracy may be missing the mark. ICANN's real problem is that it is weak. It allowed Verisign to mount a front bid instead of ruling that out of order at the outset, because it feared a lawsuit from that company. It is now allowing Neustar to run amok because - if one reads between the lines of Neustar's challenges to the evaluation - it fears subsequent legal challenges from that Washington, DC insider firm. Sure, insiders win in ICANN processes, but that is because of the financial and legal weakness of ICANN, as well as the insular nature of ICANN's governance structure and the absence of an open market entry procedure. To make ICANN processes more fair, we need to do more than rail at the alleged "evil" of the individual people involved. We need to fix the processes. And we must start by defining a stable, regular procedure for adding TLDs, so that artificial scarcity and its attendant evils, so clearly demonstrated by the .org reassignment, are ended forever.