Stuffed away on the Business Constituency newsletter, I find this reference:
"BC member Sebastien Bachollet has accepted a 6 month contract with ICANN to oversee the evolution of the "proof of concept" round of gTLDs. Evaluation is currently underway and we look forward to Sebastien's report."
I find it very strange that ICANN has not published an announcement about this contract on its own website.
My concern is that the scope and detail of the Evaluation Process proposed by the NTEPPTaskForce seems to have been watered down to a 6 month investigation by one member of the original Task Force team.
What was desperately needed, after the difficulties of the previous TLDs, was a detailed and objective investigation which pulled no punches.
Therefore I'm left wondering:
1. Was this contract put out to tender, or did ICANN just appoint a friendly insider without really telling anyone?
2. Should this key post have been publicly advertised?
3. Who, specifically, appointed Sebastien? Was anyone else interviewed for the job?
4. What about the contractual data from the registries (Appendix U etc) which hasn't even appeared yet?
5. How detailed will Sebastien's investigation be? (For example will it draw on the mass of data and evidence which has accumulated on the ICANN NewTLD Forums and the ICANNWatch website, concerning abuse of process and registrar fraud, Sunrise and Landrush problems etc.)
6. Will Sebastien call witnesses and allow public input, as part of his Process?
7. At the moment we know about Sebastien's new role from a mention on a backwater website. How open is this process going to be, and is ICANN going to make his investigation transparent and interactive? Just as the Registry data should be in the public domain, so too the step by step deliberations of the various issues should also be accessible to the public, to encourage full participation.
I am concerned that all we might get is an "in-house" process which lacks sufficient detail and objectivity.
Hard questions need to be asked and these have been evaded.
It is usually not ICANN but independent participants who ask the honest and awkward questions. What guarantee do we have that this "in-house" process will encourage a truly objective Evaluation, which remains independent of ICANN interference?
Will the selection of the further sTLDs be able to go ahead, if the Evaluation Process is as far behind as it appears to be? Will Sebastien's 6 months overseeing an Evaluation be sufficient to develop fair criteria, so that the selection of the next registries is not arbitrary ICANN preference, but founded on the detailed lessons learned from the previous problems?
What have we learned about Sunrise, about Landrush, about abuse of process, about implementation and enforcement of agreements, about registrars who game the system to warehouse names for themselves, about proposed marketing budgets which evaporate into thin air?
The NTEPPTF developed a huge and detailed list of areas deserving investigation.
What I think we're likely to get is a Lite-version, which pays mere lip service to the "Proof of Concept", because it will suit ICANN to exhume as few skeletons as possible.
What will be best for ICANN is a cheap, quick, lite-weight, in-house Process, which gives the appearance of an investigation, but is got out of the way as quickly (6 months?) as possible, and as quietly as possible...
...as quietly, as Sebastien was appointed...