Neustar, Inc. (“Neustar”) serves as the registry operator for the country-code top-level domain for the United States (the “usTLD”) under a contract with the United States Department of Commerce (“DOC”). To ensure that the usTLD remains a trusted domain space for all Americans and to facilitate stakeholder input into usTLD policies, under the new usTLD contract, Neustar committed to establish a stakeholder council (the usTLD “Stakeholder Council”) for the usTLD. This Notice of Inquiry (“NOI”) solicits input from all usTLD stakeholders on the proposed composition of the Stakeholder Council, the principles and policies that will guide the Stakeholder Council and the operating procedures for the Council. Simultaneously, Neustar has issued a call for Expressions of Interest from individuals interested in serving on the Council.
Questions regarding this Notice of Inquiry should be directed to: Stephanie Duchesneau at email@example.com or (202) 533-2623.
Please submit comments by Saturday, August 16, 2014 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The .us Top Level Domain (the “usTLD”) must remain a trusted domain space for all Americans (including state and local governments, schools, libraries, businesses, and consumers) and a stable, secure, and safe environment that fosters economic growth, promotes innovation and prepares young Americans for leadership roles in the global digital economy. To do so, the usTLD requires responsible management, careful oversight, and clear and reliably enforced policies. The usTLD policies must also evolve and develop over time to respond to changing needs of the usTLD community, emerging technology, new ideas, and cyber security challenges.
The goals of the Council are (1) to recommend to Neustar policies and other improvements to the management of the usTLD through a constructive relationship with the usTLD stakeholder community, including but not limited to usTLD Registrars, Delegated Managers, Registrants, intellectual property rights holders, business users of the usTLD, governments at all levels, law enforcement, consumers and representatives of civil society; (2) to ensure that the needs of current usTLD domain name holders are considered in the management of the usTLD; (3) to enhance and improve the user experience and utility of the usTLD space; and (4) to provide a platform for ongoing discussion of evolving and emerging DNS issues as they affect the usTLD.
To achieve these goals, Neustar is creating the usTLD Stakeholder Council. The Council will represent the many interested stakeholders within the usTLD community. It will provide regular feedback to improve the management of the usTLD. It may also propose policies for the usTLD that will enhance the space for the usTLD user community. The Council will provide a vibrant, diverse, and independent forum for future development of and improvement to the usTLD, by representing the interests of the various usTLD stakeholders, including Federal, State, and local government. It will help Neustar to identify usTLD stakeholder needs and recommend policies, programs, and partnerships to address those needs.
The Stakeholder Council Charter will set forth the principles that will guide the Council’s work and the procedures that will govern the operation of the Council and Neustar’s interactions with it. It will also describe the Council’s scope of work. The Charter will be available here.
The Stakeholder Council is designed to support vibrant, inclusive, and participatory policy development for the usTLD by its stakeholders and to give usTLD stakeholders a meaningful voice in management of specified aspects of the usTLD’s operations subject to the rule of law, established policy, contract obligations and our shared obligation to preserve the stability and security of the usTLD and the domain name and addressing system.
Scope of Work
The Council will address matters related to the operation of the usTLD in the interest of the usTLD user community. The work of the Council will be focused on:
- Recommending to Neustar policies and other improvements to the management of the usTLD;
- Ensuring that the needs of current usTLD domain name holders are considered in the management of the usTLD;
- Providing input on mechanisms to enhance and improve the user experience and utility of the usTLD space; and
- Improvements to the security within the usTLD and stable management of the space.
Neustar will establish the initial policy agenda for the Council based on community input in response to this NOI. This policy agenda will be limited to matters within the scope of the current usTLD contract, as such contract may be amended from time to time.
Question 1: Is this scope appropriate? Are there particular policies or enhancements that you would like the Council to consider?
The Council will be comprised of individuals representing a wide variety of usTLD stakeholders including, without limitation, the following:
- usTLD Registrars and Delegated Managers
- City and state CIOs
- Commercial and nonprofit usTLD registrants
- usTLD registrants at large
- Intellectual property rights holders
- Educators and organizations involved in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education
- Law enforcement and cybersecurity experts
- Child development/safety experts
- Consumer advocacy organizations and other representatives of civil society
- Small businesses
The Council is intended to represent the variety of usTLD stakeholders, each of whose voice should be heard and respected. Neustar may add other stakeholder groups to the Council based on community input in response to the NOI. Neustar may also modify the size and composition of the Council from time to time to reflect its changing needs or changing needs identified by the Council.
Initial member terms of service will be staggered being appointed for two or three years. Thereafter members will be appointed to two-year terms. Members may also be reappointed to additional terms. Neustar may not appoint members to terms that exceed the length of the usTLD contract with DOC.
A senior Neustar representative will serve as the Interim Chair of the Council until October 1, 2014. The Council will then elect its own officers. Officers will serve for a term of two years.
To ensure that it can fully execute its obligations as Registry Operator for the usTLD, a technical representative of Neustar also will participate on the Council as a non-voting member.
Question 2: Are there additional usTLD stakeholder groups that should be included in the initial usTLD Stakeholder Council?
Question 3: The stakeholder groups identified above are quite diverse. As no stakeholder group will have more representatives than any other, we believe that capture is unlikely. Do you agree with that assessment? If not, what mechanisms would you propose to prevent Council capture by one or more stakeholder groups? Keeping in mind finite financial resources, how many representatives per stakeholder group are needed to ensure efficient and effective participation and representation on the Council?
Selection of Council Members
Neustar has issued a public request for Expressions of Interest to serve on the Initial Stakeholder Council. Neustar will select the initial council members based on input from this NOI and the responses to the request for Expressions of Interest with the goal that the Council represent the variety of usTLD stakeholder perspectives. Council composition may change in the future to reflect the responses to this NOI. Neustar will fill Council vacancies as needed.
Question 4: Do you agree with the proposed selection methodology? If not, what methodology would you propose?
Question 5: What is the best way for Neustar to fill vacancies on the council?
Guiding Principles and Policies
In addition to the overarching goals of the Council stated above, the Council will work to advance the following guiding principles and policies, which are critical for operation of the usTLD in the public interest:
- The security, reliability, and stability of the Internet are of paramount importance, so the usTLD must operate in a highly stable manner and lead by example;
- The usTLD must continue to serve the needs of existing Registrants, support innovative new uses of the name space, and respect the rights of consumers and rights holders;
- The Council’s operations and its policy development process must be fair, open, transparent and accountable, and must allow for participation by multiple stakeholders;
- The interests of individual usTLD Stakeholder Council members must be fully disclosed to ensure that the usTLD user community understands the interests being represented on the Council;
- The usTLD policies should be informed by best practices as developed by the global Internet stakeholder community, so effective outreach mechanisms are important components of usTLD policy;
- The usTLD should support and promote quality content for children, support digital literacy, and contribute to preparing America’s next generation to compete in the global digital economy;
- The registration and operation of usTLD domain registrations must be effectively subject to the laws and regulation of the United States and the policies of the usTLD;
- The usTLD space must secure and maintain publicly accessible, accurate, and up-to-date WHOIS information for each usTLD Registrant;
- Innovation in the usTLD space should promote the public interest and benefit both commercial and noncommercial usTLD stakeholders; and
- Support and promote the growth and utility of the usTLD space as an engine for economic growth and innovation.
Question 6: Do you agree with the proposed principles and policies to guide Stakeholder Council activities? Are there additional principles that should be considered?
Council Member Activities
As members of a stakeholder advisory body whose purpose is to assist in the development of policies and other requirements for the management of the usTLD in the public interest, Council members may conduct the following activities in support of the Council:
- Engage in outreach efforts to the broader usTLD community to better inform the Council’s work and to better understand the views of the stakeholders the Council member represents;
- Provide input and comment on the usTLD policies and requirements, and propose for Council consideration improvements in those policies and requirements;
- Propose for Council consideration changes to the composition or procedures of the Council;
- Provide input to, and assist with, an annual virtual policy development forum organized by Neustar;
- Provide input and monitoring assistance as appropriate on mechanisms to facilitate public participation and stakeholder input into new, modified, or supplemental policies or procedures for the usTLD;
- Provide input into and review of policies developed by Neustar and/or issues identified in the annual “compliance report” to be provided by Neustar to the DOC; and
- Review and provide recommendations and/or comments on policy-related matters raised by Neustar, other members of the Council, or the usTLD community.
Neustar will facilitate the functions listed above as part of its public interest duties to the usTLD community and to ensure open and unbiased decision-making by the Council. Neustar will have the flexibility to consult Council members or other stakeholders with specific expertise to provide advice on particular programs.
Question 7: Should the Council undertake additional and/or different activities? If so, please describe? Are there any activities that you believe the Council should not undertake?
Guidelines for Council Deliberations
Neustar anticipates that deliberations by the Council will be governed by the following guidelines:
Policy and Other Recommendations:
- The Council may make policy and other recommendations to Neustar in response to a direct request or proposal from Neustar. It may also submit to Neustar any recommendation for a specific policy or other improvement that would benefit the usTLD stakeholder experience or increase the use of usTLD by the usTLD community. If requests or proposals are made to the Council by Neustar, the Council will meet to consider the request or proposal as soon as practicable, but generally within 30 days after the request or proposal is made. Neustar will give reasonable consideration to requests from the Council for additional time to enable members to conduct outreach activities within their respective constituencies and develop an educated assessment of a policy request or proposal.
- The Council may initiate a policy or other recommendation development process if a request for consideration is made by a member of the Council and endorsed by at least one-third (1/3) of the Council members. Such matters, however, should be within the scope of usTLD contract. To the extent that the Council has questions as to whether a particular recommendation is within the scope of the usTLD contract, it should consult with Neustar prior to consideration of such recommendation. Qualified requests will be placed on the agenda for a meeting of the Council, provided that the Council will be provided at least three weeks to consider a proposed policy before being asked to vote on it.
Council Comment and Informal Input:
- Neustar may request informal input from the Council on specific aspects of usTLD management or for other recommendations or input for the improvement of the space as the need may arise.
Council Recommendations and Input:
- The Council will work with Neustar to develop policies and procedures for receiving and responding to such requests.
- The Council may offer input to Neustar on any issues within the Council’s purview/scope of work. Neustar will give due consideration to all such input.
Question 8: Should additional and/or different guidelines apply?
Question 9: Is this approach sufficient? If not, why?
Question 10: Should additional or different guidelines or steps apply?
Decisions of the Council require the presence of a quorum at a meeting of the Council. A quorum is present when a majority of the Council members are present, either in person or virtually.
The Council will operate by consensus. Consensus is established when the Council members present for consideration of the subject at hand have reached substantial agreement and no member of the Council objects strenuously to the proposed position.
When consensus is not reached on a Council Policy recommendation or comment, any Council member may request a formal vote of the Council. A simple majority of the Council membership present, either in person or virtually, at a meeting is required for approval. Votes may be taken in person, electronically, or by other mechanisms mutually agreed upon by the Council members.
If requested, statements of minority opinions will be included along with the output of consensus decisions or majority votes.
Question 11: Do you agree with the decision making process described above? If not, how would you modify it?
Transparency of Council Activities
The Council will maintain a website, facilitated by Neustar, to inform the public about Council activities. Council meeting dates will be publicized on the website, along with meeting agenda items and the specific actions taken by the Council. Council meetings will be open to the public through a variety of communications technologies.
The Council will be representative of the broader usTLD stakeholder community. The Council’s proposed operating procedures (including policies and procedures for stakeholder consultation), its meeting policy, and policies on transcripts and recordings will all be refined based on responses to this NOI, as will the Council’s work plan. From time to time these procedures may be refined and improved based on public input. Comments received in the course of any consultation will be summarized and published. The community will be promptly updated on Council activity through the usTLD Stakeholder Resource Page. Members of the usTLD Stakeholder Council will be required to disclose the interests they represent in serving on the Council.
Meetings will be posted in advance. Council meetings will be open to the public and recorded and archived on the Stakeholder Resource Page.
Question 12: Do you have additional suggestions to ensure that the Council operates in an open and transparent manner?
Question 13: What forms of communications technology should be used to provide public access to Council meetings?
Consideration of Council Action by Neustar
Neustar will review and evaluate policy recommendations and other Council input, and will determine whether the recommended policy (1) falls within the Council’s scope of work; (2) followed the Council’s guidelines for deliberation through a fair and open process; (3) furthers the purposes of the usTLD and serves the public interest and the interests of usTLD stakeholders; (4) does not unreasonably burden or undermine the efficient and commercially reasonable operation of the usTLD; and (5) is within the scope of the usTLD contract and consistent with U.S. law.
If Neustar determines that a policy recommendation from the Council does not meet these requirements, it will return the recommendation to the Council along with a detailed explanation of the reasons the recommendation was declined. The Council may reconsider the policy recommendation, make changes to it, and resubmit it for Neustar’s consideration.
If Neustar determines that a policy recommendation meets the requirements, it will formulate and propose a change for review and approval by the DOC. The DOC retains final authority to review and approve or disapprove the policy recommendations submitted by Neustar.
Question 14: Are there other procedural steps that should be considered in connection with Neustar’s consideration of Council recommendations?
Support for the Council
Neustar will provide a Council Secretariat, including a Manager of Public Participation, to manage the process for developing usTLD policy and other recommendations through the Stakeholder Council and help ensure that the Council is informed of the range of stakeholder perspectives so that it can make policy recommendations.
The Secretariat may carry out internal research and/or commission external research to provide stakeholders with evidence-based information to inform policy discussions. In some instances the Secretariat, in consultation with the Council, may also issue a call for experts on a particular topic and identify affected stakeholders to help form an issue group or roundtable forum to discuss issues in more detail. The Secretariat will assist the Council in considering how stakeholders may be affected by a proposed policy or recommendation, and, at Neustar’s direction will be responsible for reaching out to stakeholders and gathering input on specific topics as appropriate.
The Secretariat will generally be responsible for publishing a summary of the feedback received throughout the course of any policy consultation and for maintaining the Stakeholder Resource Page. The Secretariat will keep the minutes of the Council meetings, document decisions, arrange the logistics for Council meetings (including travel, meeting space), provide communications technology resources and tools for public access to open Council meetings, and otherwise facilitate the Council’s work.
Question 15: Are there additional tasks that should be undertaken by the Secretariat in support of Council activities or stakeholder input?
The current Start Up Plan, Milestones, and Deliverables for the Council are described below:
|Final DOC Approval of Agreed Announcement +7||1. Announcement of Initial Stakeholder Council Members|
|Announcement +60||2. Organizational meeting of Stakeholder Council; election of officers
3. Publication of Member Interest Statements
|Organizational Meeting +60||4. Adoption and Publication of Draft Council Work Plan (14 month plan), including schedule for Deliverables/Milestone Schedule for Implementation progress Evaluation
5. Revised Draft Council Operating Procedures, including meetings policy, transcripts and recordings publication policy
|DOC Approval of Agreed Draft Work Plan +7||6. Publication of Draft Council Work Plan for Public Comment|
|DOC Approval of Draft Agreed Work Plan +7||7. Adoption of Conflicts of Interest Policy and publication of Member Interest Statements|
|Post +30||8. Close of Council Work Plan comment period|
|DOC Approval of Final Agreed Work Plan +7||9. Adoption and Publication of Council Work Plan (14 month plan), including schedule for public consultation and Deliverables/Milestone Schedule for Implementation Progress Evaluation|
|DOC Approval of Final Agreed Work Plan +7||10. Revised Council Operating Procedures, including policies and procedures for public consultation, meetings policy, transcripts and recordings publication policy|
|Approved Work Plan +60||11. usTLD Public Stakeholder Town Hall (virtual)|
|Virtual Town Hall +45||12. usTLD Stakeholder Council 1st Annual Report|
Question 16: Is the timeline for these deliverables reasonable and achievable? Are any important milestones and deliverables missing?
Question 17: Please provide any comments and/or concerns regarding this proposal or process overall.