Connecting.nyc Inc. is a NYS nonprofit education organization advancing the operation of the .nyc TLD as a public interest resource. Neustar is the city’s its contractor and backend provider.
Connecting.nyc was joyful last month after being awarded the domain JacksonHeights.nyc after successfully completing a rigorous licensing process.
JacksonHeights.nyc, like 383 other neighborhood domain names – Astoria.nyc, BrooklynHeights.nyc, ConeyIsland.nyc, GreenwichVillage.nyc, Harlem.nyc, etc. – had been set aside for issuance to local non-profits that agreed to provide a range of services to neighborhood residents.
Connecting.nyc believes this is just the first 20 domains of what might ultimately be 3,000 auctioned names. In fact, there are already 6 more themed .nyc auctions lined up for the upcoming months involving several other premium .nyc domains. (Actually about 3,800 .nyc domains were released yesterday)
Connecting.nyc refer to the 3,000 domains as the “premium names list”, but conversations with city regulators indicate that the City has not finalized a “premium names list.” So these might better be called “domain names being considered for release via high-bid auction.”
(BACKGROUND: In 2012 the City agree to allow the contractor, Neustar, to sell “premium names” through an auction or other process as part of the remuneration for Neustar’s having advanced funds for the city’s ICANN application and for .nyc’s marketing and operation. That said, the final list of premium names has not yet been approved by the City and, per the contract, the City has to approve the plans for releasing these names. In summary, details regarding the number and composition of premium names as well as the process for distributing them are still To Be Determined. The mayor’s office made a decision to hold on finalizing details because they want to take this “step-by-step and not rush anything” (we’ve been told). They also knew that they would have to release other names in 2015 such as the name collision list (17,000 names), two-letter domains (676), etc. and therefore wanted to be strategic in thinking through the best way to ensure awareness about this phase of the roll-out. [This document provided courtesy of the city of New York and Connecting.nyc Inc.: http://connecting.nyc])
Thomas Lowenhaupt, founding director of Connecting.nyc Inc. said, “The basis of our disappointment is exemplified by the hotels.nyc domain name. It’s reasonable to assume that, in a high-bid auction, an entity such as the Hilton Corporation, with deep pockets and 30 hotels in or near the city, will win.”
“When this occurs two associated outcomes can be predicted with reasonable certainty: a traveler looking to hotels.nyc for a city hotel would assuredly be provided with a highly skewed view of the city’s 250+ hotels (a Hilton perhaps?). And a comprehensive listing of hotels (perhaps creatively mixed to include an AirBnB-like listing) fashioned by a local entrepreneur will never be seen.”
“To summarize, the city has established a workable model to guide the allocation of the neighborhood names, requiring detailed public interest commitments from those interested in the rights to their development. Further, those awarded neighborhood name must return every three years to demonstrate they’ve met their commitments. In contrast, the plan for auctioning 3,000 civicly important names does not contain any public interest requirements. No review process whatsoever. And the names are issued virtually forever.”
“A high-bid auction is a holdover from the Bloomberg Administration, it is fundamentally inequitable, it diminishes trust in our TLD, and is a global embarrassment.”
Connecting.nyc ends with 5 things that should be done instead of the domain auctions:
- Let’s begin by providing an opportunity for public engagement. There’s never been a meaningful public hearing about the development of .nyc TLD.
- Let’s set a consistent public policy that serves the public interest.
- Let’s require that perhaps 25% of the 3,000 high-bid auction names (currently referred to as “premium” names by the city) be set aside as informative directories to serve New Yorkers and our visitors.
- Let’s create opportunities (e.g., hackathons and networking) that facilitate local resident participation in acquiring these domains.
- Finally, let’s govern and operate the .nyc TLD holistically, as a common that belongs to all New Yorkers.