CIRA at crossroads

Geist-48X68.jpgPosted by Michael Geist
My weekly technology law column picks up on a recent post that reflected on the growing commercial focus of CIRA, the dot-ca authority. I begin by noting that the ten-year anniversary of Government of Canada's letter to CIRA establishing the terms under which the new not-for-profit organization would manage the dot-ca domain name space passed last month without any notice. The Government articulated a vision of the dot-ca domain as a "key public resource" and called on CIRA to act in an open and transparent manner.
More than a million domain name registrations later, many Canadians take the dot-ca for granted. The system works and this bottoms-up creation — it was the (far smaller) Canadian Internet community that worked with the government to develop CIRA — is widely viewed as a success. CIRA has held multiple elections, hosted meetings from coast to coast, eased the prices and complexity of registering domain names, and generally worked to maintain public trust by treating its administration of the dot-ca as a public trust.
While there is much to celebrate, in recent months the organization has shown a troubling yet unmistakable shift toward prioritizing commercial gain over the public interest.
CIRA executives argue that the changes are needed to "diversify and secure" its revenue streams, however, like most country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs), it already has a steady stream of revenue that is more than sufficient to meet its operational mandate. In fact, in common with many ccTLDs, CIRA is set to reap too much money for a non-profit, since the annual renewal of over a million domain names generates millions in virtually guaranteed revenue each year.
Several years ago, the CIRA board (I was a member of the board at the time) set in motion a plan to distribute "excess funds" to public interest projects associated with the Internet in Canada. That proposal received overwhelming support from CIRA members, yet those plans have lagged with CIRA failing to follow-up on a 2006 board resolution that sought to propel the issue forward. Click here to read more of Michael's post.

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