Campaigning for a Welsh cultural and linguistic domain

Welsh Government criteria favours Nominet

On 9th December 2011, the Welsh Government invited potential applicants for a top-level domain for Wales to submit their proposals

The notice and criteria are very different to what would be expected:

  • dotCYM was created to cooperate with the Welsh Government on a top-level domain for Wales and the Welsh community worldwide and has been working with the Government on this understanding for years. The Government has now reneged on its promise of a £300,000 loan to dotCYM and created a criteria which would need an extra $185,000 on top of that original sum. dotCYM is expected to be able to compete against Nominet in this ‘fair competition’.
  • The applicant must specify the domain name(s) for which it will submit an application to ICANN. The government should know what name(s) it wants. Why ask an applicant to guess?
  • 20% of the weighting is for the domain name and main business activities, staffing information, market analysis, target audience and services to be delivered. 60% weighting is for technical, security and financial status, and only 20% weighting for alignment with Welsh Government policy. The first 80% will be assessed by ICANN as part of the application. The benefits to Wales and the Welsh community worldwide should have been a priority, not an afterthought with just a 20% weighting.
  • The 20% weighting given to Welsh-related requirements is only concerned with the development of the economy. A Welsh top-level domain will benefit the economy; for example, dotCYM estimates that around 75% of its customers will be companies in Wales that will use the Welsh top-level domain to target customers in Wales. But how can the government see this as the only benefit worth assessing in the criteria? This isn’t going to be a quick fix to the collapsing economy, there are many other short and long term benefits that should be assessed.
  • The ICANN community, including the UK Government as a member of the ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee, agrees that the communities that will most benefit from the new top-level domains will be the cultural and linguistic communities. But the only requirement by the government in this regard is the need for a bilingual service. It doesn’t even pay lip service to the need to promote the culture and the language.
  • There is no funding for this project from the government. A Welsh top-level domain will be an important addition to Wales’ infrastructure and it’s important for Welsh economy. It’s an excellent tool to promote Welsh culture and language and to create a closer network with the Welsh diaspora. But the government does not deem it necessary to fund such a project – even with a loan that will be quickly repaid. Why? Because there’s a company in England that’s offering to do it all for free. Why support the growth of a hi-tech internet- and domain-related industry in Wales if a PFI-style agreement can be reached with a company from outside Wales?

“This is a peculiar criteria, demonstrating the Welsh Government’s lack of interest or understanding of the benefits of a top-level domain for Wales”, said Maredudd ap Gwyndaf, Director of dotCYM, “The Welsh civil servants have always made it clear that it would make their life easier to work with Nominet and now they’ve been given the go ahead by Edwina Hart to create a tender process that seems specifically designed to favour Nominet. The government does not even try to pretend that it wishes to support innovation inside Wales. “

As dotCYM seeks urgent legal advice regarding the unfair competition posed by Nominet, the following letter was submitted to the government to ask for a review of the criteria and an extension to the deadline. dotCYM now awaits the government’s response.

Letter to the Welsh Government, 6th January 2012

In reference to the speculative notice, procurer reference 6656/11B4W, “Top Level Domain Name for Wales”, dotCYM would like to ask for the deadline to be extended.

On 20th December ICANN released a draft document outlining the Applicant Support Program. This is now open for public comment until the 10th of January and the criteria is expected to be finalised sometime after that. It may very well be applicable to the Welsh application and would result in lowered application fees. We suggest that it would be premature for the government to seek applications before that process is closed. When the government published the speculative notice it was not known that ICANN were going to do this, but now that it has, the only sensible course of action would be to delay the process until ICANN has concluded its own process.

dotCYM’s understanding is that the only other bid likely to be presented will be from Nominet. dotCYM is seeking urgent legal advice in respect of competition law and related issues that this potential bid raises. The involvement of Nominet raises questions that significantly adversely impact on dotCYM’s ability to compete fairly in the process and those issues need further review and, quite possibly, determination by the appropriate authority.

The government’s decision to create an open competition for the ownership and control of the Welsh top-level domain should be reviewed. The governments of London, Scotland, Brittany, the Basque County, Galicia and Bavaria, among others, are working with local companies to build a strong, successful, community driven TLD. dotCYM believes that the Welsh government should keep control of the top-level domain in Wales and cooperate with a local company to build this important infrastructure; infrastructure that will lead to more local companies developing a domain and internet industry that would compete in this market. We have been working towards this for a number of years, alongside the government and with a broad base of community support. A PFI-style agreement with a company foreign to the Welsh community would not be to the benefit of Wales and the criteria set out by the government should reflect this need.

Since the government has only recently resiled for its previous position, which gave dotCYM a legitimate expectation that funds and support would be provided to support its bid to ICANN, it would be fair to extend the deadline. Since dotCYM was set up especially to cooperate closely with the government on a top-level domain for Wales and the Welsh community worldwide, it did not have the time and resources to prepare a bid that could compete against Nominet in such a short amount of time over the Christmas holidays. There is the added problem that Nominet has been publicly misrepresenting dotCYM by saying that it does not represent the business community in Wales, only the cultural and linguistic community. More time is needed to garner support with politicians and businesses due to the doors closed by this untruth.

dotCYM also has concerns about the influence of Nominet Trust money with government officials.

Due to the above issues and also additional issues that dotCYM reserves the right to raise in due course - we ask that you delay the deadline for futher review of the situation and the criteria. The closing of the application process to ICANN isn’t until the 12th of April, so there is sufficient time for the Welsh government to endorse a candidate.

Yours sincerely
Maredudd ap Gwyndaf