Ex-auDA Director cautions auDA Board that attempts to impose restrictions will be seen as anti-competitive behaviour

Ex-auDA Director, Simon Johnson resigned from auDA on the 24th November, 2017.

auDA appeared to not have much to say about Mr Johnson leaving at the time.

Today, Mr Johnson weighs-in on the potential damage the proposed PRP Final Report recommendations could have on Australian domain names.

Read Simon Johnson’s scathing letter:

—————————————————————————————————————

Final Report: Recommendations to the auDA Board: Reform of Existing Policies & Implementation of Direct Registration

Thanks for the opportunity to respond to the report released for public comment.

As you know, I’m a former Board Director of auDA, former Chair of the Board Security and Risk Committee and have more than 25 years’ experience in the Internet industry. 

I am very concerned about the consequences of such a radical shift in policy and make the following observations:

  1. auDA has no mandate to impose restrictions on Australian companies, as to how they use domain names. For example, reviewing website content to determine eligibility. auDA is not the “Internet Police” and this is a textbook case of overreach.
  2. auDA has no mandate to impose restrictions on what it calls “resale and warehousing”. I believe this would constitute misuse of market power.
  3. The buying and selling of domain names is a legitimate business model, and has been operating since before auDA was founded. This is a sign of a healthy, mature marketplace and auDA should be promoting it, instead of doing the exact opposite. 
  4. According to auDA’s own documents, the Public Consultations held by auDA had “approximately 85 people” attend for the entire country of Australia. This is not statistically significant, and the feedback or results should not be used to formulate policy. The same applies to Focus Groups and the Public Consultation Paper. 
  5. Both the Panel and auDA have presented no evidence to demonstrate that domain monetisation or “resale and warehousing” is an issue.
  6. There is no clear benefit in proceeding with Direct Registration, under the proposed model, at this time. Opening up the .au namespace is seen by many people in the industry as a high risk “cash grab” that adds no value. I believe such a radical shift in policy will cause confusion in the marketplace and force small business to spend more money, defensively registering domain names, that they may not even use.

I’d caution the auDA Board, that attempts to impose restrictions (per the items above) will be seen as anti-competitive behaviour and will not be supported by large segments of the Internet industry. In the event auDA changes policy and then retrospectively goes back and suspends or cancels domain names, Australian businesses who have invested in these .au assets will suffer a loss. Such an action would signal a catastrophic sovereign risk to the market and could reduce investment in Australia’s digital economy.

Given the substantial negative impact these proposed changes will have on Australian companies, I strongly recommend the Board does not proceed with the proposed changes.

Regards,

Simon Johnson

10 thoughts on “Ex-auDA Director cautions auDA Board that attempts to impose restrictions will be seen as anti-competitive behaviour

  • Scott.L
    April 12, 2019 at 2:19 am
    Permalink

    Bravo Simon, it goes to show that we need safeguards to protect our namespace from both political and hostile market forces that sought to capture control of the Administration of the Domain Name System in Australia.

    Like
    6 people like this.
  • Avatar
    April 12, 2019 at 6:56 am
    Permalink

    From once being one of the most respected ccTLD’s in the world, .au is in danger of becoming the laughing stock of the worldwide internet industry. The international reaction and publicity continues to mount as you can see from this article by the highly respected Ron Jackson of DN Journal.

    http://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2019/dailyposts/20190411.htm

    Like
    9 people like this.
  • Avatar
    April 12, 2019 at 9:28 am
    Permalink

    Well said, Matilda.

    DNJournal.com is THE most respected Domain Name news site in the world. Their articles are often picked up by the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, USA Today, New York Times, MSNBC, Boston Herald, Montreal Gazette.

    Every person and organisation in the world that has an interest in domain names, including ICANN, is CURRENTLY READING this article: http://www.dnjournal.com/archive/lowdown/2019/dailyposts/20190411.htm

    auDA can sit back and say that, “It wasn’t us who made the recommendations, we’re just voting on it?!”, but auDA were the ones who CREATED and GAVE POWER for The PRP to exist in the first place. They should have seen the damage The PRP were creating over the past two years and PUT AN EARLY STOP TO IT.

    Do the right thing now, auDA, throw this entire Final Report by The PRP in the bin. It’s nothing but negative, damaging garbage.

    Like
    7 people like this.
  • Scott.L
    April 12, 2019 at 12:54 pm
    Permalink

    The Department of Communications and the ACCC are allowing auDA to flirt with this dangerous policy experiment, but why? To date, Huge amounts of voluntary effort went into defending our rights against those who have spent auDA’s money to take those rights away. If the Government does not intervene, it would be guilty of failing it’s public duty to protect both business and the public from commercial harm.

    Like
    6 people like this.
  • Avatar
    April 13, 2019 at 6:20 am
    Permalink

    “If the Government does not intervene, it would be guilty of failing it’s public duty to protect both business and the public from commercial harm.”

    Hi Scott, the Federal Government is currently a Caretaker Government. Parliament has been prorogued – see and Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet: Guidance on Caretaker Convention .

    It is unlikely that the Government will intervene during the current Caketaker period. The Department may write to the Chair of the auDA Board. It’s representative may discuss with the Board the question of making and/or announcing any new policy until the incoming Government Minister responsible for oversight of auDA has been sworn in, briefed by the Department on auDA issues, consultation has taken place with the Minister and guidance received.

    Ian Johnston

    Like
    6 people like this.
    • Avatar
      April 13, 2019 at 7:03 pm
      Permalink

      The links dropped out of my last post, one more attempt:

      … the Federal Government is currently a Caretaker Government. Parliament has been prorogued – see: https://www.peo.gov.au/learning/fact-sheets/preparing-for-a-new-parliament.html and Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet: Guidance on Caretaker Convention: https://www.pmc.gov.au/resource-centre/government/guidance-caretaker-conventions

      Like
      3 people like this.
    • Scott.L
      April 14, 2019 at 2:29 pm
      Permalink

      Thanks Ian, no doubt perfectly timed by auDA. If I may ask you a question – In the event of a new Minister appointment, does the new Minister have the power to unwind decisions made by the auDA Directors during this caretaker period? Or, should auDA be allowed to make decisions that could change the nature of a markets economic activity during this caretaker period?

      Like
      Anonymous likes this.
      • Avatar
        April 14, 2019 at 9:14 pm
        Permalink

        Scott, you’ve raised legal questions that I’m not qualified to answer. However, I doubt that any new Minister – even if s/he had the power – would want to unwind decisions made by the auDA Board during the Caretaker period.

        I note the Guidance on Caretaker Convention state:
        “1.6 The conventions and practices have developed primarily in the context of the relationship between Ministers and their departments (and, by extension since the commencement of the Public Service Act 1999, executive agencies). The relationship between Ministers and other bodies, such as statutory authorities and government companies, varies from body to body. However, those bodies should observe the conventions and practices unless to do so would conflict with their legal obligations or compelling organisational requirements.”

        My observation over five decades is that Ministers and their Departments prefer to use moral suasion and Boards, to the extent they could legally do so, respond appropriately. Legislative intervention are normally a last resort.

        Three scenarios post Election:
        1. Same Government, same Minister
        2. Same Government, new Minister
        3. New Government, new Minister.

        I’ve prepared numerous briefs for 1 to 3 on numerous issues specific to entities for which the Minister had portfolio responsibilities notably in the Communications portfolio. The appropriate brief is chosen and provided to the Minister in due course.

        Generally speaking, in my view, it would be prudent for any Board to wait till the expiration of the Caretaker period and some time after before announcing any major policy changes. This extra time would provide an opportunity to engage with one or more portfolio Ministers and their departments with an interest in major policy changes.

        Like
        Anonymous likes this.
        • Scott.L
          April 15, 2019 at 1:47 pm
          Permalink

          Yeah, this is interesting. Does Ministerial correspondence continue throughout the Caretaker Period?

          I imagine relevant correspondence about pressing issues and reporting would be somewhat delayed. Assuming a new Minister is appointed (non-liberal) he/she would need to be brought up to speed on many complexities, having regard to the DNS as a public asset, for the benefit of all Australians. Afterall, it’s my understanding that the Minister (relevant government) ultimately holds the authority over auDA with regard to public policy, get it wrong and off with your head.

          Like
          Anonymous likes this.
          • Avatar
            April 16, 2019 at 7:35 pm
            Permalink

            Hi Scott
            Re your question – Does Ministerial correspondence continue throughout the Caretaker Period? – the Guidance on Cakertaker Convention states in relation to INTERNAL AGENCY MATTERS:
            “8.1 Correspondence
            8.1.1 The arrangements for handling correspondence during the caretaker period are a matter for individual agencies. In PM&C, the practice is to answer general correspondence during the caretaker period rather than leave it to accumulate. However, Ministers usually sign only the necessary minimum of correspondence during the caretaker period and some correspondence is prepared for signature by ministerial staff or departmental officers instead. …”

            Like
            Anonymous likes this.

Comments are closed.