auDA, Please Speak Plainly

Last week, I had a couple of telephone calls with Cameron Boardman and Di Parker from auDA. This was in relation to the S249D meeting members have called – and the four resolutions contained therein.

The initial conversation we had on Tuesday was rather long (about 1 hour 40 minutes), and it was agreed that the actual points of view discussed would remain confidential. They said they would come back to me by Friday with some feedback and suggestions.

I did receive a call on Friday afternoon, and quite frankly, I was disappointed in the response. More on this at a later date.

As I wrote on Friday, the big issue is the Registry Transformation Project.

If I’m Confused, Then Others Will Be Too!

Even I don’t know exactly what auDA is planning – and I consider myself reasonably intelligent!

When auDA says on numerous occasions (in writing) that “auDA has decided to conduct a tender process to enable auDA to build and operate a dedicated .au registry, then I take them at their word.

When I repeat this back to the CEO, he simply says that “the language and drafting is poor”. It actually means something else.

Really? Well please tell us what it means Mr Boardman! Take your members with you on this journey – and you might find that resistance fades.

And if there are other options that auDA may consider with this whole process, why not tell your members in “plain speak”?

Milestone

Today marks a significant date in auDA’s “Black Ops” project. The clock is ticking.

Ned O’Meara – 26th June 2017


Disclaimer

 

 

26 thoughts on “auDA, Please Speak Plainly

  • Avatar
    June 26, 2017 at 10:09 pm
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    Wow Ned – you have the patience of a saint.

    Well done for staying calm, but I’ve had it.

    There is no ambiguity about what auDA has said and what they are planning to do. And they should stop lying about it to you and other members.

    AuDA went out with an REOI that said it complied with the 2012 Industry Advisory Panel and the original competition model panel from 2001.

    But the 2012 Panel emphasised the need for clear separation of policy and operations, in order to assure that auDA’s regulatory role is not compromised. (Acknowledged – these words can be willfully manipulated)

    However the 2001 Panel was even more explicit in its observation that it would be undesirable for auDA to operate as a registry or registrar.

    And yet – we have:

    a news post from auDA’s CEO on 5 May that repeatedly states an intention to build and operate a registry.

    auDA’s RTP homepage that talks about building and operating a dedicated registry.

    auDA’s REOI announcement that states an intention to build and operate a registry.

    How many times can they use “poor language or drafting”?

    I call BS.

     

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    • Ned O'Meara
      June 29, 2017 at 5:54 am
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      @SPO – great summation.

      I like to use the word “misled”, but that’s just being polite. 😉

  • Avatar
    June 27, 2017 at 7:45 am
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    “the language and drafting is poor”.

    If only they had a Director of Communications who was able to correct this language before it is published…

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  • Avatar
    June 27, 2017 at 11:22 am
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    The Commonwealth Department of Communications should take over administration and the wholesale registry.

    auDA can be wound up and the assets transferred as per the proper laws and auDA Constitution.

    The fact is there are numerous governments running both domain name administration and the related wholesale domain name registry, with the situation auDA is in there is no other choice.

    100% we need to move away from private companies and individuals making hundreds of millions as they have so far from the Australian wholesale registry plus that risky foreign ownership of this Australian Critical Infrastructure.

    Obviously the wholesale registry contractor will try everything they can to keep this cash cow but it needs to stop and they should not be on the auDA Board pushing through decisions and policy changes where they obviously have a conflict of interest and financial gain involved.

     

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    • Ned O'Meara
      June 29, 2017 at 6:06 am
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      @Sean – when the Minutes were available, one could see that the auDA Director who works for AusRegistry recused himself from any discussions and decisions relating to the registry contract. For the record, that seems to me to be proper process.

      Whilst we no longer see the Minutes (Resolution 1 of S249D meeting), one can only presume this is still the case.

    • Scott.L
      June 29, 2017 at 1:35 pm
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      auDA is already acting like a government department full of weird political birds flapping their wings about, singing kumbaya around a fire.
       

  • Avatar
    June 27, 2017 at 11:44 am
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    As a follow up to my initial tirade:

    I want to make clear that I don’t have strongly-held views about what should happen with the registry function, whether it should be brought in-house, whether it is constitutionally valid for auDA to do so etc.

    The current issue is not about should auDA do this or can auDA do this – but rather how they are going about it?

    The worst possible outcome would be for voices on this and other forums to become fractured because some people agree the registry should be in-house, others fear that there may be no better option at this time point (@Snoopy), others think Government should just roll-in and take over the show and yet others believe the outsourced model is terminally flawed and out-of-step with the rest of the developed world (@Garth Miller).

    All good points – but lets play the hand that has been dealt us at the moment. auDA is plowing ahead, allowing members no visibility. They may be right in their decision-making – but how can we be sure?

    Bringing the registry in-house has significant structural, staffing and financial implications. Any Board that takes its corporate responsibilities seriously would seek answers to a range of questions before acting:

    What are the risks vs benefits? One would assume a very detailed risk analysis has been undertaken

    What are the advantages and disadvantages of each alternative? One would assume a comprehensive comparative analysis has been undertaken.

    What are the staffing requirements of operating a registry? One would assume detailed structural modelling has been undertaken. (Noting that CIRA, manager of .CA, has fewer domains but 81 staff)

    Where will all of the money come from and what will the cost implications be for registrars, resellers and registrants? One would assume that detailed financial modelling has been undertaken and considered.

    One would assume. Because we don’t know.

    /rant

     

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    • Ned O'Meara
      June 29, 2017 at 6:09 am
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      @SPO – I hope everyone reads your post. This is what our S249D meeting is all about.

      “All good points – but lets play the hand that has been dealt us at the moment. auDA is plowing ahead, allowing members no visibility. They may be right in their decision-making – but how can we be sure?

  • Scott.L
    June 27, 2017 at 5:53 pm
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    Lets not forget;

    The constitution is a contract between auDA and its Members.  

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  • Avatar
    June 27, 2017 at 9:16 pm
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    I think is a bit harsh to call it a “black ops” project.  The reality is  auDA can’t float any options to stakeholders ( members, as well as government and civil society )  until they have analysed and made public the responses from the EOI exercise.

    Once auDA they have the results from the EOI they can say to the community “these appear to be our options, A,B,C these are the costs, these are the risks”.  Clearly they have a preference – end outsource,  this is sensible, but they need to go through the EOI exercise in the interest of transparency and to get hard numbers. Running an EOI exercise without mentioning to the people who are likely to respond that your current preference is to run it in-house is not at all transparent – or fair, responding to an  EOI takes time and resources, the respondents need to know context and preferences. 
    Using special resolutions, procedural rules to try and block or delay the RTP and EOI exercises before they are even out of the gate looks suspiciously like somebody is working behind the scenes to protect substantial commercial interests.  
    auDA already decides who can connect to the registry, dictates the commercial terms, along with the IETF, and ICANN sets both technical specifications and service levels, establishes policy and resolves complaints, it is unclear how adding the direct management of the .au database to this set of competencies compromises auDA’s independence.

    Transparency in the management of the .au database is more important than a separation of operations and administration. It can be argued that the lack of transparency and awarding of contracts without tender is more damaging to auDA’s reputation and perceived independence as a regulator than an active role in management of a database would be. 

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    • Avatar
      June 27, 2017 at 11:25 pm
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      Resolution 3 is in no way blocking the RTP or EOI exercises and these exercises should be done so that auDA can put a case to its members.

      Resolution 3 is to ensure that auDA operates in a transparent way for the benefit of the Australian community.

      How does the community expect auDA to manage a registry when they promised members a new auDA website/members portal 10 months ago and still have not delivered.

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      • Ned O'Meara
        June 29, 2017 at 6:10 am
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        This cracks me up!

        “How does the community expect auDA to manage a registry when they promised members a new auDA website/members portal 10 months ago and still have not delivered.”

  • Avatar
    June 28, 2017 at 12:04 am
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    I think the Constitution is quite clear, auDA has a duty under its objects to ..

    c. to ensure a cost effective administration of the .au ccTLD and its sub-domains;

    and to..

    e. to manage the operation of critical technical functions including:i. the primary and secondary .au name servers;ii. zone files for second level domains; andiii. a searchable data base containing information on registrations within the .au ccTLD.

    I would argue auDA already has both a right and duty to “manage” the .au ccTLD register / database and zone files in the most cost effective way.

    “Manage”  is a transitive verb, to be in in charge of etc. The the constitution does not say “to oversee the management of” it says “to manage” 😉

    Anyway,  who knows …

    Resolution 3

    “That auDA is not a wholesale registry as defined by its OBJECTS and Principal Purposes under (3) of the auDA Constitution. If auDA wishes to change its purposes, objects or scope, then it must first put a special resolution to its Members by virtue of (16.3.d) of the Constitution.”

     

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  • Avatar
    June 28, 2017 at 12:37 am
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    Resolution 3  – “That auDA is not a wholesale registry as defined by its OBJECTS and Principal Purposes under (3) of the auDA Constitution. If auDA wishes to change its purposes, objects or scope, then it must first put a special resolution to its Members by virtue of (16.3.d) of the Constitution.”In my reading of the constitution auDA already has a right  – and I would argue a responsibility, to manage the .au register in-house, it was established to:c. to ensure a cost effective administration of the .au ccTLD and its sub-domains;e. to manage the operation of critical technical functions including:i. the primary and secondary .au name servers;ii. zone files for second level domains; andiii. a searchable data base containing information on registrations within the .au ccTLD.https://www.auda.org.au/about-auda/our-org/constitution/#3.1Resolution 3 could be interpreted as a clever attempt to prevent auDA  from carrying out its responsibilities by confusing the notion of a “wholesale registry” with the responsible and cost effective management of critical functions as already allowed under the constitution.

    😉

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  • Avatar
    June 28, 2017 at 12:53 am
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    too much time on my hands … A Principal Purposes of auDA under the current constitution is to “manage the operation of critical technical functions including.. a searchable data base containing information on registrations within the .au ccTLD”. The .au registry is exactly that, a searchable data base containing information on registrations within the .au ccTLD. Pretty straight forward.If I were mischievous and trying to block the RTP I would try and do exactly what resolution 3 does, try and differentiate between the operation of critical technical functions” ( allowed under the constitution ) and a “wholesale” service, where there is a natural monopoly, they are one and the same. You cant mange the “ccTLD” database without also providing a wholesale service.

     

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    • Ned O'Meara
      June 28, 2017 at 4:42 am
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      @Garth – I appreciate your contributions to the debate. It is good to get the perspective from a “supplier” that is participating in the EOI. I don’t say that as a “sledge” – I mean that genuinely.

      As I’ve written to you in our exchange of emails, the members behind the S249D meeting (and the resolutions) just want there to be the same level of transparency that has always existed in auDA. We are certainly not against a RTD – that’s what was always meant to happen! And whilst the majority of us behind the S249D are Demand Class members, this exercise has also made some strange bedfellows – there are numerous Supply Class members who have signed on to the cause.

      If auDA is to operate the registry themselves (as they say over and over in their newsletters!), then this is potentially such a major change to the way auDA has always conducted itself. What should happen are panels, public consultations – followed by special resolutions approved by both classes of members. And if they make their case properly, then they should get overwhelming support from members.

      As one commentator on here noted, the worrying thing is that auDA have been promising a better website / members portal for the past 10 months, and they haven’t even been able to deliver that!

  • Avatar
    June 28, 2017 at 5:55 am
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    well, playing devils advocate, my observation would be that as some people have already observed, the clock is now ticking on the current arrangements.
     
    If I had a significant commercial interest in killing the RTP, I would do exactly what is being advocated, try and pass a resolution that attempts to confuses an issue that is currently clear and enshrined in the current auDA constitution ( auDA can mange the .au registry ), then I would run out the clock with panels, public consultations – followed by a requirement for special resolutions approved by both classes of members etc.
     
    Given that the time required to build internal capacity and transition a registry is 3-6 months, and likely no work could start or funds be expended until the changes you think are required to the constitution have been approved, auDA will have no option but to roll over the current arrangements for a few more years and they can declare victory.
     
    I don’t think this is going on but it might look a little suspect to an outside observer 😉 A textbook case of regulatory failure brought on by regulatory capture made relatively easy by industry self-regulation.
     
    There is probably a way forward for auDA that addresses your concerns, all will be revealed in a few weeks when the the “next steps” in the RTP are announced. I think I have exhausted my views on this subject, not much skin in the game, I just find internet governance interesting and the .au model is something of an outlier. Thanks for the chance / forum to have a debate. Good luck.

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    • Ned O'Meara
      June 28, 2017 at 6:31 am
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      Sorry Garth – can’t let a couple of your comments go unchallenged.

      Show me where it is “clearly enshrined” in the auDA Constitution that auDA can manage or operate the registry?

      “Registry Operator” means a Legal Person who has been accredited or licensed by auDA to maintain a Registry and or to provide registry services in relation to the Registry (usually, but not necessarily, with respect to a Second Level Domain in the .au name space). (Amended by Special Resolution, 23 September 2002.)

      No one – least of all me – wants to kill a RFT. But without exception, I can tell you that everyone on the 2012 Industry Advisory Panel thought that the registry contract was to go out to tender in 2017. What we now have is auDA saying that they potentially “want to operate the registry”. Read their newsletters. If they want to do that, fine – but follow tried and tested procedures.

      I would never allow myself to be manipulated by anyone. There is no conspiracy or agenda. Just a lot of pissed off members who are sick and tired of the current auDA regime taking us for granted.

      There is a way forward – I suggested it at the bottom of this blog post.

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  • Avatar
    June 28, 2017 at 7:47 am
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    😉 ok ok , well as you noted I am firmly in the camp of  “the model is flawed”,  so  even though I am on the “supply side” I think putting it out to tender now, despite the advice of the 2012 IAP  is not the way forward.

    I am not a lawyer, but if the Principle Purpose of a company is “to manage the operation of critical technical functions including:  the primary and secondary .au name servers;  zone files for second level domains; and a searchable data base containing information on registrations within the .au ccTLD”  then I imagine the right to run the registry is enshrined, it is one of the reasons the company was created.

    The  2012 IAP was constrained by the terms of reference, it only allowed then to consider how to select a registry operator post 2014.  As you note a registry operator ”means a Legal Person who has been accredited or licensed by auDA”.

    Unless the terms of reference allow a panel to investigate a different operational model they can’t. It seems strange to me that in all thees years the board has never struck a panel to investigate the possibility of auDA doing one of the main things the company was established to do.

    I am not a lawyer but if your advice is that because a term “Registry Operator” is defined as a Legal Person who has been accredited or licensed by auDA, auDA is prohibited from being the Registry Operator, then I fall on my sword.

    As you noted in your blogs, and as I was trying to make clear, any lengthy delay in resolving the issues you have with the RTP and auDA / the constitution only serves to protect the status quo.  I did some rough math on the time it would take for public consultation, strike and a new IAP that had terms of reference that would allow it to look at running the registry in house etc. I would say it looks grim for the RTP and good for the incumbent.

    But maybe auDA has a plan to fast track an IAP, lets hope so.

    Putting out an RFP for registry services as suggested by the 2012 IAP, while at the same time asking an new IAP to consider the merits of running the registry in house would certainly confuse prospective respondents to the RFP and dampen their enthusiasm.

    Confusing but interesting.

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  • Avatar
    June 28, 2017 at 8:48 pm
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    To summarise…

    I support the Registry Transformation Project because it does not subordinate the public good to the profit of one stake holders,  it lowers the risk that policy will be developed that benefits the few at the expense of many,   and reduces the risk of regulatory failure.

    I don’t like resolution 3, to be candid,  as drafted it seems mischievous to me. It seeks to prevent auDA from being the Registry Operator,  something that in my view auDA was established to do and that they are allowed to do under the constitution ( even it it means setting up a wholly owned  subsidiary company that they “accredit or licence” ).

    The 2012 IAP – if memory serves me correctly,  took over 9 months to engage in the public consultations that ended up in their recommendations, a 2017 IAP has not been even been formed yet. Resolution 3, if passed will likely force auDA to establish panels, engage in extensive public consultation, get member approvals etc. It would most likely have the effect of killing – or significantly delaying, the RTP which favours only one stake holder.

    What is interesting to me from a governance point of view, is that 15 people can force a meeting, get a few dozen proxies and kill a project that in my view clearly benefits millions of Australians. One could argue that all it takes is 15 motivated people to prevent something sneaking through that is bad for millions of Australians, so it can cut both ways 😉

    Industry self regulation and the relative the ease with which a private sector regulator can be captured by an entity seeking to extract rent from society is interesting.

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    • Ned O'Meara
      June 29, 2017 at 5:43 am
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      @Garth, I think you’re being unfair in a number of regards. I remember with interest your solicitor’s submission to the Industry Advisory Panel back in 2012. The opening salvo was this:

      CoCCA expresses serious concern in relation to Draft Recommendation 1A, and does not support this recommendation.

      You seemed to be a great believer in transparent processes back then, just as many members are now. A great deal of members are tired of being “misled” (that’s a polite word), and treated as mushrooms for a long time now. Using the Corporations Act and the Constitution to enforce our rights as members was an absolute last resort. The support from both Supply and Demand to our online petition has been overwhelming, and this will hopefully be reflected when the S249D meeting is called by auDA. Of course, between now and then, auDA has the opportunity to “make their case” – and if it’s persuasive and constitutional, members may vote down that resolution.

      Respectfully, please don’t criticize when you’re not aware of the whole background to our grievances. For the umpteenth time, we all agree on the importance of going out to tender for the registry contract. What we are concerned about (Resolution 3) is that auDA has stated that they intend to “operate this themselves”. This may or may not be a good idea, but all we want is for auDA to make their case to members first (if this is what they actually intend). They must follow proper established processes and protocols. If they choose not to do so, then members have every right to object.

  • Avatar
    June 29, 2017 at 11:11 am
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    @Ned, I don’t think I am being unfair, here is why…

    In this industry, where completion has been introduced, there is a natural monopoly at the registry level and the terms “registry” and “wholesaler” are synonymous and often ( and correctly ) used interchangeably. Lets look at resolution 3 if we remove the word “wholesale”, in this context it is redundant.

    “That auDA is not a registry as defined by its OBJECTS and Principal Purposes under (3) of the auDA Constitution. If auDA wishes to change its purposes, objects or scope, then it must first put a special resolution to its Members by virtue of (16.3.d) of the Constitution.”

    If you look at what ICANN defines are “the five critical registry services” and the Objects and Principle Purposes auDA, resolution 3 simply makes no sense. Whoever drafted resolution three would know, or should know that. The Principle Purposes of auDA are all about being a registry.

    Happy to be proven wrong, but can you point me to an example in this industry where the registry operator operating a SRS  is not a wholesaler ?

    In your view, given that .au is operates as a shared registry system, what is the difference between a registry and a wholesale registry ?

    Other than yourself, and one or two others, I have probably publicly raised my concerns about auDA and transparency etc. as loudly as anyone. I just happen to think that resolution three is a bit of a stretch and not helpful ;-).  But happy to be proven wrong.

    Just trying to help you fine tune your arguments for the big debate ;- )

     

  • Avatar
    June 29, 2017 at 6:55 pm
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    Oh Garth. Please. Just. Stop.

    You have considerable experience and insight with regard to ccTLD management solutions. You have worked hard and built a reputable brand in CoCCA. However, your views are sadly and fatally compromised by your repeated claims that you have “little skin in the game”.

    As sure as the sun rises, your levels of engagement and contribution increase exponentially every time there is a whiff of the .au registry function going to tender.

    Of course, you stand to have considerably more “skin in the game” should your response to auDA’s REOI prove successful.

    Of course, you would therefore like to see the legitimisation and smooth progression of the process.

    Of course, your corporate ends will benefit by marginalising auDA members that legitimately express concern and by artfully framing them as obstructionist.

    Regrettably, I remain an anonymous keyboard warrior, but no, I am not Ned, his shill, nor an employee of AusRegistry / Neustar / Golden Arches.

     

  • Avatar
    June 29, 2017 at 8:27 pm
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    @Anonymous – I posted my EOI response in the interest of transparency, so people can see how much skin I have in the game – USD $20,000/year ( twenty thousand ), and only if auDA chooses to purchase the optional commercial support contract for our registry software.

    Everything else in our proposal is just an estimate of hard costs / cost recovery that would be expended by auDA for servers third party DNS etc.

    As you note, I have been in the industry a while, since before ICANN, auDA or Ausregistry existed, I just happen to think #3 is poorly ( or cleverly ) drafted obstructionist nonsense aimed at blocking a project I personally think is worthwhile.

    Rather than attack my motives I would be interested a response to my observations regarding #3

    • Ned O'Meara
      June 29, 2017 at 9:42 pm
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      @Garth – many of us have given you responses, but it seems you just don’t want to listen – or accept that members may indeed have a valid point of view.

      So why don’t we just let Resolution 3 it run its course?

      auDA will no doubt set out their position as to why they believe they can do what they’re planning without observing (what are to many of us) clearly laid down guidelines in the Constitution.

      Time will tell who is right.

      Once again, I state that many of us are not necessarily against the proposal – we just want due process.

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