In his covering letter to ICANN CEO Paul Twomey, SITA SC Director General Hans-Peter Kohlhammer noted, "We believe that we remain uniquely qualified to manage the .aero domain and best serve the interests of the community as a whole in a neutral and unbiased manner – taking into full account the respective interests of the various sectors of the industry."
The proposal provides a concise documentation of the initiatives taken by the .aero team in policy development through the Dot Aero Council, to provide community outreach and awareness building; to provide effective eligibility and name selection services and dispute resolution; and to contribute to the innovative use of domain names. These are all issues that have been covered in one way or another in previous .aero newsletters.
The logic of the air transport community running its own domain
The agreement originally negotiated by SITA with ICANN was always premised on the basis of a governance system that ensures the air transport community as a whole remains actively involved in the evolution of standards, the maintenance of the domain's integrity and the pioneering of new services.
The process through which this takes place is the Dot Aero Council (DAC), a forum for the effective exchange of information to ensure the future development of .aero meets the changing needs of the community as a whole.
SITA signed an agreement with ICANN in December 2001 to establish and manage .aero on behalf of – and in the interest of – the air transport community, openly and transparently.
As part of the agreement, ICANN exceptionally delegated some of its policy formulation powers to SITA, in recognition of the fact that the sponsored community is in a better position to manage the detail of the domain than ICANN:
Are distribution channels sufficiently at the service of the community?
Whilst the proposal document does not request any specific changes in the charter or policy delegation, it does make the point that valuable lessons have been learnt over the past four years. As a result several areas have been identified where the .aero team consider a change in the agreement would be to the benefit of a sponsored community and Internet users overall.
The key recommendation is that a sponsored community should not be required to serve the needs of a distribution channel: rather, the distribution channel should serve the needs of the community. The proposal continues:
"As indicated in the past – in our annual proof-of-concept reports and on numerous other occasions – we continue to believe that the current agreement has proven to lack the flexibility necessary to establish a distribution channel suitable for the needs of the sponsored community and that it is counter-productive to create a competitive environment in the context of a small community-focused TLD."
"While registrars in general are highly qualified and effective in providing generic domain registration services, the registrar community typically lacks deeper understanding of the specific needs of a sponsored community."
"In the past fours years, SITA has been forced to turn down a number of applications from companies wishing to become .aero registrants from aviation entities in the least developed countries - simply because the current distribution model is unable to accommodate the settlement mechanisms traditionally used in the air transport community."
In summary, the .aero submission to ICANN notes that what was once an appropriate means of introducing competition in an established .com market, has proven to be highly inappropriate for a start-up top level domain with a narrowly focused community. Insistence on the registrar model unreasonably increases the cost of operating a sponsored top level domain and the limitations of the registry-registrar model significantly influence development and implementation of policies.
We want to continue working with registrars and with more of them but at the same time we want to be able to use community specific channels.
While we intend to continue working with ICANN-accredited registrars, we have also asked ICANN to allow SITA to serve the community directly – and to allow SITA to involve other aviation entities that SITA considers qualified in the distribution of focused .aero services. We believe that failure to achieve improvement in this area will prevent SITA from serving the needs of the sponsored community, lead to stifled competition, and eventually to a failure of the concept of sponsorship.
Maximum freedom for innovation and evolution of communal standards
The proposal concludes that "the option of a sponsored domain for global communities run along the lines of .aero – based on the needs and aspirations of that community within the broader community, run by that community for the benefit of its members and for the broader community at large – has much to recommend it in resolving issues of governance and future development."
"We take our responsibility seriously and we are looking forward to serving the aviation community as the Sponsor of .aero for years to come."
The full proposal can be downloaded at http://www.icann.org/tlds/renewals/aero-renewal-proposal-16dec05.pdf.
Members of the DAC are drawn from relevant and respected associations that represent the various interest groups within the air transport community and act on behalf of various registrant groups. They include Airport Council International (ACI); the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization (CANSO); the Federation of Airline General Sales Agents (FAGSA); Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI); International Air Transport Association (IATA); the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO – acting as an observer on behalf of civil aviation authorities and based on its status as a UN body); the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA); SITA itself; and ARINC.