By Doug Isenberg
Created to act in “the best interests of the public who use the global Internet,” ICANN’s Independent Objector has remained very quiet since the announcement of the appointment of French professor Alain Pellet more than nine months ago.
Indeed, aside from launching a website with general information about his role and posting some “comments on controversial applications” in December, it’s unclear exactly what Professor Pellet has done. This, despite an apparent obligation (according to ICANN’s job description) that the Independent Objector satisfy some “reporting requirements to ICANN, as well as the public.”
(Apparently, these requirements are set forth in ICANN’s contract with the Independent Objector, but I have been unable to locate the contract, and ICANN has not responded to my request for a copy of it.)
So, as of this writing, all we really know is that the Independent Objector will not file objections against 11 of the more than 1,400 applied-for gTLD strings.
Apparently, Professor Pellet has been in contact with some of the other applicants, and we may hear from him shortly about those. But, he has made it clear that he will not disclose which, if any, applications will be the subject of objections filed by his office.
As a result, the public whose interests the Independent Objector were designed to serve is left in a quandary, not being able to benefit from his “limited public interest” or “community” objections until it is too late.
Because the deadline for filing objections (apparently March 13) applies to the Independent Objector as well as to anyone else who satisfies ICANN’s standing requirements, would-be objectors can’t wait to see what the Independent Objector will do or they will miss the opportunity to object.
Similarly, the Independent Objector, who can file objections only against “applications to which no objection has been filed,” must act (if at all) in a vacuum, since objections will not be publicly posted until after the filing deadline.
Consequently, the role of the Independent Objector appears to have been diminished.
Professor Pellet could resurrect the importance of his office by immediately announcing which applications will attract his objections. And, ICANN could create some legitimacy by publicly posting its contract with the Independent Objector and allowing objections to be filed after the public has had an opportunity to see what action, if any, the Independent Objector actually takes.