On June 24, 2020 leaders of the SaveDotOrg coalition, including NTEN, EFF, and Access Now, sent a letter to Internet Society and Public Interest Registry in acknowledgement that the end of the proposed sale of PIR to private equity firm Ethos Capital was only part of the original coalition’s request since November 2019. Still outstanding are critical protections in the .Org domain contract. The letter also noted three critical steps ISoc and PIR need to take for building trust including a transparent, independent review, shared findings, and a collaborative process for improving governance and accountability.
On June 26, 2020 Andrew Sullivan, on behalf of ISoc and PIR, sent a letter in response. The ISoc letter defers any responsibility or accountability related to protections or actions listed in the coalition’s letter to a recently chartered “Governance Reform Working Group” and notes that any changes or recommendations will be considered only after the Working Group has conducted their chartered work. No timeline for the Working Group’s work was included, nor was information about who is in the Working Group or how they were selected. Further, the letter from Sullivan states that PIR will continue operating as they have been without any changes.
“After completing extensive due diligence, the ICANN Board finds that withholding consent of the transfer of PIR from the Internet Society (ISOC) to Ethos Capital is reasonable, and the right thing to do.” The ICANN board’s statement was posted on APril 30, 2020.
Heads of the Internet Governance and International Digital Dialogues Division and Cyber Foreign Policy and Cyber Security Coordination Division of Germany wrote to ICANN with their concerns about the proposed sale or .ORG to Ethos Capital. The letter (PDF) from April 24, 2020 specifically calls out lack of information about the deal and sufficient guarantees.
Internet Society’s Chapter Advisory Council issued a second statement of advice to the ISoc Board (PDF), stating “We reiterate that the sale of PIR to Ethos Capital should not proceed until, unless proscribed by law, the following conditions are met, and the ISOC Board has taken into account the comments received after the information requested below is made public.” The advice was passed on April 17, 2020.
In a letter to the ICANN board and staff leadership on April 15, the US State of California’s Office of the Attorney General wrote, “I urge ICANN to reject the transfer of control over the .ORG registry to Ethos Capital. The proposed transfer raises serious concerns that cannot be overlooked.” The letter highlights concerns expressed about the proposed sale by the At-Large Advisory Committee and the broader community. It highlights a number of specific concerns with the proposed sale.
In a letter to the the ICANN board and staff leadership on April 15, 2020, a coalition of organizations including Access Now, Domain Name Rights Coalition, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and NTEN, urge ICANN to stop the sale of .ORG to private equity firm Ethos Capital. The letter outlines concerns regarding procedural issues, financial stability risk, Ethos avoidance of accountability, and issues with Ethos’ proposed PICs.
ICANN published PIR’s recently updated Public Interest Commitments (PICs), which were received by ICANN on 7 April 2020. PIR proposes that these PICs be added to the .ORG Registry Agreement should ICANN approve the change of control request submitted by PIR. In the same post, ICANN opens a 7-day public comment period, breaking with precedent of a 30-day window for public comments.
Five United States Senators, Richard Blumenthal, Ed Markey, Elizabeth Warren, and Ron Wyden, and Representative Anna Eshoo addressed the ICANN leadership including board and staff in a March 18, 2020 detailed letter and called for them to block the sale of .ORG to private equity firm Ethos. The nine-page letter (PDF) includes the positions that Ethos and PIR have not been transparent about who is behind the plan or their business plan, that Ethos’ commitment to price increase limitations is weak, and that the Stewardship Council “would be toothless.”