on Redelegation of the .af Top-Level Domain
The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (the IANA), as part of the administrative functions associated with management of the domain-name system root, is responsible for receiving requests for delegation and redelegation of top-level domains, investigating the circumstances pertinent to those requests, and reporting on the requests. On 10 September 2002, the IANA received a request for redelegation of the .af (Afghanistan) country-code top-level domain (ccTLD). This report gives the findings and conclusions of the IANA on its investigation of that request.
The .af ccTLD registry was first delegated by the IANA in October 1997 to Mr. Abdul Razeeq of Kabul as administrative contact and Hostmaster, NetNames of London as technical contact.
By arrangement with the IANA, NetNames agreed to perform the technical functions and to provide a free registration service for .af on a temporary basis, until a stable registry operation could be established within Afghanistan.
In the late 1990s, the ongoing civil war in Afghanistan made Mr. Razeeq's role as administrative contact increasingly difficult. In light of the situation inside Afghanistan, NetNames, in consultation with the IANA, halted the registration of new domain names in the .af registry, while agreeing to continue to make nameserver updates and to provide DNS resolution for the .af zone.
By early 2000, however, it had become impossible for NetNames or the IANA to contact Mr. Razeeq. Despite numerous attempts by e-mail, telephone, and postal mail over a sustained period of time, the IANA was unable to confirm whether or not Mr. Razeeq was still inside Afghanistan or, for that matter, alive. At the time, the ongoing civil war made communications into Afghanistan extremely difficult. In August 2001, the Taliban, the then-ruling regime, formally prohibited all non-governmental Internet use inside the country.
On 13 November 2001, the Taliban military forces deserted Kabul, Afghanistan's capital. After United Nations-sponsored talks in Bonn, Germany, among Afghan groups opposing the Taliban, an Interim Authority was established on 22 December 2001. On 31 December 2001, the IANA was contacted by Mr. Lawrence Yeung, Chief of the Office of Information Systems and Technology of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which had been charged by the United Nations to assist the Interim Authority of Afghanistan. Mr. Yeung stated that, with the approval of the Afghan Interim Authority, the UNDP would undertake to assume the administration of the .af registry. There is a near-total absence of a local Internet community within Afghanistan at the time of Mr. Yeung’s inquiry, only a few Internet links had been established in Kabul by international organizations and NGOs. The IANA was, however, rapidly able to confirm that the UNDP had the full backing of the Interim Authority to restore the .af registry to active status and to perform all necessary technical functions, with the understanding that the UNDP's role would be transitional and temporary. The UNDP agreed that its role would be to restore DNS service, to build technical and administrative capacity within Afghanistan, and to shift technical operations to a community-based management structure inclusive of multiple sectors within Afghanistan when feasible and appropriate.
Over the following months, the IANA worked with UNDP staff to explain the technical and administrative requirements for a ccTLD registry, and to prepare the necessary technical, administrative, and policy arrangements.
In June 2002, the Islamic Transitional Government of Afghanistan assumed governmental responsibility from the Interim Authority. On 10 September 2002, the Minister of Communications of the Islamic Transitional Government of Afghanistan and the UNDP jointly communicated to the IANA a package of redelegation documents, including:
By accompanying template, the redelegation request proposed to change the sponsoring organization to the Ministry of Communications, the administrative contact to the Minister of Communications, and the technical contact to Mr. Marc Lepage of the UNDP, with the UNDP maintaining the authoritative nameservers and registration website for .af on the interim basis described above.
The proposal specified that the .af registry would have an oversight committee consisting of the Minister of Communications, the UNDP Afghanistan Country Director, the technical contact (Mr. Lepage), and representatives of the user community. In the submitted documentation, the Ministry and the UNDP have each undertaken to perform a detailed set of administrative and technical responsibilities in service to the emerging Afghan Internet community.
In accord with the proposed interim arrangements, as described above, the Ministry of Communications and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) have agreed on the language of a Memorandum of Understanding providing a framework of accountability under which the Ministry would assume the responsibilities as the delegee entrusted with the .af registry. On 18 November 2002, the ICANN Board of Directors authorized the entry of this Memorandum of Understanding, which closely parallels prior MoUs entered for the .bi, .la, and .mw ccTLDs, with the Ministry.
This report is being provided under the contract for performance of the IANA function between the United States Government and ICANN. Under that contract, ICANN performs the IANA function, which includes receiving delegation and redelegation requests concerning ccTLDs, investigating the circumstances pertinent to those requests, and reporting on the requests.
In acting on redelegation requests, the IANA currently follows the practices summarized in "Internet Domain Name System Structure and Delegation" (ICP-1). ICP-1 represents an update of the portions of RFC 1591 (which was issued in March 1994) dealing with ccTLDs, and reflects subsequent documents and evolution of the policies followed by the IANA through May 1999.
Here, the Ministry of Communications’s request is to shift the delegation from an individual (as the current administrative contact) and the hostmaster at a company in the United Kingdom (as technical contact) to the Ministry itself. The Ministry will initially obtain the technical assistance of UNDP, with the plan later to transfer the technical operations to an appropriate policy-development and management structure that is inclusive of the various segments of the Afghan Internet community.
In considering delegation or redelegation of a ccTLD, the IANA seeks input from persons significantly affected by the transfer, particularly those within the nation or territory which the ccTLD has been established to benefit. As noted in ICP-1, the parties affected include especially the relevant government or public authority: "The desires of the government of a country with regard to delegation of a ccTLD are taken very seriously. The IANA will make them a major consideration in any TLD delegation/transfer discussions." Here, the government’s support is plain, since it has requested the redelegation.
Mutual agreement of the old and new delegees is also a significant factor favoring a redelegation. Here, both present delegees (Abdul Razeeq as administrative contact and Hostmaster, Netnames as technical contact) as well as the proposed new delegee (the Ministry) favor the change in delegation.
The Ministry of Communications appears well-positioned to serve as the delegee responsible for the challenging task of reactivating the .af ccTLD. ccTLDs have been established to facilitate and promote the spread of the Internet globally. They are delegated to designated managers, who operate the ccTLDs according to local policies that are adapted to best meet the economic, cultural, linguistic, and legal circumstances of the country or territory involved. The Ministry is sensitive to the particular circumstances of Afghanistan and has placed a priority on the development of the Internet within Afghanistan as appropriate in the context of those circumstances. As the situation in Afghanistan stabilizes, the Ministry is well-suited to work with the local Internet community as it matures to evolve the .af ccTLD toward a robust, inclusive policy-development and management structure.
The Ministry's proposed technical partner, the UNDP, has an impressive technical infrastructure, including long experience in running DNS services. The UNDP's network spans every kind of Internet environment, from the most advanced to the most rudimentary, from the United Nations headquarters in New York to 166 countries around the globe. Though it is generally preferable for a ccTLD to have its technical operations inside the country or territory, that is not an option for Afghanistan at the moment. As the Ministry of Communications stated in its redelegation request: "After a long period of unrest and destruction, Afghanistan’s infrastructure has been left gravely crippled." At the moment, the appropriate focus is on the restoration of service to the Afghan Internet community, subject to the understanding that technical operations will be shifted into Afghanistan in the future.
The shifting of ccTLD delegations from individuals operating informally as administrative and technical contacts to organizations operating under written agreements or memoranda of understanding is a positive step toward the stable and professional operation of ccTLDs in the public interest. As the Internet becomes increasingly important to global society, a framework of accountability should develop for the operation of all top-level domains, both to promote the global interoperability of the domain-name system and to ensure that the interests of local Internet communities are well-served.
In February 2000, the ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) issued a document entitled "Principles for the Delegation and Administration of Country Code Top Level Domains," commonly known as the "GAC Principles." These principles serve as "best practices" to guide governments in assuming proper roles with respect to the Internet's naming system, which the GAC has observed is a public resource to be administered in the public interest. In general, they recognize that each government has the ultimate responsibility within its territory for its national public-policy objectives, but also that ICANN has the responsibility for ensuring that the Internet domain-name system continues to provide an effective and interoperable global naming system.
In entering the MoU and framework of accountability with ICANN, the Ministry of Communications will formally assume responsibility for national public-policy aspects of the .af ccTLD with a commitment to proceeding with openness and service to the local Internet community, while acknowledging the importance of ICANN's role in coordinating an effective and interoperable global domain-name system. Clarification of this allocation of responsibility is an added benefit of the shifting of the delegation to the Ministry.
The IANA concludes that the .af ccTLD should be redelegated, as requested, from the current delegees to the Ministry of Communications of the Islamic Transitional Government of Afghanistan. Mohammad Masoom Stanakzai, in his capacity as Minister of Communications, should become administrative contact and Marc Lepage of the UNDP should become technical contact, as designated by the Ministry of Communications.
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