Australia’s Federal Government is set to launch a review of the management of the .au domain in a bid to ensure it remains fit for purpose in serving the needs of Australians online.
The move comes two years after the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) wrote to the board of .au Domain Administration (auDA), the independent body that oversees the operation and management framework of the .au domain, to voice concerns over the proposed changes to the Australian domain name system.
auDA had proposed the introduction of a .au environment without the need for .com, .net, .edu extension on domain names, enabling domains like www.accan.au to be registered.
At the time, ACCAN claimed that Australia’s current domain name system was highly regarded and had strong public recognition, and that the proposed changes could have adverse effects on small businesses that rely on their website and domain name to attract business if other parties register and use similar domain names.
ACCAN suggested such a move could also result in additional expenses incurred by small businesses that have to defensively register additional domain names to protect their businesses, it added.
ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin, indicated at the time that the changes may be confusing to consumers as recognised domain names of businesses and organisations could change.
In late July last year, auDA held a special general meeting that it claimed provided a forum for frank discussion on many issues and will help it to “reset its course and restore membership and stakeholder support”.
A presentation at the meeting by the organisation's CEO revealed details of independent review of expense management, the auDA board decided to undertake, appointing PPB Advisory to carry out a forensic review.
“The review of travel and expenses identified there was a lack of formal policies and procedures governing how travel and expenses were managed at auDA,” the presentation stated.
“There were high levels of expenditure on international travel and reimbursement arrangements with international bodies that lacked transparency, which should have warranted a more robust process; there was a lack of formal procedures and supporting documentation," it said.
More recently -- in August this year -- domain name owners reportedly complained that they were being “ripped off” by auDA, according to Fairfax Media, with claims from some industry players that many small business owners in Australia were being overcharged by the independent body.
Following this, in early October, auDA said it was seeking public submissions regarding the options to allow registration of a domain name directly before the dot in .au, such as ‘yourdomain.au.’
Now, the Australia’s Minister for Communications, Mitch Fifield, has announced a review of the management of the .au domain, with the Government releasing the proposed review’s terms of reference.
“The review will be undertaken by the Department of Communications and the Arts and will examine the most appropriate framework for the domain,” Fifield said in a statement. “The review will also identify risk and mitigation strategies for the security and stability of the .au domain.
“The Government is committed to working closely with stakeholders on Australia's internet governance. The Department will shortly release a discussion paper seeking input from interested industry and community stakeholders,” he said.
According to the terms of the reference paper, the review will examine whether Australia’s top-level domain, .au, is being managed consistent with Government and community expectations.
The scope of the review will see the Government involve public consultation to seek industry and community views on best practice approaches and processes for the management of .au to ensure that the governance structure is fit for purpose.
The review will examine and make recommendations on the most appropriate framework for the management of the .au top level domain, how to ensure that Government and community expectations inform auDA’s operation and decision-making, and mitigation strategies to address future risks to the security and stability of .au.
auDA said it welcomed the announcement of a Federal Government review into the .au domain, which it claimed will complement internal governance and strategy projects currently underway.
“The .au domain is one of the most trusted domain zones in the world and we look forward to working with the government and Australian internet community to maintain and enhance that position,” auDA interim board chair, Erhan Karabardak, said.
“auDA’s multi-stakeholder work on the Registry Transformation Project and Policy Review Panel will continue throughout the review.
“It is critical that we have the best possible model for managing the domain, and that our risk and mitigation strategies are among the best in the world,” Karabardak said.
The Government expects the review to be finalised by early 2018.