Tag Archives: .au

As auDA Cooks The Books With Hundreds of Foreign Members, They Stave Off Member Revolt

Hundreds of people from outside Australia have joined as members of auDA in recent weeks who have no demonstrated link to the future wellbeing of the .au policy and regulatory body. Apart that is from ensuring their employer will be able to direct them to vote as they see fit when required. Continue reading As auDA Cooks The Books With Hundreds of Foreign Members, They Stave Off Member Revolt

Neustar Sets The Record Straight On .AU Transition

The largest transition of a domain name Registry in history, the transfer all 3.15 million .au domains and associated data from Neustar’s to Afilias’ Registry platform happens Saturday night Australian time. And it has been controversial to say the least. In a post Friday by George Pongas, Vice President – Australian Registry Services, Neustar, he sets the record straight on the transition and rebuts some of the misleading claims published over the last 6 months.

The misleading claims include for the first time there will be 24/7 customer service and technical support in Australia. It already happens. Its also claimed there will be improvements in service for West Australian users due to a new dedicated DNS node in Perth. But there already was one. A claim of superior technology. However the new Registry system is retrofitted and not bespoke to .au as it is now. And the new Registry system “will have reduced feature sets.”

The full post by George Pongas is posted below or can be read on the AusRegistry site here.

Setting the story straight: Neustar’s role in auDA’s Registry Transformation Project

By George Pongas
Vice President – Australian Registry Services, Neustar

To all .au stakeholders and community members,

Today I’d like to discuss auDA’s .au Registry Transition and Neustar’s involvement in the process from start to finish.

Why now? Neustar has been intentionally silent on this topic so far, out of professional courtesy and due to our commercial relationship with auDA. It was not our place to comment or critique. That said, as the transition approaches we feel it’s important all the relevant facts are shared. Not only does Neustar pride itself on being a leader in the domain name Registry space and wants to protect its reputation, but we’re concerned that the Australian Internet-using public has been misinformed by recent communications regarding .au.

This has been a long and complex process – and rightly so, given the critical role .au plays in Australian business, technology and society.

First, let me start with the great job my team and my predecessors did over the last 16 years.

Neustar’s stellar track record with .au

Here’s a quick snapshot of our time as .au Registry Operator:

  • 100% DNS uptime since 1st July 2002.
  • One of the first Registries to feature real-time dynamic DNS updates & to implement EPP v1.0.
  • Aussie-built Registry developed exclusively for .au.
  • Dedicated infrastructure based in Melbourne and Sydney & for Disaster Recovery commitments.
  • Global leader in DDoS mitigation services, with a scrubbing capacity greater than 10Tbps.
  • Phenomenal year-on-year growth leading .au from approx. 250,000 domains in 2002 to over 3 million today.
  • Extensive, innovative Marketing and Education programs to Registrars and Registrants.
  • Developed the .au ‘brand’ – establishing logos and collateral.
  • 24-7 and 100% Australian-based Registrar Support: from first tier through to Application Specialist all Melbourne-based.
  • Regular industry contributor and participant, supporting organisations such as Internet Australia, .auIGF, ACCAN, APTLD and ICANN.
  • 16 years of continuous participation in auDA’s Policy Panels, Committees and Working Groups.
  • Helped establish a vigorously competitive Registrar channel holding regular Registrar events.
  • Conducted research, zone file analyses and regular surveys of Internet users in Australia to track Internet and domain name trends & examine issues facing Registrars, Registrants and end users.
  • Published monthly performance scorecard and the quarterly Industry magazine Behind the Dot.

Why the transition?

When auDA announced in April 2017 that it would conduct a competitive market exercise for the provision of Registry Services for .au, admittedly the process came as a surprise to us. That said, we were of course one of the most enthusiastic participants. We respect auDA’s right to conduct a tender process and applaud any activity truly intended to improve the performance, availability and security of .au for all Australians.

In December 2017, auDA announced that the .au Registry License Agreement would be awarded to Ireland-based Registry services provider, Afilias. Thus began the planning process for the largest transition of a domain name Registry in history, to transfer all 3.15 million .au domains and associated data from our Registry platform to Afilias’.

Setting the record straight

In the spirit of clarifying some of the claims that have been made throughout this process, I wanted to take the opportunity to clear up some points – because the .au community deserves to be fully informed.

The claim: There will be an improvement of the .au customer support service with 24/7 coverage
The truth: Neustar already provides 24/7 customer service and technical support, based in Australia

In a blog post Afilias announced that “no registrar will need to wait ‘til tomorrow’ to resolve a problem” due to the partnership between its Melbourne and global service centres to provide 24/7 support, also claiming that this service is “beginning July 1.”

Neustar’s Australia-based team includes the entire .au operations personnel; from our already 24/7 support to all our developers, DBAs and network engineers. We have provided this service for a long time, so this will not be a new offering to Registrars.

The claim: Western Australia will be better served due to a dedicated DNS node installed in Perth
The truth: Neustar already operates a DNS node in Perth, and regardless this does not guarantee the claimed improvements

In a press release on June 13, Afilias and auDA claimed that “Users of .au domains in Western Australia will now have more resilient DNS.” This is billed as a significant improvement to .au infrastructure in WA.

Neustar already has nodes in Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Also, it’s important to understand that just because there’s a locally-located DNS node, it doesn’t mean that will be where a user’s query ends up. This “new” Perth node is not providing any improvement to service than what is currently offered.  In addition, Neustar has 30 global DNS nodes supporting its full Registry system plus the largest DDoS mitigation platform in the world, with 10Tbps of mitigation capacity.  It’s unclear what protection (if any) will be safeguarding .au in the future.

The claim: The new Registry offers superior technology
The truth: The new Registry system is retrofitted and not bespoke to .au

The current Neustar Registry platform has two dedicated sites in-country (active/active) to support the technical demands of .au, with full failover possible in under a very short amount of time in case of a serious incident. The new Registry will switch to one dedicated site in Melbourne that is managed by engineers, DBAs, and developers mostly based overseas – with a cloud-based stand-by (cold site). The question is: has this been tested to see how quickly emergency failover can be implemented?

In addition, our current understanding is this new setup has been retrofitted from other TLDs; whereas our Registry was custom-built for .au, with over 16 years of development to explicitly meet all auDA policy and technical requirements. It was also built here in Australia and therefore has always stored and managed all .au data in-country.

The claim: The new .au Registry will provide enhanced security for DNS
The truth: Neustar is a world leader in DNS security and runs a global network with more than sufficient capacity to support .au

Afilias has pointed to “massive capacity, smarter DNS, [and] DNSSEC deployment” as “enhancements” to the protection and safeguarding of .au.

In actuality, Neustar’s existing DNS is scaled globally to handle capacity massively above the regular volumes of traffic. Not only this, Neustar has multiple layers of security and features to handle unusual traffic, attacks and denial of service events. This includes firewalls, auto withdrawal of nodes, intelligent DNS response and DDoS scrubbing of data streams – in fact, Neustar is a global leader in DDoS mitigation, with a scrubbing capacity of over 10Tbps. DNSSEC is also already deployed across multiple .au zones and is available to Registrants through the Registry.

The claim: Registrars will see upgrades to their systems when the Registry is transitioned
The truth: The new Registry systems will have reduced feature sets

Neustar is proud of the relationship we’ve built with .au Registrars over the last 16 years. Over that time we’ve worked closely and developed true working partnerships that have allowed us to collaborate on making the .au Registry as efficient as possible for the benefit of Registrars and ultimately the .au internet community.

We’ve raised a number of concerns directly with auDA about what we considered to be inaccurate remarks comparing Neustar’s systems with the new Registry and implying that the new Registry will include “all previous functionality plus enhanced security and authentication measures”, as stated in recent auDA Member communications. We questioned auDA about this and were informed that the statement is comparing the various testing phases of Afilias’ Registry – so the latest version has “all previous functionality” of the earlier versions. It doesn’t mean the Registry will have “all previous functionality” of Neustar’s platform – which we believe the statement implies. It is a fact that a number of the proprietary features and services that Neustar currently provides to Registrars will no longer be available under the new Registry system, and thus Registrars will likely notice a difference.

What happens on July 1 once the Registry is transitioned?

At 00:00:00 on July 1, 2018, .au Registry switches in full away from Neustar. From this point, Neustar has zero control of DNS, security, support and other operations for .au. As requested by auDA, there is no rollback option for this transition – which sadly means Neustar won’t be able to support the .au community with its 3.1 million domains any longer.

As expected given the experience of running the .au domain Registry for the last 16 years, Neustar has strong opinions on the transition process. We’ve raised concerns with the timing and details of the transition and the inherent risks of this process to all relevant parties including auDA, the Department of Communications and the Arts (DOCA), as well as a number of other Australian Government agencies and departments.  Neustar has not seen what we would consider to be a sufficiently detailed Transition Plan, nor did we participate in or have seen the results of the risk assessments performed by auDA. We have found this behaviour quite puzzling and concerning and believe it is unusual for a transition of this nature.

Regardless, we are committed to continuing to fulfil all of our agreed obligations during the transition as we have done over the course of this project. We truly hope for a successful transition and the continued service without interruption for the Australian Internet community.

Neustar is in Australia to stay

While we are disappointed to see the .au Registry change hands, Neustar’s operations in Australia remain a vital part of its global Registry business, Security Solutions businesses and all the other information services we offer globally.

We’re excited to keep supporting many of our other domains for Australian customers, including the .CO domain which you might have seen in several campaigns lately, providing a truly global domain for entrepreneurs, startups and creatives. We also support the .melbourne and .sydney Top-Level Domains (TLDs), as well as numerous brand TLD clients in Australia and across Asia-Pacific.

In fact, Neustar maintains the largest portfolio of TLDs supported, with almost 300 global extensions and 14 million domains relying on our technology, expertise and know-how to keep them thriving.

We look forward to continuing to participate in and support the Australian Internet community, as we have done for 16 years and will do for years to come.

About the Author:

George has been actively involved with the Australian domain industry since 2003. He currently holds the position of Vice President – Australian Registry Services at Neustar, Inc. He also served four two-year terms as a director on the auDA Board after being popularly elected by the supply class from 2009 to 2017. In the past, he has held CEO and other senior positions at successful Registrars, and played a valuable leadership role in shaping the .au retail sector in its formative years. He is dedicated to contributing his commercial sensibility and extensive industry experience to the benefit of the Australian domain industry and all Internet users.

auDA Stacks Membership With Almost 1,000 New Members and No Accountability

It’s taken 2 people 5 Board meetings, a period that could be anything from 5 to 8 months, from submitting their application to join auDA to acceptance, sources have told Domain Pulse. But now we have 955 member applications approved in one Board meeting held today. News of the approvals had begun to circulate ahead of today’s Board meeting as auDA gains a reputation of being a leaky boat.

The drawn out process of vetting applicants combined with numerous reports of applicants having been called with obtrusive questions that aren’t related to their membership applications has been commonplace over the last 12 to 24 months. Seemingly however with a fractious membership, several registrars and the incoming registry Afilias have dragooned their staff, many of whom who are not in Australia, to join in record time. Was each applicant contacted all contacted and verified as per auDA’s previous process and did auDA verify that each payment was made from an independent bank account?

The record approval of new members comes about with a Special General Meeting looming next month that is calling for the ousting of the 3 Independent Directors, including Chair Chris Leptos. The newly approved 955 members won’t be able to vote in the SGM, which auDA acknowledged in an announcement today. However they will be able to vote at the upcoming Annual General Meeting to be held later this year which could in effect overturn the resolutions put forward in the SGM and rubber stamp constitutional changes that auDA is seeking to bring about including minimising the Member’s voice in the organisation.

The number of applicants approved in today’s meeting is hundreds more than has been approved before. As Domain Pulse reported last week, “as of 28 May 2018 there were 356 Demand and Supply members listed on the auDA website, up from 311 as of 15 February. … There were 318 members as of 29 June 2017 and 286 in January 2017.”

Approved at another Board meeting earlier this year were some members with the surname “Leptos”, the same surname as auDA’s Chair Chris Leptos. Domain Pulse would be interested to know if the members with the surname “Leptos” are family members of the Chair, and if any of those are minors, that is under the age of 16 years, as well as knowing if they have paid for their own membership dues. Further, do any of them even own a .au domain name or what is their interest in the .au domain name space?

The auDA announcement also refers to a “positive response from [registrars] Ventra IP, Arq Group [formerly Melbourne IT], Dreamscape Networks [better known as Crazy Domains] and [incoming registry operator] Afilias, other organisations and individuals” that has resulted in a “surge in membership.”

Domain Pulse understands that many of those joining are staff at the above companies, including around 200 from Afilias. Afilias currently has around 10 to 20 staff in Australia, so the vast majority will live abroad and have little to no interest in the Australian domain name landscape, apart from giving support to Afilias’ continued operation of the registry where they can when it comes up for tender again and where required to vote in favour of the current auDA management. Domain Pulse would also like to know how many of these people working for the registrars and incoming registry have paid for their own memberships. The auDA constitution forbids membership being paid for by anyone apart from the applicant.

Domain Pulse would also be interested to know of the vetting procedure. Has the obtrusive questioning on who applicants know and what their background is been done for each applicant? The obvious answer is no. These applications have been rushed through so “friendly” auDA members are ready to rubber stamp any constitutional or policy changes auDA puts forward at the AGM later this year and beyond.

In principle the increase in Members is welcome. The government and former Board members have called for auDA to increase their membership. One proposal floated by a former Board member has been to establish a model like the Canadian registry, CIRA, where all domain name registrants are automatically entitled to membership. For auDA, the .au country code top level domain manager, applicants have to join in “supply” (representatives of the registry, a registrar or a reseller) or “demand” (everyone else) and pay an annual membership fee. This rush of members though has nothing to do with democratising auDA but having the membership as a pliant tool for auDA management.

* Disclosure: the writer was an auDA Board member (2005 to 2007), served on 3 auDA Names Policy Panels (2007, 2010 and 2015), was a supplier to auDA for 14 years and is now a supplier to Neustar, among a number of other registries, providing online media monitoring services.

Is auDA Facilitating Branchstacking Ahead of SGM?

Allegations of branchstacking have surfaced ahead of the upcoming auDA Special General Meeting with supply class members rumoured to be encouraging staff to join along with what appears to be family members of the Chair Chris Leptos.

The allegations also include a rumour that leading supply organisations may also be offering to subsidise membership fees, a move that is against the rules of auDA, but has possibly been agreed to through an undeclared imprimatur of auDA management.

To be clear, according to the rules auDA members must pay for their own membership and it cannot be paid on their behalf – at least this has been the case in the past. The 13 February minutes indicate the Board ‘noted’ an update to Membership Application Processing Policy and requested an amendment to Membership Application Policy. However, in typical auDA fashion of late – these changes remain secret – so much for improved transparency.

As of 28 May 2018 there were 356 Demand and Supply members listed on the auDA website, up from 311 as of 15 February when there were no members with the surname “Leptos”. There were 318 members as of 29 June 2017 and 286 in January 2017. The spikes in membership could easily be attributed to the leadup to the Special General Meetings, the first in July 2017, and the next to vote on the removal of 3 independent directors, including the Chair, and a vote of no-confidence in CEO Cameron Boardman in July 2018. However, the surge in members in 2017 was not accompanied by allegations of anyone paying membership dues other than the members themselves, while in 2018 these rumours are circulating.

It remains to be seen how many new members may suddenly appear ahead of the July SGM, and whether there are common threads to existing auDA directors or influential supply organisations – to either dispel or affirm the conspiracy theories circulating.

It all comes on top of rumours circulating that the wholesale fee for .au domain names will only be decreasing by 10% with additional costs being passed on to registrars, despite auDA’s boasting about leveraging a more competitive wholesale fee through the Registry Transformation Project.

Meanwhile at the auDA board meeting held in April, all directors voted a huge increase in fees paid to independent directors, the very same directors that are faced with a vote to oust them at the upcoming Special General Meeting.

auDA Goes to Court to Delay SGM, Wastes Tens of Thousands of Dollars and Achieves Nothing

In a disgraceful waste of tens of thousands of dollars of .au domain name registrant’s money, auDA took Josh Rowe, one of the Grumpier.com.au 3 and a former auDA Director, to the Federal Court Thursday, and in effect lost. Continue reading auDA Goes to Court to Delay SGM, Wastes Tens of Thousands of Dollars and Achieves Nothing

Questions Raised Over auDA CEO’s Academic Qualifications

A request for information to verify the academic qualifications of auDA CEO Cameron Boardman was been made to the Australian Department of Communications and Arts Sunday. Continue reading Questions Raised Over auDA CEO’s Academic Qualifications

auDA In More Turmoil: Members Threatened With Court Action Over SGM and Another Director Resigns

The turmoil at auDA continues. This week the Australian government released a scathing review into the .au policy and regulatory body with a number of recommendations that, unless they’re all acted upon will see auDA replaced. And it’s unlikely to get member approval to implement the required recommendations. Then Thursday another demand class member resigned, leaving the remaining one of 4 demand members in a strong and unenviable position given the constant turmoil the organisation is in.

Thursday’s resignation saw Nicole Murdoch, elected by Demand class (that is, by those that register domain names) resign. Officially Murdoch resigned due to the workloads of her day job at lawyers Bennett Philp where she is a Director in the Intellectual Property team. But sources have told Domain Pulse that this is only partly true and Murdoch lost faith in auDA and therefore couldn’t serve the Board in good faith.

Murdoch’s resignation saw the usual 4 Directors from Demand class (there are 11 in total, with 3 Independent and 3 Supply Class) being reduced to one – Tim Connell. It was little more than 2 weeks ago that Ned O’Meara walked out the door citing health reasons. As part of the recruitment process already in place, auDA is claiming they have “received 29 applications from candidates with exceptional credentials for the advertised vacancies.” However sources, not auDA Directors to be clear, have told Domain Pulse that auDA already had 2 candidates for the Board in mind prior to Murdoch’s resignation. The names of those earmarked have been told to Domain Pulse, so we shall see if the claims were accurate when new Directors are announced.

While Connell remains the only Director elected by or from the Demand class Members he holds a lot of power. Any decision to be approved by the Board requires “at least one Director elected by each of the Membership Classes is present.” For now, if Connell is not present, a vote cannot take place, and that includes a vote to approve new Directors. If he resigns before any new Directors are appointed it’s likely the government would be forced to step in to administer the organisation.

The turmoil continues as auDA is now threatening court action to delay the Special General Meeting that Members have called to vote on a no-confidence motion in the current CEO Cameron Boardman and the ousting of the 3 Independent Directors including the current Chair Chris Leptos.

In an email to those Members that signed the Grumpier.com.au petition Friday night, auDA say they’re seeking to delay the “SGM to the same day as auDA's 2018 AGM. If the Board does not receive sufficient agreement from members to an extension of time to call and hold the SGM by 4.00pm Monday 23 April 2018, the Board intends to apply for a court order pursuant to section 1322(4) of the Corporations Act extending the time for calling the requested SGM.” The AGM is usually held in late October or early November but auDA is proposing to hold this year’s in September. The email even has serious privacy implications with all names and email addresses of those visible.

auDA gives 2 reasons for the delay – to start dealing with the scathing review from the Australian government and the cost in holding an SGM. But in reality auDA is trying to buy time in the hope that Member anger has subsided enough so they don’t come at the Australian country code top level domain administrator with baseball bats.

Members Domain Pulse have spoken to are outraged that auDA is seeking to delay the meeting. One told Domain Pulse “Bring the fight on. Members are outraged that auDA management is seeking to override their rights as per the Corporations Act.”

Another said “auDA are up against the ropes, so let’s see if members take the bait and give them the chance to catch their breath or step in with a coup de grâce blow.”

* Disclosure: the writer was an auDA Board member (2005 to 2007), served on 3 auDA Names Policy Panels (2007, 2010 and 2015), was a supplier to auDA for 14 years and is now a supplier to Neustar providing online media monitoring services.

auDA Battling to Save Itself After Scathing Government Review Says “No Longer Fit-For-Purpose”

auDA has been put on notice that it needs to reform or its gone following an Australian government review into its operations. The report has found “urgent reforms are necessary”. But reform won’t come easy with significant changes required to its constitution, and without significant changes in leadership, Members will be reluctant to support them. Meanwhile the auDA dirty tricks campaign has taken to Twitter with fake or troll Twitter accounts attacking the 3 behind the Grumpier.com.au call for a SGM.

“The central finding of the review is that auDA’s current management framework is no longer fit-for-purpose and reform is necessary if the company is to perform effectively and meet the needs of Australia’s internet community,” said the Minister for Communications and the Arts, Senator the Hon Mitch Fifield in a statement.

In putting on a brave face, auDA has said they welcome the findings. But the reforms required are going to be nigh on impossible for the current auDA leadership to achieve. Given the .au policy and regulatory body’s constitution, they will require Member support. And Members are not happy with the current auDA leadership, ready to vote out the 3 independent directors, including the Chair, and for a vote of no confidence in the CEO Cameron Boardman in the Special General Meeting that, unless auDA’s lawyers can stop it, will happen in late May. The fake or troll Twitter accounts attacking Josh Rowe, Paul Szyndler and Jim Stewart are all sparingly used and have been making spurious allegations against the 3.

auDA’s endorsement from the Australian government under which it operates has been put on notice with the Minister for Communications Mitch Fifield advising auDA “endorsement of auDA as the appropriate entity to hold the delegation of authority for administration of the .au ccTLD will be subject at all times to auDA meeting the conditions as outlined in the ToE [Terms of Endorsement].”

auDA has 10 business days to respond “to the report's recommendations and the accompanying ToE … including an assessment of the achievability of implementing the revised ToE.” The Minister has also requested an update on the “the likelihood of successful implementation of the registry transformation project” and an update on direct registrations.

To achieve compliance, the government is demanding the reforms be implemented “to achieve compliance with the new ToE within the next twenty-four months (by April 2020)” and 6 monthly updates on progress with “significant progress to have been made by auDA at each of these checkpoints.”

Under the ToE, auDA is also required to “develop a strategy to enable an orderly transition to an alternative domain administrator in the event that endorsement is withdrawn by the Government.”

The review makes 29 recommendations, accepted by the Government, which focus on:

  • reforming auDA’s management framework
  • supporting effective stakeholder engagement
  • outlining the role and expectations of the Government
  • fostering greater trust and confidence in the .au namespace.

The report is critical of the “current membership model, and its relationship to corporate governance” and it “is impeding auDA’s decision making and is contributing to ongoing organisational instability.” It goes on to say the membership class structure is not reflective of Australia’s internet community nor auDA’s stakeholders and that the current process of selecting the “majority of directors are appointed from the membership does not support effective governance outcomes.” There are also criticisms of “directors [who] can be elected to the board with little regard to the skills required to effectively govern a modern domain administrator. Directors are also not required to meet probity, security or conflict of interest checks.” The review recommends a suitably qualified Nominating Committee to vet potential Board members as well as diversifying its membership base reforming its membership model.

“The Government’s review is timely to ensure the right framework is in place so that Australia’s .au domain administrator is modern, fit-for-purpose and supports the interests of Australia’s internet users,” Minister Fifield said.

“The Government has issued modernised terms of endorsement to auDA, reflecting changes to the digital landscape. These terms of endorsement outline the Government’s expectations and provide auDA with the mandate to make the necessary reforms to its governance arrangements.

“The Government expects to see significant progress within the next 3 to 6 months from auDA in implementing these changes.”

The review and more information is available for download from:
https://www.communications.gov.au/publications/review-au-domain-administration

* Disclosure: the writer was an auDA Board member (2005 to 2007), served on 3 auDA Names Policy Panels (2007, 2010 and 2015), was a supplier to auDA for 14 years and is now a supplier to Neustar providing online media monitoring services.

auDA Set For Management Clear-out As Members Revolt [updated]

auDA logoFollowing on from today’s earlier article about a trio of auDA members calling for the CEO and 3 independent directors, including the Chair, to be removed. Sources have confirmed the required numbers have supported the petition and a letter has been sent to auDA advising them of the requirement to hold the Special General Meeting.

The required numbers, 5% of members, had signed the petition at grumpier.com.au within minutes of the petition going public and is a formality for such an SGM under the Corporations Act. The letter calling for the SGM, a general meeting of all Members to be convened pursuant to Section 249D of the Corporations Act 2001, plus the required amount of individually signed petitions, was emailed to Cameron Boardman (CEO) and Hasaka Martin (Company Secretary) on Saturday evening. All Board Members were apparently copied in as well.

The 4 resolutions to be voted on if the SGM goes ahead are for a vote of no confidence in the CEO Cameron Boardman and for the removal of the 3 independent directors, including the Chair Chris Leptos.

Member dissatisfaction has been brewing for months following issues with consultation over direct, or second level, registrations, poor communication and transparency and poor governance.

auDA, the policy and regulatory body for Australia’s country code top level domain, is a membership organisation with members in either demand (those who register domain names) or supply (those who sell domain names) classes. There are 4 directors from each class voted on by members as well as 3 independent directors appointed by the board. Given the outrage at the auDA management and certain board members, it’s hard to see members not voting in favour of the resolutions.

For more information, see today’s earlier article at:
www.domainpulse.com/2018/04/08/auda-members-grumpier-demand-heads-roll/

* The above article has been corrected. An earlier version had said that auDA would be holding the meeting to vote on the resolutions within 2 months of the letter being sent. At this stage auDA have not confirmed if they will be challenging the legality of the resolutions and if they will go ahead.

* Disclaimer: the writer was an auDA Board member (2005 to 2007), served on 3 auDA Names Policy Panels (2007, 2010 and 2015), was a supplier to auDA for 14 years and is now a supplier to Neustar providing online media monitoring services.

AuDA Members Get Grumpier And Demand Heads Roll

Could this be the end of auDA? It’s less than 12 months since a revolt by auDA members that led to the then-Chair Stuart Benjamin resigning prior to a Special General Meeting was held to oust him. At the time auDA said they would listen to their members. But they haven’t. So a trio of members have proposed another SGM, this time calling for the sacking of CEO Cameron Boardman and removing the 3 independent directors including Chair Chris Leptos.

The SGM comes at a delicate time for auDA, the .au country code top level domain (ccTLD) policy and regulatory body. The Australian government is close to releasing a report into auDA’s governance, consultation into which has led to furious lobbying by auDA to make changes that would include sidelining the input of members and from others to have significant changes to the way auDA is managed.

The SGM has been proposed by Josh Rowe, a former auDA director for 14 years and a digital entrepreneur, Paul Szyndler, former auDA General Manager – International and Government Affairs for 5 years and industry participant Jim Stewart. For the SGM to happen, at least 5% of members must support calling it and a petition is available for auDA members to sign at grumpier.com.au. The meeting would be convened pursuant to Section 249D of the Corporations Act 2001. Sources have told Domain Pulse they well and truly have the numbers.

There are 3 themes around which those behind Grumpier have united:
1. The lack of proper process from auDA on consultation for direct, or second level, registrations with negligible input from business and the Chair Chris Leptos claiming there will be “winners and losers”. A Business Case Study was promised by the CEO Cameron Boardman, but this has not been forthcoming. The Policy Review Panel was also never fully populated like previous auDA panels were – and given that there has also been some natural attrition, this has probably contributed to its likely downfall.

2. Poor communication and transparency, which auDA management promised to improve at the last SGM, but which hasn’t happened. A tweet (see below) from former Director Simon Johnson says it all! Whilst that situation has been partially rectified, the last minutes to appear on the auDA website is for a meeting held in December 2017, while minutes haven’t appeared for a meeting in November (nor an agenda), nor meetings in February or March 2018.

SimonJohnsonTweet

Then there is the issue of potential rumours about past alleged financial irregularities by some former staff and management. This topic has been around for over a year, but nothing has been detailed or proven.

3. Poor governance including the lack of action to appoint replacement Demand class directors – following the resignation of Ned O’Meara this month there are now only 2 of 4 demand class directors on the board.

“Even since the last SGM auDA has not listened to members and not been in touch with the broader internet community,” said Josh Rowe. “There needs to be a change of leadership and this is why we’ve called the SGM.”

Member dissatisfaction, and the fact auDA is a member-driven not-for-profit organisation that is accountable to a range of stakeholders, has grown in recent months. The handling of the Registry Transformation Project that saw Afilias oust Neustar as the registry has also seen member dissatisfaction grow. As part of the winning Afilias bid, due to a rumoured much cheaper price, it was expected that the wholesale price, that charged to registrars, of domain names would fall dramatically. However it appears that the fee will only decline by about 10%. Who keeps the rest is the question that Grumpier asks?

Grumpier follows on from the Grumpy campaign that was led by Scott Long, Ian Halson and until last week auDA director Ned O’Meara. Those behind Grumpier say while “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, the 3 behind Grumpy, have nothing to do with Grumpier.com.au.

Another key question that has to be asked of auDA’s current management is it too inexperienced to run such an organisation? There has been high turnover of staff as Domain Pulse has previously reported with only 2 of about 14 staff remaining since Boardman took over as CEO in August 2016 plus some key appointees departing before their seats were warm. Sources Domain Pulse have spoken to say they estimate ‘well in excess of $1 million has been spent’ paying off departing staff and keeping them silent. Questions are also asked by Grumpier about the sudden departure of Company Secretary Di Parker last year after the SGM and the reasons behind Simon Johnson’s sudden resignation as Director.

There are also concerns that “friends or previous colleagues of the CEO have been appointed to plum positions within the organisation” without the positions being advertised. There are also concerns about the independent directors with questions raised around Suzanne Ewart’s being made chair of the auDA board Security and Risk sub-committee when she appears to have no “relevant experience … in this most important discipline” while Sandra Hook is longest serving Independent, “but what has she done about any of the [governance problems and] what relevant domain industry experience does she have?”

The 4 resolutions are:

  • Resolution 1 – Vote of no confidence in Cameron Boardman (CEO)
  • Resolution 2 – Removal of Chris Leptos as a Director
  • Resolution 3 – Removal of Sandra Hook as a Director
  • Resolution 4 – Removal of Suzanne Ewart as a Director

* Disclaimer: the writer was an auDA Board member (2005 to 2007), served on 3 auDA Names Policy Panels (2007, 2010 and 2015), was a supplier to auDA for 14 years and is now a supplier to Neustar providing online media monitoring services.

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