Objection Period for gTLDs to Close Prior to Initial Evaluation Results?

According to the June 4th, 2012 version of the Applicant Guidebook, the new gTLD Objection Filing period will close following the end of the Initial Evaluation period with a two-week window of time between the posting of the Initial Evaluation results and the close of the Objection Filing period.”

Based on this one would assume that the Objection Filing period would close in the Summer of 2013 as the Initial Evaluation results are expected in June/July of next year.

However ICANN’s Kurt Pritz clearly stated in today’s New gTLD Webinar that the Objection Filing period will close January 12 2013. As a result of the single batch Kurt explained (in answer to a question posed by Roger Carnie) “we weighed whether the Objection Period should be open for over a year. We decided not to do that.”

Kurt went on to say “We weighed the decisions against the goals of the program about fairness transparency predictability smooth operations. We’re concerned that applicants would have operations running for over a year while an objector would determine an objection but would keep the objection in their pocket for a long period of time to see whether the application passed or failed.” But wasn’t this the whole point of allowing an additional two weeks – so that objectors knew whether or not the application had passed before they incurred the expense of filing an objection?

Kurt added “We didn’t think it fair to the applicant to not know there is an objection out there.”

This unexpected change to the new gTLD program raises many questions.

Who exactly decided to remove the two-week window between the posting of the Initial Evaluation results and the close of the Objection Filing period? Was this decided by ICANN Staff or the ICANN Board? The ICANN Community certainly was not consulted nor were they officially notified of this major change.

Now as a result of this change Objectors will be forced to file complaints without knowing whether an application has even passed Initial Evaluation. With estimated costs of $8 750 – $124 0 filing Formal Objections is not an inexpensive proposition.

For an organization that touts “fairness transparency predictability I find it troublesome that ICANN would implement such a major change without officially consulting or notifying the Community.