Registry Tender

On 30 June 2006 the current registry licence held by AusRegistry expires. On 29 August 2005 auDA issued a Request for Tender for a four year licence agreement for the provision of registry services in .au second level domains, commencing 1 July 2006.

auDA announced AusRegistry as the preferred tenderer on 28 October 2005.

auDA signed a new 4 year licence agreement with AusRegistry on 18 November 2005.

Tender Documents

The RFT comprises seven Parts. Each Part is available for separate download (PDF) below. Each Part must be read in conjunction with the other Parts of the RFT.

RFT Questions and Answers

auDA considered the following questions about the RFT from a number of enquirers, in accordance with the terms and conditions of tender. The questions have been published in the table below as they were submitted, without amendment.

The responses provided by auDA are provided for clarification purposes only, and do not constitute an addenda to, or in any way amend the RFT.

auDA has responded to the questions with reference to the RFT, and, in particular, the Evaluation Process and Criteria in Part Three of the RFT. auDA's answers in no way indicate whether a tender, or any information proposed to constitute part of the tender, will be favourably or adversely considered by auDA, irrespective of whether such indication is sought by the enquiring party.

 

Question No

Question

auDA's Response

1

With respect to the evaluation criteria set out in Part 5 Schedule 2 Clause 2.1, relating to a respondent's 'proven capacity to manage a domain name registry or a comparable registry, or experience in DNS operations, we note that the Australian incorporated entities of leading global operators such as VeriSign Inc. could be argued to have no experience in running a comparable registry. Could auDA confirm that the extensive capability and experience of our parent company - if it decided to commit itself to assisting the Australian entity - in managing the world's largest and/or most complex domain name operations in the world will be favourably considered under the evaluation process? We believe that such an assurance will make a substantial contribution to a competitive evaluation process that will provide Australia with access to global best practice capability in this area.

The capability and experience of Related Bodies Corporate, to the extent that it is relevant to the RFT, will be considered under the evaluation process. A Respondent in this position should explain how it receives, or would receive, the benefit of the experience of its Related Bodies Corporate.

2

We note the minimum threshold requirements set out in Part 3 Clause 7 of the RFT. Can auDA confirm that tenderers will receive no additional weighting or scoring by differentiating their bids through the provision of superior technical solutions (Clause 7.4.1) and enhanced business model proposals (Clause 7.5.1)? Are we correct in understanding that tenderers are encouraged not to compete by providing their best possible solution on these mandatory elements and focus instead on the Evaluation Criteria set out in Clause 8.2?.

By definition, threshold requirements are either met or not met. However, while meeting the Technical Specification is not an Evaluative Criteria, auDA believes that the technical solution or solutions proposed by a Respondent are likely to affect the Respondent's responses under the Evaluative Criteria. Therefore, auDA expects Respondents to put forward their best possible solution or choice of solutions, within the parameters of the RFT.

3

VeriSign Australia understands that transition is an important risk factor in any evaluation process that centres on business continuity of a registry. Against that background, can auDA confirm whether Part 3 Clause 9.2.1 presumes that the incumbent operator AusRegistry will have the best Transition Plan? If so, can auDA also confirm whether the highest ranked tenderer in relation to the Evaluation Criteria set out in Clause 8.2 could lose to a tenderer with a less highly ranked bid but a perceived advantage in terms of the Transition Plan. Furthermore could a bidder not score highly on its transition plan if it was not compatible with the plan of AusRegistry, even if it was not familiar with those plans because they are not public.

As explained in Part Five Clause 3, the Transition Plan is a “detailed plan to transition Registry Services from AusRegistry (that is, the incumbent Registry operator) to the Respondent, and the migration of Registry data from AusRegistry to the Respondent by 30 June 2006.” Accordingly, if AusRegistry responds to the RFT, auDA does not expect that it will provide a Transition Plan. In the event of transition evaluation under Part Three Clause 9.2.2, it is possible that the Preferred Respondent ranked highest after stage two will not be the successful Respondent. Under the AusRegistry RLA, AusRegistry is required to cooperate with auDA and the successor Registry Operator to facilitate a smooth transition. Therefore, if AusRegistry is not the successful Respondent, transition will occur pursuant to the successful Respondent’s transition plan.

4

Could auDA consider providing more detailed quantitative criteria as a means for generating more competitive and comparative bidder responses from Verisign and other possible bidders. As one example, could auDA provide some clarification on what basis it will assess experience in running a domain name registry under Schedule 2 Clause 2.1? Number of years? Total size of the domain? Number of Registrars supported?

auDA will not provide more detailed quantitative criteria. All of the suggested information in the example is relevant, as is any other information that the Respondent believes is necessary to demonstrate its experience.

5

We note that Clause 2.5 sets only generic targets in relation to the number of registrations and is silent with respect to any favourable consideration of forward looking initiatives and capital investment to future proof the Registry against emerging local and global industry trends. Can auDA confirm whether such proposals will receive any weighting with respect to the evaluation?

Clause 2.5 was not intended to be exhaustive. As well as targets for number of registrations and detailed operating budgets and cashflow, Respondents should include any innovative initiatives they deem relevant. The weighting for Clause 2.5 is as set out in Part Three Clause 8.2.

6

Can auDA explain how it will ensure that the tender process is adequately protected against unsubstantiated bid offers? Similarly can it confirm whether tenderers will be contractually bound to those proposals submitted against the evaluation criteria or whether they will be the subject of a 'best endeavours approach'. In the event that a tenderer may propose aggressive registration targets for say, cashflow under Schedule 2 Clause 2.5 to maximise a score against this criteria, will contractual sanctions be used against failure to meet these targets in the future? Obviously, failure to secure objective and realistic bids from industry may ultimately lead to a distorted evaluation process.

auDA believes that in order to meet the threshold requirements and Evaluative Criteria, offers will need to be substantiated. Under Part Three Clause 10 auDA will ensure that the successful Respondent has the capacity to manage and minimise any risk to the operational stability or utility of the .au ccTLD. Respondents will be contractually bound to proposals submitted in response to the RFT. auDA will take such steps as it deems necessary, as it has done in the past, to enforce the Registry Licence Agreement.

7

There appears to be no material quantitative weighting for responding to other factors set out in Part 3 Clause 10.2 such as a demonstrated ability to meet auDA's principal objectives. Although it is stated that auDA reserves the right to take into account 'the extent to which a tender reflects auDA's principal objectives and responsibilities, there is no formal or transparent mechanism for doing so. Could auDA please assist us in understanding how these factors will practically be taken into account in the evaluation?

The other factors in Part Three Clause 10.2 may be considered at any time during the evaluation process when the Evaluation Panel thinks they are relevant, in relation to any of the threshold requirements or Evaluative Criteria. In accordance with Part Five Clause 4.1, Respondents should provide any information which may assist auDA to evaluate how their tender reflects auDA's principal objectives.

8

In relation to the forward looking national security aspects of Australia's Internet infrastructure, could auDA confirm that tenderers will not receive any additional consideration or weighting for making security commitments above and beyond the basic threshold requirements set out in Part 6 of the RFT?

Those Respondents who believe that additional security commitments are relevant to auDA's principal objectives should see theresponse to question 7 above.

9

Further to Clause 3.2(f) of the auDA Constitution relating to 'adopting open and transparent procedures that are inclusive of all parties', can it confirm whether it will publish the results of the tender evaluation? VeriSign Australia notes that this is now the practice of leading multilateral organisations operating in this area such as ICANN in support of increased public scrutiny and expectation in the governance of public assets such as Internet domains.

auDA has adopted an open and transparent procedure by publishing a RFT to which any interested party may respond. auDA will not publish details of the evaluation. The board of auDA will announce the successful Respondent.

10

There is a requirement in the RFT at Part 3 Clause 7.3.1 that no respondent own shares in a .au Registrar and that a .au Registrar does not own shares in a respondent. The definition of 'Registrar' at Part 1 Clause 2.2 refers to auDA accredited registrars, and in paragraph (b), to those organisations that are 'authorised by auDA to process Registry Data on behalf of Registrants in respect of a particular Designated 2LD, into the Registry.' Could auDA please clarify what organisations would be captured under paragraph (b) and specifically are .au resellers included in the definition of Registrars?

Currently, organisations captured under paragraph (b) include the Registrars for gov.au and edu.au which are not accredited Registrars but are authorised by auDA under separate arrangements with the Commonwealth of Australia. .au resellers are not included in the definition of Registrars.

11

Could auDA indicate whether respondents are supposed to propose pricing for all 2LDs including community geographic names that have not yet been launched, as well as for .conf.au and .info.au?

Respondents are expected to propose pricing for all Designated 2LDs.

12

What financial arrangement will exist in relation to names that the current registry has charged for, but for which they will not be required to provide service when a new operator takes over (ie post June 2006)? Will the current registry operator keep this revenue or should bidders factor in a payment from the current registry to the new registry operator. If so, how much and under what circumstances? What will the financial arrangements be at the end of the next registry tender?

The incumbent registry operator will retain the revenue. Similar arrangements are expected to be in place at the end of the next registry licence.

13

Is it possible to obtain a copy of the escrow agreement that would need to be signed by the successor registry operator?

Currently there is no chosen escrow agent. See Part Six Clause 5.4 of the RFT. auDA acknowledges that clause 13.2 of the Registry Licence Agreement is not clear and will issue an addendum shortly.

14

Would auDA consider proposals for domain name licences to be granted for periods of other than 2 years? eg for 1 or 4 year domain name licences?

No, not for the purposes of the RFT. However, it is possible that auDA may consider proposals for different periods during the life of the next registry licence, under its normal policy development processes. The introduction of different periods would be a matter for negotiation with the Registry Operator at the time.

15

Part Three, section 7.2.2 of the RFT states that the Respondent must certify that all its employees and other personnel who are "involved in or are integral to the operation and management of the Registry and the provision of Registry Services, are located and resident in Australia". Can you please clarify which services you consider to be integral to the operation and management of the Registry? For example, would it be possible to have certain ancillary services, such as after-hours customer support or the processing of accounts and billing located outside of Australia?

If Respondents propose to provide any Registry Services outside Australia, they should explain why they consider those services not to be integral to the operation and management of the Registry. As a guide, auDA would consider after-hours customer (Registrar) support to be integral, whereas processing of accounts and billing may possibly be ancillary.

16

Part Three, Section 9.2.2 of the RFT states that Transition Plans may be evaluated. Will this evaluation of Transition Plans by performed on a 'Pass/Fail' basis, and not affect the bidder's Evaluative ranking, or will Transition be factored into Evaluative scoring and ranking?

Evaluation of Transition Plans will not be performed on a Pass/Fail basis. It is possible that the Preferred Respondent ranked highest after stage two will not be the successful Respondent.

17

Part Four, Section 2.3.1 of the RFT states, "The registry operator must ensure that there is an additional minimum of 5 secondary name servers provided by external parties pursuant to agreements with the registry operator." Can you please clarify whether the secondary name servers have to be provided by 5 separate external parties or is one external party for all 5 name servers sufficient to meet this requirement?

auDA expects Respondents to allow for physical, logical and commercial supplier redundancy.

18

The response to Question 16., in the first round of Q&A, indicates that Transition Plans will be scored on an evaluative basis. Consistent with Part 3. Section 8.2, how will Transition be weighted?

Transition will not be weighted. In the event that Transition Plans are considered under Part Three Clause 9.2.2, the plans of Preferred Respondents other than AusRegistry (if AusRegistry is a Preferred Respondent) will be evaluated on their merits and compared against each other.