Lebanese Internet Center (LINC)
On June 3, 2014, His Excellency Minister Alain Hakim launched the 'Lebanese Internet Center' (LINC) in a press conference held at the Ministry of Economy and Trade (MoET). Mr. Fadi Chehadeh President of ICANN, Dr. Nabil Fahd VP of CCIAB, Dr. Charbel El Kareh Head of the ICT committee at BBA among a large group of stakeholders attended the ceremony.
The Lebanese Internet Center (LINC) is a public/private not-for-profit organization characterized by a democratic multi-stakeholder governance structure (Figure 1). LINC’s strategic alliance between civil society organizations, corporations, syndicates, universities, research organizations and the government of Lebanon emanated from major and long standing gaps in Internet governance in Lebanon affecting the sustainability and growth of the Internet and more specifically the operation and business continuity of the Lebanese Domain Name Registry (LBDR).
LINC is initially responsible for the Internet’s Lebanese top-level domain (.lb ccTLD and .لبنان AIDN), including the registration of domain names, and the administration and technical maintenance of the national domain-name registry infrastructure. LINC will also promote the positive development of the internet in Lebanon. A share of the fee that LINC intends to charge for domain name registration will be invested in capacity and community building activities and projects that promote the positive development of the internet in Lebanon.
There are currently less than 4,000 registered .lb domains. LINC intends to file with ICANN for the redelegation of the .lb ccTLD, apply for the .لبنان AIDN, and develop the DNS industry in Lebanon by establishing friendly, efficient, secure and competitive registration processes based on the registry/registrars business model. LINC aims to grow into the natural choice for companies, organizations, and individuals that want a domain name associated with Lebanon by providing the best services to the local Lebanese market, the globally spread Lebanese diaspora and the global market at large.
The necessity for a multi-stakeholder body to assist in the amalgamation of different and competing interests was pinned by Fadi Shehade, ICANN CEO, during a reconnaissance visit to Beirut in February 2013. The partners engaged in long sessions of critical thinking on governance structure outcome, impact and alternatives and, while they acknowledged that multi-stakeholder governance will introduce complex processes with insecure outcomes, they made a conscious decision that multi-stakeholder governance is a strategic and preferred option for the Internet governance in Lebanon. On June the 2nd, 15 months later, Fadi Shehade returned to Beirut to celebrate with Lebanon the launching of LINC from the Ministry of Economy and Trade.
Background: In August 1993, Lebanon acquired, in the person of Nabil Bukhalid, Director of the Computing and Networking Services at the American University of Beirut, the “.lb” ccTLD designation.
Although IANA began creating and delegating ccTLDs to managers in the 1980s, it was not until 1994 that it started keeping public records of the factors it considered in making delegations. From what is known, Nabil Bukhalid was a Lebanese Internet pioneer, well known and trusted by the small (then) Internet community.
The understanding was that the designated managers did not acquire an ownership in the ccTLD but performed a public service for their people and the Internet community at large.
Nabil Bukhalid supported by his team at AUB and PSG.COM did just that, acting as the administrator and registrar of the .lb ccTLD.
Since its inception, the LB Domain Registry was managed as a close country registry and provided its services for free to the Lebanese Internet community. To date around 4,000 domain names have been registered under the .lb ccTLD.
In the absence of a law protecting third parties from domain name disputes, and in order to protect himself and AUB from such liabilities, Nabil Bukhalid sought the opinion of the Minister of Economy and Trade in 1997.
Together they decided to apply mandatory trademark registration (under –class 35 for internet domain name) to all applicants for .lb domain names and offered 50% discount on the trademark registration fees.
The trademark registration is a lengthy one in Lebanon, requiring paperwork to be prepared and submitted, two to six weeks waiting period to acquire the trademark and the equivalent of US 200 for registration fees for 15 years.
The result of this process is that many Lebanese preferred acquiring gTLDs.
In the advent of the passage of the “e-transactions law”, third party service providers including web hosts, domain name registrars, and other providers are not liable for the content of the services they provide.
The Minister of Economy of Trade sees this as a perfect opportunity to step in to adjust the .lb registration requirements and establish a formal relationship between the .lb registry and the Government of Lebanon represented by the Ministry of Economy and Trade (MOET) (as stated in the e-transactions law).