History of the ".lb ccTLD"
August 25, 1993 – “.lb” allocated by John Postel:
The “.lb” domain name was originally allocated by Jon Postel, operator of Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), to Nabil Bukhalid of the American University of Beirut (AUB) on August 25, 1993. On August 27, 1993, AUB registered “aub.ac.lb” being the first “.lb” domain name.
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 ccTLD administrators 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 volunteers from his team at AUB and Randy Bush (PSG.COM) did just that, acting as the administrator and registrar of the “.lb ccTLD”. Since its inception, the LB Domain Registry (LBDR) was managed as a closed country registry and provided its services for free to the Lebanese Internet community.
September 1, 1999 – “.lb” enforces trademark certification:
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 advertising) to all applicants for “.lb” domain names and Ministry offered 50% discount on the trademark registration fees. So as of September 1, 1999, the LBDR became a testing close country registry enforcing local presence and trademark certification.
The trademark registration was a lengthy one in Lebanon, requiring paperwork to be prepared and submitted, at least two 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 registrants found it easier to register “.com” domains.
Nonetheless, the LBDR, in close cooperation with the Ministry of Economy and Trade, established a registration process aligned with the Lebanese regulatory requirements while preserving independence, neutrality and applying well-established Internet principles such as self-regulation; bottom-up authority; consensus; transparency; and cooperation based on trust and fairness.
Under these best practices guidelines, the authority of the “.lb ccTLD” Administrator comes from serving the Local Internet Community and from the unremitting affirmation by the Local Internet Community of that authority. The Local Internet Community, including governmental and other authorities, has a responsibility to support and protect the LBDR and to assist the “.lb ccTLD” Administrator in serving the community.
February 3, 2008 - Attempt to re-delegate “.lb” to OGERO:
The Lebanese Council of Ministers issued on February 3, 2008, decree number 103/86 approving the request of the Ministry of Telecom for the transfer of the LB Domain Registry from the American University of Beirut to Ogero, being the incumbent government telecom operator.
Based on ICP-1 “Internet Domain Name System Structure and Delegation” the request is effectively a re-delegation of the LB Domain Administrator by one or more new Managers working for Ogero.
The position of Nabil Bukhalid, the incumbent “.lb” Administrator:
The “.lb ccTLD” Registry management and operation is since 1993 a burden on the incumbent managers and the American University of Beirut. The LBDR is a pro bono operation that fully relies on the American University servers and Internet connectivity and the Computing and Networking Services technical team. The LBDR operation and registrar function fall in its majority on Nabil Bukhalid personally and his administrative assistant. The LB domain primary name server and three of the secondary servers are hosted pro bono on sites provided by Nabil Bukhalid.
The incumbent “.lb” Administrator submitted two proposals, the first 1998 and the second 2004, offering to assist freely in the establishment of a multi-stakeholder LB Domain Registry structure sponsored by the Ministry of Economy and Trade and to train and advise the management team until they are ready to assume the LB Domain Management roles and assure reliable, secure and efficient operation.
So, in principle the incumbent “.lb” Administrator believes that the “.lb ccTLD” Registry should be institutionalized and he does not object to the transfer of the LB Domain management to a competent multi-stakeholder entity capable of performing the function of a trustee for a public service and ensure a transparent, efficient, stable, accurate, secure, resilient and robust “.lb ccTLD” Registry operation.
Nonetheless, the incumbent “.lb” Administrator objects to the re-delegation to Ogero as he believes that such a re-delegation will create an obvious conflict of interest. Ogero is an Internet Service Provider and as such an entity competing with all the other providers of Internet services in Lebanon.
Lebanon Internet Community Census:
There is not a clear definition or delineation of what would actually represent a country internet community but a community representing the Lebanese chambers of commerce, industries, banks, computer associations, assembly of nongovernmental organizations, order of lawyers, order of engineers, order of printed press, order of audio-visual stations and Ministries of economy and trade, education and public reform objected officially to the re-delegation of the “.lb ccTLD” management to new manager appointed by Ogero and met with Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and asked for the annulations of decree number 103/86. The Director of Ogero, Dr. Abdel Moneim Youssef who attended the meeting with the Prime Ministry supported Lebanon’s Internet Community request. The Prime Ministry promised Lebanon’s Internet Community delegation to return the decree to the Council of Ministers.
But, Nabil Bukhalid, the incumbent “.lb ccTLD” Administrator highlighted the urgent and critical need to institutionalize the “.lb ccTLD” Registry and suggested to the Prime Minister to establish a task force to work on a solution.
February 2012 – E-Transaction Law:
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.
Also, the proposed law stipulates that the Minister of Economy of Trade (MoET) will represent the Lebanese Government in the sponsoring of the “.lb ccTLD” Registry.
MoET and the “.lb ccTLD” Administrator viewed this as a perfect opportunity to adjust the “.lb” registration requirements and establish a formal relationship between the “.lb” Administrator and the Government of Lebanon represented by MOET and initiated discussions and brainstorming sessions to develop a collaborative governance and sustainable structure for the “.lb ccTLD” Registry.
The efforts initiated by the MoET supported by the ICT office at the Council of Ministers intensified in August 2012 as Nabil Bukhalid left the service of the American University of Beirut and informed the MoET that AUB will continue to host the “.lb” database and he will manage the operation until a more sustainable operation is in place. But both, AUB represented by its President and Nabil Bukhalid, the “.lb ccTLD” Administrator, made it clear to Minister Nahhas that the “.lb ccTLD” operation is reaching to an unsustainable and critical situation. The LBDR continued in provided its services for free to the Lebanese Internet community.
February 2013 – Engaging the Public/Private Internet Community:
During a reconnaissance visit to Beirut in February 2013, Fadi Shehade, ICANN’s CEO met with the Minister of Telecom, Nicolas Sehnaoui, the Minister of Economy and Trade, Nicolas Nahhas, and a large group of Internet stakeholders and he highlighted the necessity for a bottom-up multi-stakeholder body to govern the “.lb ccTLD” as this will assist in the amalgamation of different and competing interests. Fadi Shehade visit boosted the participation in the effort and 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.
June 2, 2014 – Launching the “Lebanese Internet Center”:
After 15 months of comprehensive discussions and long sessions of brainstorming and negotiations the internet multi-stakeholder concluded their work by the ratification of the general bylaws and internal bylaws of a public/private not-for-profit association that will govern the “.lb ccTLD” and on June 2, 2014, they registered the association at the Ministry of Interior under the name of “The Lebanese Internet Center (LINC)” registration number 9259/2014.
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 Shehade President of ICANN, Mr. Nabil Bukhalid President of ISOC Lebanon and “.lb ccTLD Administrator, 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.
LINC is characterized by a bottom-up 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.
In 2014, the LBDR had 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.
On June 13, 2014, LINC founding members elected their first board and in accordance with the internal bylaws elected Nabil Fahd as President, Salam Yamout as Vice President, Imad Hoballah as Secretary, and Bassam Jaber as Treasurer. The board appointed Nabil Bukhalid as CEO of LINC and the official representative of the association. The board launched also four committees: The Human Resource and Budget Committee chaired by Bassam Jaber; The Registration Policies Committee chaired by Salam Yamout; The Infrastructure Committee chaired by Nicolas Rouhana, and the Redelegation Committee chaired by Nabil Bukhalid.
LINC is a legally registered association under the Lebanese Constitution, but in effect and based on a widely contested practice by the Ministry of Interior, LINC is unable to open bank accounts and operate unless if the Ministry of Interior issues a certificate of association. The Ministry of Interior alleges that they referred LINC’s bylaws to the Ministry of Telecommunication for their comments and “No objection”. Despite the fact that the Ministry of Telecom was the co-sponsor of the multi-stakeholder works that led to the creation of LINC and that the previous Minister of Telecom, Nicolas Sehnaoui, officially appointed Diana Bou Ghanem to represent the Ministry as a founding member of LINC and Imad Hoballah to represent the Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRA)as a founding member. And, after many follow ups with Minister Boutros Harb, the Ministry of Telecom did not provide the Ministry of Interior with their comments and LINC’s operation as the association is on hold indefinitely.
December 2015 – LINC as a multi-stakeholder governed center under CCIAB:
In the meantime, acknowledging the risks, MoET and LINC board contemplated various alternative solutions that might permit LINC to bypass the blockade imposed by the Ministries of Interior and Telecommunication. The best alternative option emanating from that effort turned out to be the institutionalization of LINC as an independent multi-stakeholder governed center under the Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture of Beirut (CCIAB).
The negotiations with CCIAB ended unsuccessfully in September 2016 as the parties failed to agree on a mechanism to finance and operate LINC as an independent multi-stakeholder governed center under CCIAB. Nabil Bukhalid, the “.lb ccTLD” Administrator, made it clear to Minister Harb in the presence of representatives of CCIAB that the “.lb ccTLD” operation reached to a critical and stagnant situation and that it should be institutionalized without any further details. The LBDR continued in provided its ad-hoc services for free to the Lebanese Internet community.
October 2018 – E-Transaction Law (Decree 81 - 10/10/2018 Section 4 Article 79):
The “e-transactions law” was ratified in October 10, 2018 and published in the official gazette on October 18, 2018 thus taking effect immediately. Section 4 Article 79 of decree 81 addresses the governance of the .lb ccTLD and stipulates the following:
"A National Authority for the Administration of the .lb ccTLD (Regfistry) will be created and will be tasked with the registration of domain names under .lb ....... The Authority will be formed by representatives from the Ministry of Telecommunication, Ministry of Economy and Trade, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Adminstrative Reform, Telecommunication Authority, Federation of Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, Bar Association, and representatives from 3 to 5 NGOs to be nominated by the National Authority (to be created)".
In the mean time, the LBDR continued in provided its ad-hoc services for free to the Lebanese Internet community.