As part of its drive to open up its new gTLD program to potential applicants that do not have the financial resources to fulfil the full program requirements, ICANN is reducing the fees from USD 185,000 to USD 47,000. A 76% rebate!

But before applicants decide to drop their current business model and relocate to an under privileged country, they should know that there are strict criteria to qualify for the rebate. The first prerequisite: that their TLD serve the public interest and operate in the benefit of the public.

Applicants applying for the support will also have to accept being evaluated later. ICANN needs the extra time to evaluate the requests for support. Those TLD applications that are successful will then be evaluated in the same way as all the others.

However, applicants requesting support and not passing that evaluation would then be invalidated for the whole TLD application process. A logical attempt to discourage those that do not need support from "trying it on".

The amount of applications that can be supported will be limited by the amount of money available in the support fund. So far, ICANN has set aside USD 2 million for the fund, and has called for others to chip in. If no-one does, then a maximum of 14 needy applicants will be supported. That means some applicants may qualify for support, but ICANN may not have the funds to grant it. In such cases, the applicants will be given the choice to either continue as non-supported applicants and pay the full fee, or withdraw from the process.

ICANN’s plan is to recruit the applicant support evaluation panel by June 2012 and to be able to notify those applicants that have been deemed in need of support by November of next year.