Milton Mueller (by way of Name.Space.Info) on Sun, 25 Apr 1999 06:34:08 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> [Fwd: [dnsproc-en] NEWS RELEASE ON ICANN REGISTRARS]

m i l t o n   m u e l l e r // m u e l l e r @ s y r . e d u
syracuse university



(Boston, April 23, 1999) The Boston Working Group (BWG) today challenged
ICANN's claim that it had opened up the domain name registration market to
competition. The group also criticized the contract ICANN has imposed upon
its registrars, noting that it requires domain name registrants to
sacrifice essential rights when applying for a domain name. “We see a lot
of centralization of power and lots of regulation in the ICANN plan, but
very little new competition,” said Dr. Milton Mueller, a Syracuse
University professor and member of the group. 


The ICANN proposal, released Wednesday, accredits five new companies to
register domain names in the ".com" ".net" and ".org" top-level domains. 

Despite ICANN's claims that this will bring competition to the domain name
market, Network Solutions, Inc. (NSI) retains its monopoly over the
crucial database of registered names. The plan does not authorize new
database administrators or new TLDs, and contains no measures to transfer
ownership of the “.com,” “.net” and “.org” databases. The five new
companies must pay NSI a one-time fee of $10,000, plus $9 per year for
every name they register. 

Thus, the so-called "new competition" is nothing but an agreement to
resell entries in NSI's registration database at a price regulated by the
US government. Prior to the ICANN plan, hundreds of registrars were
already reselling NSI names, at a higher price. 

BWG member David Schutt, network manager at Speco, Inc., questioned the
significance of the ICANN initiative: "is competition between McDonalds
franchises meaningful in a world where the only hamburger available is a
McDonalds hamburger?" 

Dr. Mueller, an expert in telecommunications regulation, noted that the US
Commerce Department 's National Telecommunications and Information
Administration was responsible for setting NSI's compensation at $9/yr.
per name. The NTIA, Mueller claimed, “seems to be imposing a cost-plus,
utility regulation model upon the core functions of the Internet. I don’t
understand why NTIA is opting for price regulation when it could simply
open the market to new players and allow customers to have real
alternatives. Besides, NTIA lacks the experience, the competence, and the
legal authority to engage in economic regulation of Internet name

Most members of the BWG group believe that real competition in domain name
service will come only with the addition of new top-level domains
administered by registries other than NSI. Alternative TLDs have already
been proposed for several years, but the US government has not allowed
them to be entered into the root server databases. ICANN's plan to offer
shared access to a monopoly registry fails to create the kind of product
and service differentiation that competition among new registration
authorities will bring. 


The primary effect of the new plan is not to increase competition in
domain name registration, but to give ICANN the power to regulate domain
name registrars and domain name holders by creating a uniform and
centralized registrar accreditation contract. 

Press reports about the ICANN plan completely overlooked the significance
of the registrar accreditation contract, which can be viewed at All service providers
accredited by ICANN must force their customers to sign away important
legal rights—including rights the courts have already granted to domain
name holders. 

Registrars or registries can cancel or take back the domain name
registration whenever they please, and all goodwill or business presence
created in that name would be lost. 

The contract allows ICANN to develop a list of excluded names sometime in
the future, and authorizes ICANN to refuse to re-register any name that
shows up on that list—once again threatening a domain name holder’s
goodwill and business presence. 

Those who wish to register domain names must also make a legally binding
promise that the domain name doesn't interfere with anyone else's possible
rights in the name -- something that even domain name lawyers often can't

"It's difficult to understand what ICANN is trying to achieve with this
requirement," said Mikki Barry, BWG member and intellectual property
lawyer. "Even in the best of worlds, it often takes a court to decide
whether others have rights in any given claimed intellectual property." 

The BOSTON WORKING GROUP is an independent alliance of Internet technology
professionals, lawyers, policy analysts, and academics. The BWG submitted
a bylaws proposal for a new non-profit corporation to administer Internet
domain names and addresses, and its submission played a key role in
opening up ICANN to membership and public input. Several BWG members now
serve on the ICANN Membership Advisory Committee and the Independent
Review Advisory Committee. 

Dr. Milton Mueller (East coast)
Syracuse University School of Information Studies

Ellen Rony (West coast)
Phone:  415/435-5010 (days) or 415/435-1401 (evenings)

David Schutt (Central)
(847) 678-4240 days
(708) 484-5063 evenings

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