Domain Name Holy War Comes to an End

After an extended period of bickering and in-fighting, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and Network Solutions, Inc. have reached a series of agreements that will privatize the Internet domain name registration system.

ICANN and Network Solutions will finally sign a registry agreement that will end NSI’s monopoly on domain name registration. However, the company will retain a major role in authorizing other private sector companies to register names. Additionally, NSI will remain an authorized registrar through 2004, with an option to renew that authorization indefinitely.

Terms of Agreement

Starting January 15th, NSI will lower its yearly registry fee from $9 (US$) to $6 for the remainder of the term of the Registry Agreement. NSI will also be allowed to establish its own price for registration of domain names. Currently, that price is pre-set at $30 per year for all registrars.

ICANN will also revise and renew agreements with all other registrars that have been participating in the group’s trial run of expanding name registration for the dot-com, dot-net and dot-org domains. NSI will continue to maintain the international database containing all domain names and registration information, and its agreement with the Department of Commerce will be amended to reflect that fact.

The deals will also call for an amendment to the department’s agreement with ICANN that authorizes the company to transfer the registration system from Network Solutions to a variety of private sector companies.

Burying the Hatchet

According to the Commerce Department, the agreements resolve all outstanding differences between the parties. ICANN and NSI had prolonged ifficulty in reaching an agreement on how to maintain the name registration database after privatization.

“The ICANN board is pleased that the lengthy negotiations over these issues have produced a workable structure based on compromises by all sides,” said Interim Chairwoman Esther Dyson.

“This agreement ensures the Internet’s progress, helps support the security and stability of the Internet, and strengthens the Internet’s foundation for continued growth of global e-commerce,” said Network Solutions Chairman Michael Daniels.

For the Internet community, the deals may eventually mean lower fees for registering new Web sites, as demand for both commercial and personal sites continues to grow and authorized companies compete to provide registration services. As already demonstrated by NSI and other companies participating in the test period, domain registrars are expected to shift toward bundling registration with other services, such as site hosting and development.

‘A Firm Foundation’

“This is a landmark day for the Internet,” Commerce Secretary William Daley said. “Last year I called on the private sector to create a global, private-sector organization to manage the domain name system. There was no precedent for this undertaking, and there have naturally been a few bumps in the road. The agreements announced today put ICANN and private sector management of key Internet functions on a firm foundation.”

The Commerce Department and Network Solutions have agreed to the deals, while ICANN has given tentative agreement pending the required public comment period it must provide before making major decisions. Comments will be collected over the next month, with the ICANN Board of Directors meeting in November in Los Angeles to give final approval.

The agreements will be posted for comment on the ICANN Web page. They can also be reviewed on the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications Information Agency Web site and on NSI’s site.

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