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Name.Space.Info: NSI-ICANN fight threatens Net growth

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Date: Wed, 16 Jun 1999 03:12:35 -0400
From: "Name.Space.Info" <>
Subject: NSI-ICANN fight threatens Net growth

NSI-ICANN fight threatens Net growth

   NSI-ICANN fight threatens Net growth
   By Courtney Macavinta
   Staff Writer, CNET
   June 15, 1999, 1:15 p.m. PT

   In a highly public political slap, the nonprofit organization in
   charge of the Net's technical underpinnings today accused Network
   Solutions of souring efforts to create competition in the lucrative
   domain name registration market.

   Esther Dyson, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers'
   interim chair, led the attack in response to a letter from Ralph Nader's
   Consumer Project on Technology, which questioned ICANN's authority and

   The Commerce Department and international governments anointed ICANN
   to administer the Net's plumbing and to foster competition in domain
   name registration, which NSI has dominated since 1993 under a federal
   contract. Because the domain system is central to the Internet, a
   protracted conflict between the organization and the company could slow
   everything from the development of e-commerce to legal settlements over
   disputed names.

   Nader's letter grilled ICANN about the scope of its powers and
   decisions. Dyson at first went on the defensive, describing the
   contentious landscape and challenges the nonprofit corporation
   faces and identifying NSI as the No. 1 obstacle to progress in
   the field.

   "NSI is in no hurry to see [its] monopoly eroded," she replied
   to Nader. "Thus it has been funding and otherwise encouraging a
   variety of individuals and entities to throw sand in the gears
   whenever possible, from as many directions as possible."

   She went on to accuse NSI of stalling a test period for its a
   shared-registration system that would allow ICANN-accredited
   registrars to compete directly with NSI by selling names
   ending in ".com" and other popular domains. ICANN says NSI's
   contracts with new registrars makes it impossible for them to
   publicly communicate their difficulties.

   "The nondisclosure agreements it imposes on competing registrars
   are so onerous that many who wish to participate in ICANN's
   competition initiative cannot do so without permanently restricting
   their ability to compete in this space in the future," Dyson said.

   NSI wasted no time in returning the fire. "Frankly, we're stunned,"
   NSI spokesman Brian O'Shaughnessy said today.

   "It's the most aggressive public attack on NSI from a body that is
   to be unbiased and nonarbitrary," he added. "It's going to be harder
   for us to work with this board."

   NSI also maintains that competition is developing smoothly.
   " is competing with us right now," O'Shaughnessy said.
   "We know we're going to lose market share, but it's in our interest
   to be the dominant player in a larger marketplace."

   Since ICANN was recognized by the Commerce Department late last
   year, moves by the interim board have been strictly scrutinized
   and often picked apart at its handful of public meetings around
   the globe. But NSI and ICANN always have tried to maintain civility
   in public--especially under the weight of both of their separate
   agreements with Commerce.

   Now, however, ICANN's letter proves that the gloves are decidedly
   off. ICANN is intentionally taking its problems with NSI public
   because it wants to heat up public pressure on the company to
   cooperate with ICANN and sign an accreditation agreement--which
   it has not done.

   Although the feud undoubtedly will affect many plans and policies,
   NSI still holds the sacred key to the ".com" empire. Dyson said in
   an interview today that ICANN still wants to work with NSI but that
   a fire has to be lit under the company.

   "We want people like Nader, who are known for championing the little
   guys against abuses of power and monopolies, to know that we are not
   the bad guy," she said. "Everybody wants us to be open, and when we
   are asked direct questions we answer them--and we wish NSI would do
   the same."

   Nader also spurs reaction
   In the heated letter, ICANN did respond to Nader's concerns. It is
   planning to release a six-month status report today on its progress
   so far.

   Nader and James Love, who heads up the Consumer Project on Technology,
   questioned whether ICANN was making decisions it had no business making
   under the Clinton administration's so-called white paper, which lays out
   how this transition should take place.

   "The current board, which I assure you would very much like to keep
   its tenure as short as possible consistent with doing its duty, has
   undertaken no policy initiatives not expressly contemplated in the
   white paper, or for which there was not some urgency of action necessary
   to meet the principal objectives of the white paper and of ICANN itself,"
   she wrote.

   Nader also wanted to know whether ICANN would use its control over root
   name servers to block access to any IP address or domain name and how
   such a decision could be made. Referring to ICANN's action at its last
   public meeting in Berlin, Dyson told Nader that it was considering
   options to deal with trademark disputes over domain names, for example.

   ICANN endorsed a World Intellectual Property Organization call "for
   consistent administrative dispute resolution procedures in principle,
   and referred that recommendation to its newly formed constituent unit,
   the Domain Name Supporting Organization, for its review and specific
   implementation recommendations," she said.

   ICANN also has formed a committee of experts to look into oversight of
   the root server system, which allows sites to be live on the Net, she

   "At this moment, ICANN does not control the root servers, although it
   expects to do so by the end of the transition period," Dyson wrote.
   "Any policies relating to the root servers under ICANN oversight will,
   of course, be subject to the standard notice, comment, and consensus
   procedures that precede any ICANN decision that could significantly
   affect the Internet."