Home / Blogs

US Department of Commerce Doesn't Like ICANN's New Domain Plan

John Levine

ICANN's authority to manage top level of the DNS comes from a two-year Joint Project Agreement (JPA) signed with the US Department of Commerce in 1997, since extended seven times, most recently until September 2009. Since the DoC can unilaterally cancel the JPA which would put ICANN out of the DNS business, when DoC speaks, ICANN listens.

On Thursday, the US DoC sent a scathing letter to ICANN about the proposed plan to sell large numbers of new top-level domains (TLDs). There's a long list of issues which range from insufficient attention to monopoly and consumer protection, to lack of capacity to enforce compliance, to overreach into non-technical areas such as adjudication of morality, to what they'll do with all the extra money which they're not supposed to keep since they are a non-profit.

One of the clauses in the JPA says:

This Agreement promotes the management of the DNS in a manner that will permit market mechanisms to support competition and consumer choice in the technical management of the DNS. This competition will lower costs, promote innovation, and enhance user choice and satisfaction.

To this end, in 2006 the ICANN board said they would commission a study on economic issues in TLD registrations such as whether different TLDs are different markets, to what extent domains in one TLD are substitutes for domains in other TLDs, how much market power registries (notably VeriSign .COM) have, and what ICANN would do with all the extra money the TLD process is likely to bring in, since as a non-profit they're not supposed to keep it. These are issues which would seem rather important in any new TLD process set up under the JPA.

The DoC letter specifically worries whether new TLDs will just force existing registrants to make defensive registrations in all of them. At this point it's hard to say whether they would; this is exactly the kind of question that the study should help answer.

Yet here it is two years later, ICANN is rushing to set up the new TLD process, but they, uh, don't seem to have gotten around even to start the study. DoC says, quite reasonably: "ICANN needs to complete this economic study and the results should be considered by the community before new gTLDs are introduced." I'd love to ask Paul Twomey why they haven't done the study, but history suggests that even if I did, I'd be unlikely to get a straight answer.

This means that the new TLD process will come to a screeching halt, which is probably just as well. (ICANN chronically blusters about how any minute now they'll end the JPA and be a free floating TLD management entity, but you can disregard that.) At this point it's hard to guess what ICANN will do next. Do the study and set the TLD clock back a couple of years? Negotiate with the DoC and try to do them in parallel? I'd guess the former, since the factions with money and clout hate new TLDs other than perhaps a few non-English ones which are on a separate track.

By John Levine, Author, Consultant & Speaker. More blog posts from John Levine can also be read here.

Related topics: DNS, Domain Names, ICANN, Internet Governance, Top-Level Domains

WEEKLY WRAP — Get CircleID's Weekly Summary Report by Email:

Comments

To post comments, please login or create an account.

Related Blogs

Related News

Topics

Industry Updates – Sponsored Posts

General Availability Kicks Off for .Website, .Press and .Host

New .ORGANIC Top-Level Domain Welcomes Leading Brands As .ORGANIC Pioneers

Dot Chinese Online and Dot Chinese Website Featured in EURid's World Report on IDNs 2014

New .ORGANIC Top-Level Domain Opens to Serve the Organic Community

DotConnectAfrica Contributes at the 9th IGF in Istanbul, Turkey

Independent Endorsement of Dot Chinese Online & Dot Chinese Website by by FiarWinds Partners

New gTLDs and Best Practices for Domain Management Policies (Video)

.Host Announces Top Global Players As Pioneer Partners

Public Interest Registry Releases Bi-Annual Report, .Org Domain Registrations Pass 10.4 Million

Public Interest Registry to Speak About Upcoming Launch of .ngo and .ong Domains for NPOs

Landrush Opens for .Website, .Press and .Host

Afilias Announces General Availability of .BLACK Top-Level Domain

Nominum Announces Future Ready DNS

Last Lap of .WEBSITE, .PRESS and .HOST Sunrise

DotConnectAfrica Trust Responds to ICANN 50 GAC Advice, Updates on .Africa Application IRP Status

New .ORGANIC Domain Sunrise Begins, Creating Verified Space 
for Organic Products and Services

Non-English "IDN Email" Addresses Are Finally Working!

TLD Registry to Speak at Inaugural World Domain Day India

Independent Endorsement of Dot Chinese Online & Dot Chinese Website

ICANN London Recap Webinar

Sponsored Topics