(2 April 2001) Marina del Rey, California, USA. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) today approved proposed revisions to the agreement with VeriSign, Inc. pursuant to which VeriSign operates the .com, .net, and .org registries.
The revised agreements, which are subject to ratification by the US Department of Commerce, would significantly restructure the contractual relationship between ICANN and the operator of the world's largest domain name registries. The one existing agreement would be divided into separate registry agreements for each of .com, .net and .org, and each would be subject to an individual term. The .org agreement would expire on December 31, 2002, and VeriSign would not be eligible to seek to renew it. The .org registry would then be turned over to an as yet unspecified not-for-profit organization. The .net agreement would expire on January 1, 2006, and it would then be subject to a competitive renewal process in which VeriSign and all other interested parties could participate. The .com agreement would expire on November 10, 2007, and VeriSign would have a right at that time to renewal for a new four-year term if it satisfies the criteria set forth in the agreement.
In addition, each of the new agreements generally conform to the new template registry agreements negotiated with the operators of the new Top Level Domains recently approved by ICANN. This virtually eliminates the unique treatment of VeriSign that was the product of its pre-ICANN legacy and placing VeriSign on the same contractual footing as all other ICANN registry operators.
The ICANN Board had requested "all members of the Internet community, including the Names Council and any of the constituencies and other participants in the Domain Name Supporting Organization, to provide comments on the substantive merits of the proposal." There have been extensive discussions throughout the ICANN community regarding the advantages and drawbacks of the proposed revisions to the agreements. The Board carefully evaluated all comments received in reaching its decision, and the final agreements with VeriSign include a number of suggestions contained in community recommendations and comments.
ICANN's President and CEO M. Stuart Lynn said: "The new agreements also provide other substantial benefits, several of which are the direct result of recommendations from ICANN's Names Council and its member constituencies.
These benefits include requiring VeriSign:
1. to provide $5 million to the non-profit entity ultimately selected to operate the .org registry beginning January 1, 2003;
2. to commit to the investment of at least $200 million in research & development and infrastructure spending. One of the goals of this investment is to focus on the development of a universal WHOIS capability that would work across all the Top Level Domains in the Domain Name System;
3. to pay its full fair share of ICANN's expenses without any limitations of the kind contained in the original agreement;
4. to agree to charge all ICANN-Accredited Registrars the same fees for registering names in all the registries it operates;
5. to agree to eliminate the $10,000 one-time fee charged to new registrars for initial access to the VeriSign registries;
6. to eliminate or significantly reduce (depending on the number of names involved) the fee resulting from the acquisition by one registrar of a failing registrar, where ICANN certifies that such a transfer would serve the general community interest in stability;
7. to agree to an additional set of monetary sanctions for violations of ICANN rules regarding separate operation and prohibitions on information flows between registries and affiliated registrars (if such rules apply equally to all competitive registries); and
8. to provide 90 days advance notice of new or significantly changed registry services (again, if such rules apply equally to all competitive registries).
VeriSign also agreed to a number of technical and conforming changes in the draft agreements. These agreements had previously been publicly distributed.
ICANN Chairman Vint Cerf said, "These new agreements are a significant improvement over the original agreement negotiated in 1999. The DNS world and ICANN have changed enormously since then, and VeriSign's acquisition of Network Solutions in 2000 means that company has undergone significant change as well. These new agreements reflect both the increasing maturity of ICANN and evidence that VeriSign wants to be a cooperative participant in the ICANN process. The normalization of this relationship is an important step toward the Internet community's goal in establishing ICANN -- creating a mechanism to ensure effective private-sector administration of this critical global resource for communication and commerce."
The original agreement had granted VeriSign an automatic right to operate all three registries until 2007, provided VeriSign sold its registrar business by May 10, 2001. The new agreement does not require the sale of the registrar business but continues and strengthens the requirements that VeriSign not favor its affiliated registrar operations in any way over unaffiliated registrars. These include a requirement that the registrar business be operated in a separate subsidiary.
For more information on the ICANN / VeriSign registry agreement see, http://www.icann.org.